No brand is complete without its target audiences. Indeed, a brand without them is like a planet with no star to orbit — adrift, directionless, and entirely in the dark. But, of course, you know this. Even the smallest businesses are aware that they need to target specific consumers if they’re to turn a profit or grow.
The challenge then is figuring out exactly who your brand’s ideal target audience is, what the best marketing channels for reaching them are, and how you can understand their relationship with your brand.
In this article, we’re going to explore the best strategies for figuring out your brand’s target audience and weigh up the benefits and limitations of zeroing in on specific target segments rather than broader demographic groups.
Why is Targeting Specific Audiences Important?
Serving ads to consumers can be expensive. Whether you want your ad to run across the top banner of a popular news site, play before a youtube video, or light up Time Square in New York — getting your ad in front of consumers doesn’t come cheap.
Indeed, it’s estimated that $37 billion is wasted in ad spend every year from ads that fail to effectively find and engage with a relevant target audience.
Imagine for a second that you own and operate a dog grooming business. You’ve printed some flyers to promote your brand and, of course, you’d like to at least recoup the design and print costs by converting new customers.
Naturally, your business has a clear target audience: dog owners. Giving a flyer to a cat owner or a person with no pets is unlikely to win you a new customer, so rather than handing out flyers at the local mall you head to the dog park where you’re certain to find lots of relevant consumers to engage with.
This is why knowing your target audience is essential — it helps shape what form your marketing messages or brand identity takes, how they should be disseminated and where they should appear in order to be most effective. The deeper your understanding, the more impactful your campaigns can be.
Breaking consumers up into distinct segments based on specific characteristics allows you to focus your marketing efforts on those consumers who are most likely to engage with your brand and convert. For most brands, their segments might not always be instantly clear as in the example of dog ownership — but once they’ve identified their relevant audiences, they have an indispensable insight that will allow them to bring their products to market more effectively and save money.
The ultimate goal of all this is to deliver the right marketing message to the right consumer at the most opportune time in order to generate sales and drive revenue.
How to Segment Consumers Into Target Audiences
There are numerous ways to split consumers into smaller target groups based on different characteristics. Thus, it’s important for marketers and brand managers to identify which factors could influence how consumers perceive and react to their brand — and then use these factors to build target audiences.
Here are a few key ways that you can split audiences up into smaller groups.
One valuable way to segment consumers is by grouping them together based on their interests. This can include their entertainment preferences, hobbies, or whether they belong to particular subcultures such as coffee enthusiasts or fans of heavy metal.
This can help you understand their motivations and passions so that you can tailor and personalize your campaigns to fit different tastes.
Location is an essential factor for segmenting audiences for a number of reasons. There may be some places where there’s a strong market for your product or service or where consumers tend to spend more — while in other regions demand may be much lower.
There may also be cases where your offering may not be relevant, or even available in certain locales — and so consumers in these regions should preferably be omitted from your campaign targeting.
Breaking consumers up into groups based on age, gender, income, and level of education (to name but a few) is a great way of understanding consumer behavior and how demographic factors might affect consumers’ relationships with your brand.
By Purchase Intent:
For some marketing activities, it’s possible to split consumers based on whether they’re “in the market” for a particular product or service. Being able to identify and serve relevant ads to consumers just as they’re actively looking for a particular product is the holy grail of marketing.
Once you’ve decided on the best way to split audiences, you need to actually build your target profiles. In order to build relevant segments, it’s best to base your targeting on some kind of data rather than just relying on gut instinct.
Obviously, you don’t need to back up your hunch that dog owners are a good target audience for dog grooming services — but for characteristics where the link to purchasing decisions is not so clear cut, make use of your own in-house data to spot patterns in the behaviors of your existing customers. This can help you discern which groups of consumers are most valuable to your business.
As you build your target audiences, remember that each characteristic you add reduces the size of that pool of consumers. Whether you’re segmenting for brand tracking or serving ads on digital platforms like Facebook or Instagram — there’s a fine balance between precision and feasibility. Go too broad and your results will include too many irrelevant responses, too precise and you could stymie your brand’s growth and miss the broader context of your brand’s health in the marketplace.
A good strategy is to place your target characteristics in a hierarchy of importance so that you can find the right balance by adding and removing them. At the end of this process, you should have a collection of target profiles onto which you can add and remove characteristics based on their importance to your brand strategy and the feasibility of tracking and targeting them accurately.
The Benefits Of Tracking Broader Audiences
Before we get started on the benefits and limitations of tracking more granular segments, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of tracking your brand’s relationship with broad segments of consumers.
Keep An Eye On The Context Of The Market
As you invest in your brand’s growth, you’ll definitely want to track your progress against target demographics. In fact, smaller brands will want to focus all their efforts on raising brand awareness with audiences that are more likely to convert and become valuable customers.
But there is value in zooming out and seeing how your brand slots into the marketplace overall.
For example, if you’ve invested in an OOH campaign, you can’t guarantee that only your target audience saw and connected with your message. Just focusing on niche audiences is a bit like having tunnel vision — you’re not able to see the bigger picture and, as a result, you might miss valuable insights or opportunities.
To get a more holistic, panoramic view of the marketplace, your competition, and your brand’s health, it’s definitely a good idea to look at broader target groups that can then provide context — and a baseline — for your analysis of more specific audiences.
2. Identify and Address Clear Trends
Don’t underestimate the value of tracking your brand’s performance with the general population or with broader target groups — in the right context, it could provide you with useful insights without having to dig too deep.
Think of these as low-hanging fruit — this data is much simpler to acquire and while it will only show an overview of the health of your brand, it can still capture any larger trends that are at play.
The Benefits Of Tracking Precise Audiences
Targeting specific audiences presents some challenges, especially when it comes to brand tracking. The biggest obstacle to contend with is the fact that the more precise or complex your target profile gets, the more the size of consumers who fit that description shrinks.
When performing surveys to gauge the health of your brand, having a highly specific target audience increases costs and lengthens the time required for gathering data, while also increasing the size of the data’s margin of error.
Advanced statistical modeling, like MRP, can help to smoothen out the data and make accurate predictions based on audiences with similar characteristics — but it’s important to be aware that zooming in on very precise consumer profiles does have some drawbacks.
It’s also worth remembering that by zooming in too much, the insights you’re likely to gain from the small pool of consumers that you’re targeting may not tell you much more than your own data could. Brand tracking works best when it’s there to give you a holistic view of the market, consumer perceptions, and how your brand fits into that — and going too precise won’t reveal these kinds of insights.
With those caveats aside, here are the biggest benefits of tracking precise audiences.
1. Unlock Growth By Targeting Valuable Groups
The first key benefit to targeting specific customer groups is how it can help gauge your brand’s health and assess the impact of your current targeting strategy. For startups and small brands, the key to growth is identifying valuable users with a predisposition to your product and focusing on them.
As your brand grows you can expand your reach and speak to a broader collection of audiences but in the beginning, it’s best to focus on segments that can help fuel your early growth. This was a strategy perfected by fitness and activity tracking app Strava, which began as a hyper-specific app aimed at the top 30% of cyclists and now boasts 100,000 million users.
Identify Opportunities and New Valuable Audiences
Tracking more specific target audiences can be a great way of identifying new opportunities for growth by breaking down the preferences of larger audience groups so you can see where your brand is making progress and where it is coming up against a wall.
For example, a premium coffee brand might discover that male coffee drinkers have a high awareness of their brand but low consideration and preference for it. They decide to investigate by analyzing their brand's performance with more complex subsegments of male coffee drinkers — those in urban areas, those with low incomes, those that work in tech, etc.
By doing this, they might discover why their awareness isn’t converting into higher preference levels for their brand — perhaps their campaign is resonating most with an audience that’s not as valuable for a premium brand, such as those with low incomes.
With these insights, brand managers and marketers can then go back to the drawing board and reposition the brand, target different channels, or commission new creatives that target more valuable segments of male coffee drinkers than prior campaigns.
When it comes to tracking audiences’ perceptions of your brand and monitoring your brand’s health and performance, it’s imperative that you find the right balance when deciding on the types of audiences that you track.
Latana’s brand monitoring software gives brands the ability to track niche target audiences and get reliable insights from these. However, it isn’t always advisable to zoom in on small pools of consumers, many of whom might already be your customers.
Instead, the key to finding a balance is understanding that brand tracking is a tool for gaining a holistic, panoramic view of how your brand fits into the marketplace — where it’s growing or stalling and what opportunities are waiting to be seized.