A Guide To Audience Research

While in the city recently, I ran into friend who I have not seen for quite some time. He told me that he started up his own photography business. “That’s great” I replied, “Who do you think will use that service?” Bill thought for a few seconds and then came back with a “well … almost everybody.” Really? For the next hour over lunch from his favorite food truck we discussed the importance of defining his specific target market.
Guide to Audience Research

A Guide to Audience Research:

As a business owner the question is:  who will buy your goods or services? Well, unless you are marketing air conditioners in purgatory the answer can’t be ‘everyone.’  

No matter what product or service you have it is imperative for your business to know who your audience is and to define your target market.  It is one of the most important first steps in creating a marketing strategy.  It’s the rock solid base for the entire marketing game plan.

The more you are able to delve into and understand your target market the better you can focus your marketing ads.  Only then can you craft a message that resonates with your group. In other words, it comes down to your marketing efforts that will largely determine your level of success.  As I mentioned to my friend this is perhaps easier said than done. It takes a bit of homework on your part.


Throughout this article we’ll dive into the process of researching, gathering data, and ultimately defining your target audience.  Through these insights you will develop a better understanding of who is already (or soon to be) interacting with your brand as well as with your competition.  With a better grasp of what your customer wants you could then increase engagement on social media engagement and implement even stronger customer targeting. Knowledge is power.

Unless you are in a large corporation, or you have outsourced marketing responsibilities then you, my friend, are the marketer.  No need to worry though … higher conversion rates, a better return on investment (ROI), and other vital metrics are all within your grasp.    


First things first, let’s stick a definition to the term target market.  

Simply stated a target market is a very specific group of people who are most likely to purchase your goods or services.  As we have said, the more you can understand this group the better. Your marketing message must reach and most importantly speak to them because these are the folks that are most likely to become your loyal customers.  They also share several common characteristics including demographics, interests, and spending habits.

From a broad perspective you may have categories such as fitness enthusiasts, or single parent households, or even millennials within your market but before you create any target advertising you must delve deeper to get a more detailed picture.  You want to get highly specific as this will help to achieve the best possible conversion rates.

The next time you are looking at the content feed on your personal Instagram account, as an example, notice what ads you see.  That’s right you are in a target market for several businesses; the specialized ads that appear are catered to your likes, habits, and interests.      

Finally, your ideal target market should be based on solid audience research.  It is not something that you want to assume or guess. Newlyweds, ‘techie’ software programmers, male golfers in their forties, or biker ‘gangs’ in certain zip codes―all target groups on the radar of someone’s marketing strategy.  Your customers are out there waiting for you. Let’s find yours. Audience research is where it all starts.

Define your Target Market:

Helpful platform to conduct Audience Research

Collect data on current customers
Guide to Audience Research

Think of your ideal customers.  What defining characteristics would they have?  Once you have a grasp on those descriptions then look at your existing customer base―those who already use your products or services.  Do they share similar traits and qualities? You can focus on attracting more people who fit the same mold. That’s a good first step.

Depending on how a customer interacts with your business, you might be only able to gather a small amount of information about them.  That’s fine. Gather what you can and put it into a manageable database that you can later use to track your stats and trends. Some of the key data facts that you want to focus on include:  

  • Age:  What is the age range for your typical customers. For example, a grouping of “patrons are typically in their thirties” would be fine.  No need to get too specific with a precise age numbers. What does matter is that you understand what life stage your customer is in. This is important because each stage comes with different responsibilities and spending power.  Are they millennials with lots of discretionary income? In their forties with two kids and a mortgage? Makes a difference. So again, an age range here is suitable.
  • Location:  Where in the country (or the world) do your existing customers reside?  Big city dwellers or in quiet suburbia? In an upper-class zip code or in small college towns?  In addition to understanding which geographic areas to focus on you also want to be aware of the time zones.  Factoring in time zone differences will maximize your social media posts to ensure best visibility. A ‘tweet’ sent on Twitter at 8 p.m. on the East coast is commuter drive time out West.  Big difference.
  • Spending habits:  How much money do your customers have to spend?  Do they have specific financial responsibilities that you need to be concerned with?  Again, the life stage greatly influences the spending power of customers. Within your business price category how do they approach purchases; what attitude and methods do they share?   
  • Interests.  What do your customers like to do?  Where do they go in their free time? Where do they shop?  What television shows do they watch? In addition to using your products or services, what other businesses do they interact with?  All good questions for your audience research.
What’s your competition up to?

You now should have some valuable data to analyze about customers already interacting with your brand.  Let’s further our information quest and take a look at who is engaging with your competition. For instance, are your competitors going after the same market sectors as you?  Are they reaching portions of the market that you have not thought to consider? What can you learn from their social media activity? What marketing strategies are they implementing and compare them to yours.  All these questions can be answered by observing what your competitors are doing.

Audience Research


Analyzing all this information will help you better understand which markets they’re targeting, why that’s their marketing focus, and whether their efforts appear to be effective or not.  

What’s a simple way to get a grasp on the marketing agenda of your competition?  Follow them on social media. Instagram or maybe Twitter. Jump in. You don’t necessarily have to follow them under your company account name of course.  You’ll be able see their level of online engagement and this may spark ideas for your brand to create similar engagement opportunities.

Compared to your own customers’ data, you won’t be able to get the detailed audience research about the people interacting with your competitors, but you will get an overall idea of marketing strategies they’re using.  With omnipresent social media, it is now easier than ever to look into the showroom of your brand’s competitors and gather valuable insights.

Consider social media and website analytics

Take advantage of all resources available to further research your audience.  Your hosting company will often have relevant, eye opening statistics for you to process about your company website.  With such insights as page views, unique visitors, and time spent on each page you can measure what strategies are working well and what sections of your website might need some adjustments.        

Guide To Audience Research

Similarly, analytics can help you learn more about your audience on social media.  It allows you to gather data on your followers, likes, page views, posts or tweets, and more.  Some analytics even provide demographics; this lets you learn a ton of spot on information about your followers.  In short analytics allows you to measure your marketing reach. Then build your brand and schedule your ads based on real time relevant information.  Need to prove ROI to the powers that be within your company? Analytics. That’s the resource you need to do just that.

Social media analytics is a great way to further shape your customer analysis.  The Instagram platform, as an example, gives business accounts valuable fee

dback on content and demographics on who your followers are, and even when they are online.  These analytics can also help you understand who’s interacting with your social accounts, even if those people are not yet customers. So whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, just to name a few social channels, you can acquire valuable insights and in-depth information about your followers using analytics.     

Emphasize the value of your product or service
A guide to Audience Research

Keeping in mind that the goal in defining your target market is to identify, learn about, and understand your specific niche you also need to make sure that the value of your product or service is clear.  Then you can design marketing content that highlights these benefits.

There is a key distinction to be made here between product features and product benefits.  In your marketing ads you need to sell the benefits (value) of your product or service not the features.  Consider Peapod, the online grocery delivery service, for instance.  Features include fresh foods, convenient delivery options, online shopping lists, etc.  All are fine. You can list the features of your product or service all day long, but if you highlight the benefits to your customers then folks are motivated to take out their wallets and purses.  Peapod strives to make your life easier.  That is the real value. They save you from the time consuming chores of going to the supermarket and shopping for groceries.  Focus on the benefits to drive your marketing ads.

Need a little help in listing the value benefits of your business?  Don’t be afraid to ask your customers. An email customer survey with an incentive for folks to complete practically guarantees replies will hit your inbox for you to review.  Or, consider asking a simple question on your social media platforms. You might even find that people use your products or services in creative ways that you have not thought of.  The point is that your existing customers have many insights to offer so ask them.

As you create your list of benefit statements, you’ll notice that you are also stating some basic information that will help define your target audience.  The Getaway company provides an ‘escape to nature and unplug’ service for busy overworked residents of major cities.  This mini vacation experience on its own merit adds value to their customers lives. Escape the 9-5 hustle and de-stress for a while.  Therefore, their target market would include white-collar urban residents who probably work in excess of 40 hours per week.

Generate a target market statement

By now your target market is coming into a much clearer focus now.  You gathered information on customers, looked at your competitors to see what you could learn, considered using analytics to really go in depth with your research, and you also know to keep benefits, not product features, front and center of your marketing efforts.  

Next, take everything that you’ve discovered and shape that into a clear basic statement that defines your target audience.  This will further guide your marketing efforts. If you were on an elevator it’s the 30 second statement you would give to your co-rider when you want to size them up as a possible sales lead.    

When creating your target market statement, try to blend in the most important demographic and behavior characteristics of your audience.  Going back to our Peapod example their target market would include these characteristics―dual income households with children, typically mid-thirties, tech savvy, who live in suburban areas, and they enjoy online shopping.    

Though marketing statements are all unique it’s best to incorporate at least three or four key identifiers and behaviors within your statement.  You can then use these same identifiers to specifically target similar folks using social media ads. Increasing sales and growing your business is that much easier when you target the right group.  Make sure your target market statement is clear, on point, and includes defining characteristics.

Test target market ads on social media platforms 

Put all your target audience research to work.  Have some fun with this and be creative. You will first need to decide what social channels to use―which ones might best allow you to reach your target market.  Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram once you’ve chosen your platform make sure to use the characteristics you’ve defined in your target market statement to build an audience for your ad.

Honestly, focusing on one social channel and creating an ad campaign that precisely targets your audience will produce impressive conversion results rather than an ambiguous message splashed across 2 or 3 different channels that may only reel in mediocre results.  In other words, don’t cast too wide of a net. You want to be fishing in a small pond. The pond that your audience research led you to.

Does the language used in your ad speak exactly to the market you have defined?  Do the supporting visuals make sense within the context of your defined target market?  Yes, your target audience should literally feel as if your marketing ad was designed specifically for them.  You want to be able to focus your marketing ads so you pay only to reach the audience most likely to convert into buyers.     

Track the performance of your ads to see how your audience responds.  Are you achieving measurable results? Once you start to see performance patterns you can even test slight variations in your marketing message or content to determine which is most effective for your target audience.  Also referred to as A/B testing these test variants provide real time engagement results. Page views, followers, likes, etc., the numbers don’t lie. These results are tremendously valuable to any business owner building a brand one loyal customer at a time.  

Also, keep in mind that your target market could change over time if your products and services evolve or even change.  You’ll want to review your audience research periodically to make sure your target market definition still captures all the characteristics of your potential buyers.  


Remember that your target audience is not ‘everyone.’  Do your homework.  

Through audience research you can identify, recognize common elements, and understand your specific niche.  Use this information to develop a crystal clear target group and shape a marketing strategy to reach that specific group.  Build your brand one loyal customer at a time.

Your customers are out there waiting for you.  Ultimately your success depends on your ability to accurately define your target market and offer them a marketing message they just can’t refuse.      

Good luck.   

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