Marketing to an unknown audience is like buying a lottery ticket. There is a small chance that your investment makes you money, but it’s really tiny. Unlike a lottery, where you risk no more than a few dollars, advertising without knowing and understanding your customers can cost you thousands. And if you keep blowing money on ineffective ads, you’ll end up broke.

That’s why, before you even build your very first landing page or sit down to writing an ad copy, you need to do the research and find your audience. How to do that? First, let’s see what a target audience actually is.

What is a Target Audience and Why Do You Need to Know Yours?

A target audience is a group of people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service. Because of that, they are also the ones who might positively respond to your advertising efforts. Audience members can be defined based on different characteristics such as income, age, education, occupation, and interests.

You need all those demographics data to prepare and execute a successful marketing plan. It will help you decide how to speak to your customers and what copy and images to use on your landing pages.

Why landing pages and not a single landing page?

Imagine that you are teaching people how to play golf. As a “typical” golf trainer, you have a variety of customers. Old, young, businessmen, corporate employees, men, women. If you sell the same service to different people, you need to segment your audience and create a different campaign for each segment.

Because those segments differ, you can’t use the same communication across all of them. This is why businesses usually have multiple ads and landing pages. To achieve the best results, each of them should target one group of people exclusively. Otherwise, their advertising would be irrelevant for the majority who see your ads

But what if you specialize? Continuing the golf example, let’s say that you focus only on beginners. Or retirees. Working with just one group makes it easier to understand and target them, but at the same time limits your total customer base. This is a common “niche vs. broad market” dilemma. But it’s not the only reason why researching your target audience is crucial for your business.

potential customers of online golf lessons

Teaching golf sounds like a niche by itself, but you can still split your audience into smaller segments and create a product or service exclusively for them. For example, for people over 60.

The Importance of Knowing Your Customers

You don’t want all random Internet users to visit your site. You want people who are interested in your offer. The more specific you are (and the more targeted your funnel is), the higher the chance of conversions. This, of course, can skyrocket your ROI.

Another reason why speaking to a defined audience is so important is that people love to buy, but they hate being sold. Nowadays customers are smart. They don’t want you to push the product. They want to be in control, get to know you, and make the decision when they feel most comfortable. All that significantly extends their buyer’s journey. But if you talk to them using words they want to hear, encouraging them to buy your product is not that hard at all.

It’s all about getting their attention. If you present the same benefits to different people, some of them might be willing to buy on the spot. Others will respond negatively. And many will do that not because they don’t like what you offer but because you didn’t present them with the right reason.

On top of that, if your website has many categories, having more than one audience makes it easier to build and manage different funnels. And it doesn’t matter if you’re selling your own products or advertising space.

In fact, if you know who visits certain parts of your websites, you can share the data with potential advertisers. That, in turn, would help them run their marketing campaigns on your website more effectively. That’s why such data is a great bargaining card and can increase what advertisers are willing to pay for a spot on your site.

Of course, before you negotiate, you need to get that data.

The Process. Brainstorming Your Target Audience

First, start by thinking about what it is that you’re trying to sell. Answer the following questions:

  • What are the benefits for the potential customer?
  • How does your product differ from what your competitors offer (think about affordability, effectiveness, unique features)?
  • What is the number one reason why your customers buy the product? (hint: if you list more than one, you already have different audience groups)

Note: Why giving more than one answer to the last question splits your audience into different groups? This is because people who buy your product to solve X are more willing to take action if you tell them exactly that. At the same time, people who buy your product because of Y might not be interested in solving X at all. This means that if you use the same arguments to talk to both groups, one of them won’t listen to you.

Once you answer the above questions, it’s time to start thinking about the characteristics of your audience. But don’t look at any data just yet. It’s best to start this task by brainstorming. That way, once you compare your notes with other sources, you will have a clear view of how well you understand your audience. To help you, here is a list of things that you can use to determine your targeted demographics:

  • Gender, age range
  • Location: country, city, neighborhood (depending on whether your business is local or international); urban or rural
  • Income, occupation
  • Language, ethnicity, religion
  • Interest and activities
  • Values and aspirations
  • Attitudes, beliefs and opinions
  • Followed media
  • Channels and devices that they use to reach your business

After you get the basics, think of any demographic features that are not in the above list. After that, let’s start answering questions that will help you find the motivations behind every purchase:

  • What are your customers afraid of in areas of life that are related to your product or service?
  • What’s their biggest frustration?
  • What can prevent them from buying a product from you?
  • Are they ready to buy now or sometime in the future?

Now that you brainstormed all this information, it’s time to get your hands on external data. Let’s see how you can find information about your site visitors and potential and current customers.

Getting the Data: Tools Every Business Can Use

There are hundreds of different tools and approaches which you could use to gather data about your customers. The choice will depend on many different factors, such as who your customers are, your product or your marketing channels. But there are a few basic ones which you can use to get the necessary data almost instantly.

a) Google Analytics

If you don’t have GA connected to your website, you are losing out big time. Google knows a lot about Internet users, and it’s willing to share some of that information about your site visitors with you. This includes their location, age, interests, devices, languages and a lot more.

audience and acquisition menu items list

Google Analytics can give you an in-depth insight into who is visiting your website, where they come from and how they browse it.

Most of the data is presented using easy to read graphs that instantly show you the most important information and make it easy to watch any trends.

age graph from google analytics demographics data

As you can see, the majority of visitors of the above website falls into the 25 – 34 age bracket. And how old are your customers?

b) Think with Google

The second tool by Google gives you the insight into the behavior of online customers. Thanks to this data, you can better understand the needs of your site visitors. On top of that, you can use it to learn about trends and find out innovations you could implement in your business to get even more information about your audience.

think with google homepage

Think with Google gives you access to data revealing how people browse the Internet and purchase products online.

c) Pew Research Center

What if you need even more data? No matter the area, you should visit Pew Research. From economics and politics to religion, Internet use, science, demographic trends and global attitudes – everything under one roof. The site is well-known for its great interactive charts that are used to present the data.

pew research menu categories and search bar

Pew Research Center is one of the biggest databanks online. While access to many of their research results is paid, they frequently release data free of charge.

d) Keyword Tools

Another thing which you can use to see what your customers are looking for is a keyword tool. You can use AdWords keyword planner or one of the dozen tools out there such as Keyword Tool (who would have guessed it’s used to research keywords). If you have ever performed a KW research, you will know what to do here.

If not, think of what you would search for if you were your potential customer. Now, start typing keywords connected to your business into the tool. The results will show you what your customers think when they are looking for your product or service.

keyword tool homepage and google search bar

KeywordTool.io utilizes search engines autocomplete data to provide you with keyword ideas.

And if your website is connected to Google Webmaster Tools, you can also check what keywords your website pops up for in search engine results. To do that, go to Google Webmaster Tools > Search Traffic > Search Analytics.

e) Facebook Audience Insights

Google Analytics and other Google tools are not the only ones that collect data about your audience. If you have a fan page, you can access lots of information about people who like it. And if you’ve installed a Facebook pixel, you can get the same details about all those who visited your site and have a Facebook account (no matter if they’re your fans or not). To see it, go to Audience Insights in your Facebook account.

audience insights age, gender, relationship status and education level data

Audience insights is a great tool to view information about your Facebook followers, site visitors or people in one of your custom audiences.

f) Surveying your customers

Now, it’s time for you to collect qualitative data about your customers. Of course, by building assets such as social media profiles and using Google Analytics, you are gathering lots and lots of data. But the majority of it is quantitative. This means that to get qualitative results, you need to contact your audience members directly. One of the best ways to do that is through a survey. The good news is, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to run them.

If you use free tools such as SurveyMonkey (only its first tier is free), you will reach your customers and get answers to your questions at no cost. All you need is a way to reach out to them with a link to the survey. But if you have an email list or a Facebook fan page, this won’t be a problem.

SurveyMonkey homepage screenshot

SurveyMonkey is one of the most popular survey tools out there. And it’s free for simple surveys of up to 10 questions and 100 responses.

SurveyMonkey is not the only tool available. If you believe it doesn’t have what you’re looking for, please see this Wordstream’s list of online survey tools.

g) Review Mining

And what if you are just starting out and don’t have a list of customers you could reach out to? Or would like to see what customers of your competitors think? An excellent way of getting relevant information from people who bought a specific product is review mining. Why? Reviews are often full of reasons why customers pick (and return) a particular product. A good review can even tell you what the number one reason behind the purchase was and what were product’s advantages over similar ones.

product review pros and cons list

If you run an eCommerce store, Amazon can be a real goldmine thanks to its abundance of verified product reviews.

Now What? Putting It All Together

Once you gather all this data, it’s time to analyze it. If you see different patterns, you should create different segments. The best way to do that is to develop “buyer personas.” Persona should represent a different group of potential or current customers. You can read all about creating and using personas in this follow-up post.

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