Target audience analysis is an integral part of any content marketing strategy.
Why? Because the only way to know what you should talk about – is to know who you are talking to and what they want to know.
In other words, you want to know who your target audience is and:
- what are their interests
- what are their pain points
- where they spend their time
- which social media channels they are using, and so on
Also, it is important to figure out if the target audience you want to reach is ready to buy what you are selling.
If not, you are losing time – and money. And you don’t want to keep doing that, do you?
In this article, we will guide you step by step through the process of identifying your target audience. This 20-minute read will lead you to the more cost-effective creation of your marketing strategy.
What is target audience analysis and why do we need it?
A target audience by definition refers to a group of people/prospects that are or might be interested in your product or service, or whatever else you are offering.
The target audiences often share some common characteristics such as:
- their position in the buying process (user, influencer, decision-maker…)
- where they find relevant information (what they read, watch, which social media channels they are using…)
However, the reality is that your target audience will often consist of different groups of people that don’t fit into one category.
This is why a big and maybe the most important part of target audience analysis is – creating target personas. Bear with us through a couple of target audience examples to get a better understanding of where we are coming from.
Target audience examples: same, same but different
Target audience example #1: Gardening tools & supplies
Imagine that you are selling gardening tools and supplies:
- Customer #1 can be a passionate gardener that wants to make their garden look beautiful. Also, gardening is the way this customer relaxes and unwinds.
- Customer #2 is a person who decided to save money for food by growing their vegetables. He or she is not so much into gardening as into saving money for healthy food.
- Customer #3 is thinking about growing their organic food instead of buying processed food from the supermarket. The motivation of this person is not money-saving, but more an investment into a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
- Customer #4 is a supply manager on a farm or an entrepreneur in the agriculture business.
By glancing at these few examples, you can see that these people may need the same gardening supplies – BUT their motivation, their problems, and the challenges they are facing are different.
They will be researching different things when buying gardening supplies.
In other words, they will search for personalized content that will give them answers for their specific needs.
Target audience example #2: Word processing software
Another great example is one of our clients that offers word processing software.
After our target audience analysis and some consulting with the client, we defined four target groups (a.k.a. ‘personas’):
- professional writers
It is immediately obvious that you can’t target all of them with the same piece of content.
Similarly, it should also be obvious that we can’t cater to everyone that might be a potential customer – it would spread our resources way too thin. We can do the next best thing – focus on those groups that are most likely to buy.
Target audience analysis and the persona creation process thus bring you several benefits:
- find and target only the audience that might be interested in your product or service
- craft personalized content for specific personas
- develop long-term relationships with customers by solving their actual problems
- have a more cost-effective content marketing strategy
- be more competitive as a small business by targeting specific niches and roles
- increase the number of your customers through improved lead nurturing, conversion rates, and retention
Target audience example #3: Office equipment
Imagine you’re selling some kind of office equipment and you identify three target groups:
- Office workers
- HR departments
Note how CEOs and Managers are grouped together. That’s because, in this case, they have enough characteristics in common that they can both be defined by just one persona card.
Also, if you are selling office supplies, you want to think about dividing “office worker personas” into more detailed personas. The pandemic changed the way we work dramatically, and you want to consider that.
Today we are talking about remote work, home office, and hybrid work. You want to tackle the challenges of these new ways of working and help your audience to cope with them – or to celebrate the newfound freedom of home office.
Of course, you have to know where to draw the line and try to predict when a target group is big enough to deserve its own persona.
Now, before you get to create your own persona, you need to put on your research glasses and start digging. In the following sections, we will discuss where to look – and what to look for.
Challenges and pain points as the foundation of target audience analysis
Knowing the pain points of the people you are reaching out to and trying to connect with can make or break your marketing campaigns.
It allows you to craft the content with the sole purpose of solving an actual problem or question that is bothering real consumers.
And if you can do that – you have a successful content marketing strategy!.
Let’s jump into our training shoes and take a look at what that means using an example from the fitness industry.
Let’s imagine you are trying to promote a home fitness program for weight loss. People that are interested in it have some obvious pain points such as:
- weight problems
- health issues
- no access to fitness equipment
- restricted access to the gym due to the pandemic or location
All the mentioned points are worthy of your attention.
But that is not enough. We need to go deeper.
Think about the person that is struggling with weight – there can be a whole set of challenges this person is facing in their everyday life. Some of them could be:
- confidence and motivational issues
- poor organizational skills
- poor eating habits
- knowledge gaps
These are all the difficulties that can and should be addressed if you’re planning a content strategy.
As you can see, we don’t want to tackle only the problems that are strictly related to the fitness program. This way, you can cover more ground and engage the audience on subjects that can trigger a high emotional response.
How to define your target audience
While defining demographics is important, in the context of content marketing, you should give equal – if not more – attention to what kind of people you’re talking to, what they like/dislike, what are their problems, pain points, motivations, and so on.
This will allow you to create more engaging content that will have a better chance to strike a chord with your potential customers.
Having the right demographic data helps with organic promotion, but it is especially useful if your plan is to lean on paid channels like Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
Let’s take Facebook ads as an example. The level of detail you can go into to select the people you want to target is – almost scary.
Long story short, your success in paid content promotion depends on the level of detail you achieve while defining demographics. You want to define:
- age: if you are selling urban clothes your target audience is probably in the age group 15-19 or 19-24. Also, if you are selling mass-market chocolate or candy, you want to target a younger audience. If, on the other hand, you are selling high-quality handmade craft chocolate – you want to target older consumers who will know the value of this kind of product.
- sex: this is quite obvious – you don’t want to sell women’s shoes to men or vice versa. But, before you completely tailor your marketing efforts to the male population – bear in mind that in most households today women are decision-makers. According to the British Journal of Marketing Studies, women buy or influence the purchase of 70% to 80% of all products because they buy for themselves and for the whole family.
- employment or specific roles: you might be talking to HR managers, facility managers, plant managers, etc., and trying to resolve their specific problems and challenges
- education: is very important because it affects all aspects of life – from the career path to income to some attitudes and habits. In general, we can say that more educated consumers are more careful before making a purchase.
- income: people with lower income will choose products based on their purpose and need while people with more money can choose products that are in accordance with their lifestyle or values. For example, if they want they can buy only products labeled as fair trade regardless of their higher price tag.
- interests: you can target potential customers based on their interests and hobbies, from movies to travel destinations. The algorithm is learning what type of content people prefer (the content they interact with, click, like, share, etc.) and it is automatically classifying them into interest categories.
You want to be sure that you are promoting your product to the people that are willing to buy it – and this is why you need to figure all these things out.
Alexa and Quantcast can help a lot during this process. On top of that, you should always try to use Google Analytics and your social media analytics.
If you get an opportunity to run a survey among existing customers/clients, here is a great template from Survey Monkey.
Getting psychographic data
To avoid getting overly technical, psychographic data is used for classifying people by looking at their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria.
It ultimately allows you to find what are the motives behind people’s purchases.
Defining psychographics can be really challenging because it revolves around subjective information in contrast to demographics that rely on hard statistical data.
There are three main areas you want to define:
- What are the interests of your target audience?
- What kind of activities (often hobbies) do they take part in?
- What are their attitudes/opinions towards particular subjects?
There is a great piece from HubSpot that explores these questions in more detail.
Knowing what information to look for is only the first step. Now you have to go out there and gather that data.
A few different ways to gather psychographic data:
- Make a survey
- Interview existing clients
- Research websites and forums they visit
- Analyze your website analytics
- Make use of powerful analytic tools like:
- Contentsquare (Behavioural tool)
- CrazyEgg (Heatmap tool)
- Qualaroo (Customer & User Feedback Software)
- Wunderkind (Behavioural tool)
Classifying target audience by roles in the buying process
DMU or Decision Making Unit is a term that describes a group of individuals that are involved in the buying process of products/services in the B2B environment. There are six roles in the DMU you need to be aware of (it is important to note that one person can cover multiple roles):
The main reason you want to distinguish the roles described above is that you want to target them with a different type of content. Well, the type might be misleading – you want to target them with content appropriate to the marketing funnel phase they are in.
Since we are looking at this from a content marketing angle, there are really three roles you should focus on. It is hard to be exact as the roles and phases can overlap, but it often ends up like this:
- Users: Awareness, Interest [TOFU]
- Influencers: Interest, Consideration, Intent [MOFU]
- Decision-makers: Intent, Evaluation, Purchase [BOFU]
Users are the people that are using your product or service. Why are they important? The answer is simple. They have problems (read: pain points) and you are here to help them.
It also doesn’t hurt that users often take the role of initiators.
Let’s introduce an example to simplify things.
You are a facility manager whose role is to ensure that the facility is operating as it should on a daily basis by completing daily inspections and conducting repairs and maintenance.
But you notice that you could use the help of computerized maintenance management systems.
What do you do? As someone that will use the tool, you reach out to your superior asking if there is a possibility they could purchase some software that could help you solve the problem at hand – this makes you both a user and an initiator.
An Influencer can be anyone whose opinion has an influence on the decision-maker. It can be someone inside or outside of your organization.
If you’re a marketer and your product or service gets recommended by someone like Neil Patel, your sales could skyrocket. Take this post as an example: 10 Online Marketing Tools That’ll Accelerate Growth of a New Business.
Looking at the number of shares and comments, it is safe to assume that the article had quite the reach. Taking into account the authority Neil brings, lots of companies would pay good money to be on this list.
Even if your product isn’t featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things or Dr. Oz, you can always count on the psychology of influence. Many people have a hard time making decisions and following someone else’s suggestion can give them a sense of security.
Big brands know that, and they use influencer marketing to reach out to their audience. If you don’t have the budget for big names, you can always reach out to micro-influencers from your niche and engage your audience in an even more authentic way.
Even though it can be tricky to measure the impact influencers have on your sales, there are countless examples that show you why influencing the influencers is something you want to make a part of your content marketing strategy.
As the word suggests, decision-makers are the ones that have the final say about the product/service purchases.
They are basing their decision to buy on the information they got from users, influencers, and other roles involved in the buying process. They will often have their own set of unique concerns you will want to address.
How to find your customer’s pain points
Pain points are specific problems customers are facing in the marketplace. They might have some health or work-related issues like stress, fatigue, and a lack of time for friends and family. They could be unemployed, facing financial problems, or just struggling with money management.
They include any problems the customer may experience along their journey.
Regardless of the problem, the crucial part of your successful marketing plan is finding a way to identify it and offer practical solutions that will build trust in your brand.
Without further ado, let’s focus on ways to identify pain points.
Conducting customer surveys is a great way to get valuable insight into the consumer’s mind. However, if you plan to invest your time (and probably some $$) into it, you better have a game plan. Here are some good starting points:
- Define the goals of your survey
- Define who you want to survey
- Decide how will you reach out to them
- Decide which tool will you use to conduct the survey
The most popular tools on the market that can do this job well:
If you are in a position where the client can’t or won’t provide you with an access line to his customers, and you are still eager to conduct a survey, you can try to access your target audience through panel companies.
The last thing to note here is that getting a decent response rate can be very challenging. If your response rate is really low, try to look at how you can incentivize your audience to get better results.
If you know where to look, social media metrics can give you valuable insight into your customers’ pain points and what kind of content they are interested in.
Alongside the built-in analytics every social media platform has, there are additional tools you can use to track engagement and other social media insights:
If you don’t have enough followers to have a valid sample, look at what your main competitors are doing on social media – which type of content and topics get the most engagement.
You should also research relevant LinkedIn and Facebook Groups. In the last decade, they have become a place where people with the same interests share knowledge, ideas, and content.
DISCLAIMER: There are a lot of spammy groups so it could take time to find the ones with a real and engaged audience.
If you are in the process of creating a content marketing strategy, you want to gather as much information as possible about the product.
Even if you think you know a lot – a great way to understand your customers better – is to interview all the people involved in the business process.
You want to reach out to your:
- marketing department
- customer service
They all have important inputs you want to consider while creating your strategy.
As a marketing agency working with different clients – we always ask all our clients a few very important questions before we start planning a campaign.
As you can see, we aren’t asking only about benefits but also about potential obstacles to the sale. It is a great starting point for our subsequent target audience research.
Forums are specifically designed to help people find answers to their questions. Is there a better way to find the real problems your audience is dealing with than to browse through forums related to your niche?
Besides asking them directly, probably not.
Let’s say you are selling professional video and photography equipment. You should check different photography forums like Photography Talk or Photo.net where end-users are sharing their knowledge and their problems and challenges.
You can do that in almost any niche.
Quora is a Q&A website – a glorified forum that covers all kinds of topics.
What makes Quora useful for target audience research is the fact that it covers a wide area of different topics and has a very user-friendly interface that allows you to go through a lot of questions in a short period of time.
However, not every question brings in the same value. You can use Q-Stats to compare engagement for different questions.
Reddit is the largest platform of aggregated content and community discussion, and one of the top 10 largest websites in the world.
With so many users and such a large pool of topics covered, you are bound to find some relevant information on almost anything. The bad part is, it may take you some time to get the hang of how things work around there.
We strongly recommend you install browser plug-ins like the Reddit Enhancement Suite if you are not already familiar with the website.
You should also research industry blogs in your field. Industry blogs are niche blogs that are tailored for audiences with specific interests. Check what is the best performing content in your niche and try to figure out what type of content peaks the most interest with your audience.
Also, if you still don’t have a blog section on your website, use this information to create one, especially if your long-term goal is generating leads through organic traffic.
How to define target audience personas
Creating a target audience persona is a great way to take all the gathered data, filter out unnecessary details, and summarize the most important points in an easy-to-use format.
Your goal is to create a fictional person that carries the characteristics of your target audience.
Think of it as creating a game character with a backstory.
You first go through basic things like name, age, gender and then move on to more complicated elements.
You are trying to define their goals, values, roles in the buying process, frustrations, hobbies, sources of information, and so on.
At this point, you should have all of the necessary details. Take one of the free buyer persona templates below and start entering your data:
- Marketo’s personas cheat sheet
- Persona Templates from HubSpot
- User Persona Creator by Xtensio
- Buyer Persona Template from Demand Metric
- Customer Avatar Worksheet from Digital Marketer
- MakeMyPersona by HubSpot
Congratulations, your target audience analysis is done!
However, the quest goes on. Now that battle preparations are over, it is time to go to war.
Research and analysis are done, what now?
In ideal conditions, by the end of this process you should have the following info:
- relevant demographic and psychographic data
- list of all relevant challenges, pain points, and objections to the sale
- a few well-crafted target audience personas
What should you do next?
Well, that depends on why you performed this research in the first place. You did have a goal in mind, right?
Usually, such in-depth analysis is done as a part of creating a content marketing strategy. However, having this data on hand can also be used to:
- create standalone content strategies and editorial calendars (after you also perform keyword research)
- improve your link building campaigns
- improve your PPC efforts
- build a bigger social media following and improve engagement
- improve your conversion rates
With enough target audience data, there is little you can’t do.
Creating an effective content marketing strategy is not an easy task and it starts with knowing your target audience. Also, it’s a job that is never done.
You have to constantly revise and optimize your personas, keywords, and defined strategies to achieve the best results. Google is changing algorithms, different types of content are getting popular, different digital channels are available each day, their features are changing…
In all this digital mess – the one thing that is sure is that you have to create the right type of content and try to place it in front of the right eyes.
Is that going to be a controversial article, a fun infographic, a useful calculator, an educational video, or something completely different? The weight of this decision falls upon your shoulders.
You have to reach a conclusion on what type of content is the most appropriate for your target audience and has the highest chance to attract and convert.
If only we’d done detailed research of our target audience that holds the answer to this dilemma.
Oh wait, we did just that!
Last but not least – don’t take your eyes off of the budget, time constraints, the size of your social media following, and other constraining factors, as they can severely limit the types of content you can produce and the number of people you can reach. This can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and on the ROI of your content marketing campaign.
Sounds like too much work? We can always do it for you! Schedule a call with our team and let’s see how we can help you reach your goals.