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Bullseye: Choosing a Target Audience

Imagine you're in this situation:


You’re at a gathering of about 50 people. You don’t really know anyone, and no one really knows you. You decide you want to talk to someone so you aren’t just standing around with no purpose. But who do you talk to? More importantly, what do you talk about?


These are the questions all marketers, advertisers and anyone in the communications industry must ask when choosing a target audience to spread a message.



But what is a target audience? It’s a specific group of people that you are trying to communicate your product or message to.


Targeting too many people may result in wasted resources. Communicating to a target audience breaks up vastly heterogeneous populations into distinguishable sets of people. In other words, you can create a more specific message because your audience members are narrower and more alike.


Your message might get lost trying to market beach balls to the entire United States, since many Americans do not live anywhere near a beach. But if your target audience is 30-year-olds living on the East Coast, your message might be more readily received.


But maybe it won’t be readily received. That depends both on how well you have researched your target audience and how well you have crafted your message.



Research

Before you can send your message of “My pizzeria is the best” or “Global warming must be stopped” out into the world, you have to know who you want to receive the message. When I say know, I mean you have to know who they are. What their interests are, what their dislikes are, what makes them laugh, what makes them emotional. While the communications industry requires creativity, there would be nothing to create without research.


So, how do you research who your desired target audience is?


  • Current customers and supporters: Find out who has listened to you in the past. That means your current customers or supporters, depending on what kind of organization you’re marketing for. Try to pinpoint similarities between the people already receiving your message, and then go out and find more people with those same traits.

  • Competitors: If your competition is successful, you might want to study their customers and supporters so that you don’t target the same ones. See what similarities their target audiences have and then find out how you can market to another audience.

  • Think about your message and who it would appeal to: If you know your message already, try to come up with demographic characteristics like age, geography, or gender that define the people you think would find interest in your message.



Your Message

While you might know your message before you know who will be receiving it, you might not know how to communicate it.


Your target audience may hate your message. In some cases that might be exactly why you chose it as your target, if you think you can sway them. If you market the message in the right way, using creativity and appealing to the target audience, your message may come across as less “hateable.”


And be creative! If you are the one crafting the message, the way people take it can be completely up to you. If you’re more of a researcher, produce the most information for the creatives to work with. Knowing how to manipulate the message based on prior research is like being five moves ahead in a game of chess.



When it comes to who will be listening to the message you worked so hard to create, it’s important not to underestimate a target audience. Remember that research is a powerful ally and that creativity links that research to success.

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