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How to build your target audience to improve marketing segmentation

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Target Segmentation

A highly tailored and personalized approach to reaching a target audience with the right content at the right time is essential for successful integrated marketing. This requires not only knowing who your audience is but how to segment it into unique groups based on qualitative and quantitative information. 

Building an accurate, comprehensive target audience profile is essential to generating leads, converting leads, and generating strong Customer Lifetime Value  (CLV) over a long-term brand-customer relationship.

Nancy Marshall of Forbes in her online article, “Remember: You Are Not Your Target Audience,” offers an important reminder to every business owner and department lead to do the work and not assume their potential customers are just like them. 

She goes on to explain the power of understanding to whom you are marketing: “It may seem like common sense, but your target audience is just as important as the message itself, and the channels by which you’re communicating it. Picking the right audience can turn an otherwise average PR campaign into a resounding success. Choosing the wrong audience, however, can derail even the best-laid talking points.”

Defining a company’s target audience is easier said than done and requires some elbow grease and significant leg work. The work, if done properly and continually improved over time, will pay off in spades. 

So, how does a company build its target audience the right way? Target audience research and development is a major undertaking, but if broken into its parts, the process becomes much more manageable. Let’s take a look at how to “chunk out” the process and how each component rolls up into a full, deep, and intimate portrait of the people your company wants to reach.

What Are the Major Components of a Target Audience Profile?

There are three major components of a well-constructed target audience profile:

  • Quantitative data
  • Qualitative information
  • Personas

These are a target audience’s building blocks. 

When these three streams of information flow together, the result is an actionable profile that empowers strong marketing segmentation, which means getting the right message to the right people in the right way more often. In other words, the result is stronger engagement, conversion, and repeat business from existing customers.

What’s Quantitative Data?

Very simply, quantitative data are measures or counts that are expressed as numbers. For example, the average age of a company’s consumers or purchasers of a specific product line can be measured quantitatively. Collecting, aggregating, and analyzing quantitative data are important inbuilding a strong target audience profile, but are just part of a complex picture that needs to be assembled.

Customer quantitative data comes in many forms, but can be placed into two primary buckets of information: 

Demographics

To build a solid quantitative data profile, a company will need to look at a wide range of counts and values to get a clear picture of their target audience. The following data points should be part of a company’s target market profile:

  • Age ranges
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Income ranges
  • Home value and home ownership 
  • Gender
  • Education levels
  • Disabilities and mobility
  • Employment status

Geographics

Another important demographic consideration is geographic location. While the Internet has allowed even small, local family-run businesses to sell globally, it’s still a best practice to build part of your target audience profile by defining the geographic boundaries of a business. 

While geographic considerations might not play as large a role as in the past (though this really depends on the type of business and industry), it’s valuable information nonetheless. Consider the following geographic target audience profile inputs:

  • This could include a mile radius from a central retail location (i.e. 10-15-20 miles out as primary, secondary, and tertiary geographic markets), or buying patterns in certain ZIP Codes. It all depends on the individual business.
  • Research should be conducted on lead sources and sales by identifying ZIP Codes of consumers, thereby pinpointing geographic hot and cold spots for business as well as geographic areas of untapped potential.
  • A map should be created indicating the boundaries of these geographic markets.
  • Additional research could be conducted by buying mailing lists or hiring an outside company to conduct market research using pre-identified customer demographics to further substantiate the market’s boundaries.
Quick Survey

Surveys should be pulsed out at a pace that will not annoy your target audience and should be short and painless to complete.

How to Gather Demographic Information

It’s important to remember that gathering customer demographic information is not a one shot deal. Demographic information is always changing so it is crucial for a company to build in touch points for leads and existing customers where quantitative data can be collected while making it painless for your audience to provide it. 

Consider the following quantitative data collection points:

  • Quick website surveys
  • Fast social media surveys
  • Longer surveys with incentives for completion
    • Longtime, existing customers will be more willing to spend the time for longer comprehensives questionnaires
  • Gated content that asks a limited amount of content to gain access to a download
  • In-person, phone or web customer interviews
  • Focus group events with incentives, food and other perks

It’s important to be strategic when it comes to culling information from your customers and leads. Surveys should be pulsed out at a pace that will not annoy your target audience and should be short and painless to complete. This might require more survey outputs overall, and it might take a bit more time to get a full picture, but constant pop-ups and “Asks” of your target audience could be a huge turnoff and hurt your brand. Companies need to balance length of surveys with frequency of surveys in order to make it easy for customers to provide data.

Once a company has collected demographic profile data and geographic information, these inputs must be directed into a well-organized, powerful database that can slice and dice information and produce analytical reports that enable quantitative data segmentation. 

In the end, your business should have a strong idea about where your prime customers live, how far they range, how old they are and how much buying power they possess. Then, it’s important to link certain demographic signatures to purchase behaviors to get a sense of which demographic profile to market certain services and products to. 

Quantitative data collection and analysis is critical but, again, it is one piece of a more complex puzzle. To augment a company’s quantitative data, qualitative information needs to be collected and analyzed as well.

What is Qualitative Information?

Qualitative data cannot be expressed in numbers and is used to characterize and approximate. 

“Qualitative data analysis tries to answer questions about what actions people take and what motivates them to take those actions,” according to Search CIO.  

This is where defining your target audience involves psychographics and a more narrative approach to what makes your customers tick. How do they behave? What motivates them? What might make them more likely to buy a product or services? How do they see the world? 

The answers to these questions will not be numerical outputs, but rather a kind of storyline that frames segments of your target market and adds color to the quantitative data housed in your database.

“Psychographics are kind of like demographics. Psychographic information might be your buyer's habits, hobbies, spending habits and values. Demographics explain ‘who’ your buyer is, while psychographics explain ‘why’ they buy,” according to HubSpot

Nailing the “why” can be difficult, but when coupled with accurate, up-to-date demographic/quantitative information, a company can really streamline its approach into a super-effective integrated marketing strategy that tailors its messaging to highly specific customer types. 

Well-defined (and constantly refined) target audiences mean greater engagement; poorly constructed (and rarely updated) or very limited target markets mean the opposite.

How to Gather Psychographic Information

Gathering psychographic information is similar to gathering demographic data. Surveys of existing customers will yield insights into the “why” behind their activities and choices. However, the nature of the survey questions need to be very different to elicit the responses required to build a solid psychographic profile. Consider the following items when developing your survey questions while using the same survey methods discussed earlier in this article.

These questions should focus on eliciting responses that address opinions, activities, attitudes, interests and behaviors, like:

    • How do you feel about climate change?
    • The last time you purchased a phone, what was the reason?
    • What make and model of car have you owned most recently?
    • What made you switch to us?
    • How did our product or service eliminate your pain points?
    • I like to take long road trips:
      • Strongly agree
      • Agree
      • Unsure
      • Disagree
      • Strongly Disagree

The key is phrasing your survey questions to avoid “yes” or “no” responses. You want your customers to talk and share their opinions and thoughts. Again, quick online surveys via a company website, landing page or social media can help gather this information, but the best method is customer interviews either in person, virtually, or over the phone. 

Once you’ve collected a library of psychographic data, the real challenge begins: Combining demographic data (qualitative) and psychographic data (quantitative) to develop customer personas, which is the tool that can deliver powerful behavioral-based marketing segmentation.

What Are Personas and How Do Companies Build Them?

A persona is a semi-fictional customer archetype that details customer demographics, goals, pain points, and proclivities. Your set of personas will become your team's roadmap for knowing the best way and time to attract their interest. 

According to a report by DemandGen, well-known brand Thomson Reuters found that “Buyer personas contributed to a 175% increase in revenue attributed to marketing, 10% increase in leads sent to sales, and a 72% reduction in lead conversion time.” 

In its most basic sense, a persona should be framed by writing a short story that follows your customer through a weekday and a weekend day. Answer questions such as:

  • What does the customer’s morning look like?
  • Do they have a routine (most of us do). What is that routine?
  • What is the next step in the customer’s day? Is there a pattern?
  • What technology are they using or not using at different points in the day?
  • Who are they interacting with at different times of day?
  • What friction points happen in the morning, at work, at home, at night?

Review the short story. Look for patterns such as routines, feelings, values, and common friction points.

For a more in-depth look at Personas consider checking out the following blog series on the topic:

Persona 101, Part I

Persona 101, Part II

Persona 101, Part III

Truly knowing who your customers are and why they do what they do unlocks the potential for highly attuned marketing personalization, product/service development and increased sales. 

To reach highly educated consumers who can access countless options with a single click or touchscreen tap, delivering the right messages, in the right packaging, and at the precise, right time is mandatory. Businesses that do this well, thrive; companies that don’t understand their customers, won’t survive long.

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