How to Define a Target Audience for Your Digital Marketing Campaign

How to Define a Target Audience for Your Digital Marketing Campaign

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This article has been contributed by Laura Butler.

Many marketers are primarily focused on selecting the most effective digital marketing instruments, such as content marketing, SEO or visuals.

Meanwhile, spending efficiencies and return on investment (ROI) are becoming increasingly important due to the current global financial decline. More and more specialists are measuring ROI rather than clicks or campaign reach, in order to minimize excessive spending.

Effective targeting is one of the most critical elements of limiting unnecessary costs and increasing conversions rather than simply promoting brand awareness.

Defining a target market is essential for any digital marketing campaign. Here are just a few reasons why identifying your target audience is crucial to your marketing success.

  • Your marketing communications will genuinely resonate with your key audience.
  • You will enjoy higher conversion rates and suffer fewer dead leads.
  • You will increase your market share and build authority in your niche.
  • You become fully capable of reaching the right customers at the right time when you need to.

Let us consider some ideas and available choices that will allow you to target your audiences with laser precision.

1. Choose Local or Global Reach

The Burden of Brand Globalness

Some organizations overestimate the optimal geographical reach for your business. Not all of us are ‘born global’.

Seeing some queries on Facebook coming from Brazilian users does not necessarily imply a need to make your brand a global one and order ad impressions in this region. Moreover, even if you want to target multiple international markets, you should never fight a war on multiple fronts.

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Here is a better plan:

  1. Start with an analysis of real orders and customer queries from the areas you are considering.
  2. Identify the markets with the largest number of real clients willing to order your products and services.
  3. Run several test campaigns (see the timing recommendations below).
  4. Select the most interesting markets with the best response to your ads.

Never invest substantial resources in your marketing communications without running real-life tests. Assumptions about unknown markets are a popular case of ‘marketing myopia’ leading to sunk costs and no leads.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

If you are a locally operating physical store, you should choose a small geotargeting radius and invest all your resources into showing your ads to prospective customers within it. It makes no sense to advertise globally and spread yourself too thin to find out that small efforts in multiple spheres produce no tangible outputs in a highly competitive market.

Your goal is to boost your rankings and make sure that all local customers in your niche are aware of your business. You can always add global sales options afterwards.

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Here are the first steps for becoming the ‘talk of the neighborhood’:

  1. Set a physical radius for all your marketing communications to only target the audiences in your area (for a physical coffee shop, the optimal radius can be as small as 1 mile).
  2. Update all information about your business on Google My Business, local yellow pages catalogues, and any other online resources that can boost your visibility.
  3. Use location names and other local terms in all business reviews, newspaper articles, and other paid media to be shown higher in Google search outputs related to your area of presence.

Woman paying at a local shop checkout

2. Find the Optimal Time

What Time Is It?

Whether you choose local or global reach determines the next critical aspect of reaching the optimal target audience, namely the time of the communication. Time zones may be the most vivid example of this problem for global brands.

  • A global campaign launched at 6 p.m. BST will be delivered to US customers at California at 2 a.m. local time.
  • Emails sent during the night-time can make prospective customers angry and turn them into dead leads.
  • Sending personal birthday greetings or Christmas cards several hours ahead of the actual local time can be equally detrimental to conveying your ‘personal’ message.

Bad Timing for a Conversation

For both local brands and small born-global brands, timing is also associated with an additional targeting problem. Different categories of customers usually favor different periods of the day to browse through their Facebook newsfeeds or read email marketing messages. Think about this:

  • Ads shown between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. will not reach many professionals driving to work.
  • Ads shown during the lunch break of this customer category may not reach stay-at-home moms whose children may come home from school around this time and need their attention.

This forces you to make some difficult choices and identify which customer segments produce the highest revenue for your brand. This is the situation where ‘cutting off the excess’ can be a painful but necessary step.

If you still want to target several countries or customer segments, make sure that you select the optimal periods for your marketing messages to be visible to most of your target consumers. To get the highest conversion rates possible, try to experiment with several time options to identify the ones that work best for your audiences before launching a large-scale promotional campaign.

3. Select Appropriate Customer Demographics

These considerations bring us to the concept of customer demographics. If you target busy professionals between 25 and 40 years old, chances are you they are browsing the net while commuting to and from work or during their lunch breaks. Alternatively, stay-at-home moms may be using different social media platforms to teenage customers.

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Ensuring that you are aware of these differences means you can select the optimal style of communication. As well as specific channels and periods of the day, it is generally preferable to use narrow targeting in this aspect. This ensures cost efficiencies in reaching your highest-converting audience.

Here are some demographic variables you may want to consider when fine-tuning your digital marketing campaigns:

  • age and lifecycle
  • gender
  • income and occupation
  • family makeup
  • lifestyle

It should also be noted that modern marketing platforms allow you to combine demographic variables with behavioral ones, like preferred browsing device and time of browsing. This approach can be more effective since you are actually interested in the consumers demonstrating the behaviors leading to future conversions rather than those possessing certain education types or income levels.

4. Decrease Customer Uncertainty

Purchase Decisions Are Stress Factors in the Modern World

While this may sound strange, the need to purchase a new product may be a less enjoyable act than the depiction of this process used in advertising – especially those involving smiling children and happy customers. When choosing a smartphone, a regular buyer needs to consider whether:

  • it will satisfy the ‘social approval’ purpose and highlight owner status
  • product characteristics will be future-proof
  • it will be possible to purchase high-quality accessories such as a beautiful case or compatible top-fidelity Bluetooth headphones for the item?

The traditional 5-phase customer decision-making model includes the following stages:

  1. Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Alternatives evaluation
  4. Purchase decision
  5. Post-purchase appraisal

The problem is, many customers lack the time and expertise necessary to perform a thorough information search to find a product that perfectly fits their needs. In the case of high-involvement purchases and lack of trust around reliable customer information, this can cause ‘analysis paralysis’, which increases stress.

Man experiencing analysis paralysis using laptop

Target Stressed Customers

Your targeted audience usually includes people in the third stage, comparing available alternatives. They seek information but may not possess the capability or the competence to make fully informed choices. Your targeting should be tailored to prioritize these stressed customers and alleviate their stress via marketing communication.

Here are some ideas for you:

  1. Educate your target audiences on the strengths and weaknesses of available alternatives.
  2. Make sure your explanations are easily understandable and decrease ‘ uncertainty levels.
  3. Offer your solution explaining its unique advantages.
  4. Provide clear guarantees using the ‘puppy dog close’ method or similar to decrease the stress involved in high-involvement deals.

5. Identify Key Decision-Makers

In any marketing journey, there is usually a single individual making the final decision. Frequently, this may be a different person from the one seeing the initial advertisement. For example, a child willing to buy a new bike may ask their parents to give them money.

Similarly, in the B2B context, a CTO may approve or discard a suggestion to purchase your product or service voiced by line-level managers. Make sure that you are targeting the actual decision-maker and choose your promotional strategies accordingly.

However, you may need to also consider the possibility of ‘shared decision-making’. For example:

  • A CTO can have the final say but may be overworked and have no time for in-depth analysis. Their primary focus is minimizing costs.
  • Line-level specialists may possess the knowledge necessary to recognize your offering’s uniqueness and focus on its practical benefits.
  • Therefore, you need to convince the second stakeholder to elevate your proposal to the CTO level while also demonstrating some cost savings. The line-level specialist can be seen as the proverbial ‘gatekeeper’ that you must not underestimate in your targeting strategy.

Before setting up your targeting preferences, you should always investigate the types of companies or customers you are targeting (in B2B or B2C settings respectively) to formulate your unique service proposition accordingly.

6. Consider Competitor Offerings

If you are targeting a relatively crowded niche in the market, you need to pay attention to your competitors. Start by carrying out a competitor analysis.

First, look at the customers they are trying to win with their digital marketing campaigns. This way, you can quickly learn more about the above-mentioned elements of your consumer profile and save time.

Man carrying out competitor analysis on computers

Second, the analysis of their targeting strategies will hopefully demonstrate a gap in the market that you can successfully occupy. For example, you can target a different age segment, offer more competitive pricing or use differentiation to promote your offering as a less generic solution for specific customer problems.

Keep in mind the following aspects:

  • Targeting the same niche as your competitors usually requires a greater advertising budget.
  • Stealing competitor customers is borderline ethical and may stimulate direct rivalry.
  • When you find your ideal niche, you will experience higher client loyalty and lower competition.

7. Do Not Target More Customers than You Can Handle

Two-Way Communication Is King…

Marketing experts emphasize the significance of ‘pull’ marketing and two-way communication that are especially attractive to younger customers. They are highly effective for building long-term relationships, stimulating repeat purchases in the future, and creating online word-of-mouth.

Here are some advantages of targeting the consumers interested in conversational marketing:

  • Non-consumers can still praise your brand online and stimulate new purchases among their friends and relatives.
  • Two-way communication exposes your ‘brand personality to thousands of viewers.
  • Quality discussions make people trust your brand and see it as a person.

… If It Is Done Right

At the same time, an el-cheapo counterfeit imitation of a Louis Vuitton bag makes its wearer look worse than before. Two-way communication is extremely time- and resource-intensive as compared to traditional marketing. Your specialists have to maintain contact with multiple prospective clients who may not instantly purchase your offerings.

For many small brands, this leads to the following dilemma:

  • Targeting larger audiences is possible if you stick to the ‘outdated’ one-way communication.
  • Engaging in meaningful dialogues requires targeting a smaller number of prospective customers.

If your resources are limited, you may choose to focus on one-way promotion and low-involvement decisions to stimulate more purchases in the short-term and shift towards more sophisticated strategies later.

As you gain greater awareness of your ideal customer, you will be able to target small niches of your highest-converting audience. You can then add two-way communication to maximise engagement.

Final Words on Defining Your Target Audience

A high-quality targeting analysis is important for marketers from two primary standpoints. On the one hand, it will allow you to use your resources more sparingly and get the maximum ROI for your promotional campaigns. On the other hand, it will offer valuable insight into your future growth potential.

In some cases, your target audience may be limited in size or difficult to reach, which may not be easy to recognize at first glance. In these cases, investing your resources into a limited or resource-intensive niche may not be profitable in the long-term.

Overall, concentration and precision may be deemed as the two critical meta-strategies allowing you to get optimal results. It is always preferable to get good coverage of a narrow customer segment than a mediocre coverage of multiple ones.


About the author: Laura Butler is co-owner at Outreach Lab, who specialise in providing content writing and SEO services to businesses around the world. Having worked in multiple start-ups over the years, she has experience in building businesses from the ground up. Laura enjoys writing content on a variety of topics, from business strategy, to marketing, SEO and sustainability.

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