Identifying Target Audiences for a Marketing Plan

If we could narrow the goals of marketing to one, it would be to reach consumers in the moments that most influence their decisions, or what we call touch points. Touch points are understood through the metaphor of a funnel where it’s said consumers start with a number of potential brands that offer a product or service for their need and then methodically reduce the options as they move through the marketing funnel emerging with one brand choice. However, today this analogy fails to capture all the possible touch points resulting from the explosion of product choices and marketing channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning and well-informed consumer.

To achieve a successful marketing strategy, a marketing plan is the essential tool for any business. Developing a plan helps every business think about what makes them unique, as well as how to make their message heard to the desired audience through a variety of channels.
One mistake many businesses make when it comes to marketing, is not indentifying the target audience. This step is crucial in starting a successful marketing plan. By doing so businesses can:

  • Better determine if there are enough potential customers
  • Tweak their business idea to better meet the needs of the customer base
  • Tailor products and services
  • Target marketing efforts
  • Craft marketing messages appropriately

Defining your target audience means identifying the specific characteristics of the people or businesses that are believed to be most likely to buy the product or service. Common characteristics used to classify customers include: age, gender, income level, marital status, etc.

6 key steps to identifying a target audience:

  1. Analyze your current customer base
  2. Look at your competition
  3. Ask yourself who could benefit from your product/service?
  4. Target a key demographic – Using the information from the previous steps, decide on the most financially beneficial specific combination of demographics
  5. The psychographics of your target, i.e. Define the features of your product/service are most appealing to your key demographic
  6. Frequently evaluate and reexamine your choice in audience

Additionally, among the tasks of identifying a target audience is defining a market niche. A niche serves the critical function of distinguishing you from your competitors. Focusing on a niche can be an effective and profitable strategy because it is often too difficult and costly to try to cater to very broad audiences. Niches are by definition narrow, but not so narrow that they don’t contain enough customers to sustain the business. The key to defining a profitable niche is to find an area where there is an unmet demand, and to fill that need with your products or services.

If the past has taught us anything, it’s that digital and mobile marketing are here to stay and they need to be a main focus in any marketing mix. A more holistic approach will allow for an audience-focused and budget-maximizing approach to your marketing plan.

Part of this is due to the Gen-Y consumer (born between the 80s and early 2000s). In 2015, this generation’s annual spending is expected to reach $2.45 trillion and by 2018, expected to eclipse baby boomers in spending power at $3.39 trillion. Gen-Ys don’t rely on newspapers and magazines to get information on brands and products; they go to the web. More than any other, this generation flocks to social media where they follow and engage with brands. They’re on smartphones, making purchases directly from their mobile devices. They’re relying on content to make purchasing decisions, and are apt to ignore ads altogether, with only 17% of Gen-Ys citing a TV ad as a successful prompt to make a purchase.

Identifying the target audience is crucial because it sets the base for how these people can efficiently be reached through a marketing plan. Companies will be able to maximize their marketing budget based on understanding the people they will be reaching out to and their purchase motivations before spending any marketing dollars.

Gen-Y’s touch points cannot be defined within traditional methods, and when reexamining a customer base and potential targets for the upcoming year, new digital media strategies need to be accounted for when identifying a future market audience.

Sage Island – 7 Things to Include in Your 2014 Marketing Plan
Oracle – A Survey Report on Gen-Y Banking
McKinsey & Company – The Consumer Decision Journey
Edelman Digital – 50 Facts about Millennials