Why You Should Not Guesstimate Your Target Audience (and How to Avoid It)

A speaker with their back to the camera speaks to an audience. The headline on the image says. Who is your target audience?

Candles or rocket launchers, handmade cards or wallpapers, coffee mugs or espresso machines — no matter how small or big your product or service, it is imperative that you know who you are making it for.

If this has got you saying, “Of course, I know my target audience,” we have a small mental challenge for you. Think up a few things you know about people you’ve built your product for.

If the attributes you are thinking of are mostly made up of facts like their age, gender, profession, income, and where they live, we have to stop your train of thoughts. Why? This simple image will explain.

An image of Prince Charles on the left and Ozzy Osbourne on the right. Their details show that they were both born in the same year, both were raise in the UK, both were married twice, both live in a castle, and both are wealthy and famous. Their distinct images however are enough to showcase how different they are.

Why It’s Not a Good Idea to Ignore Audience Research

This may come as a surprise but a large number of business owners and their marketing agencies don’t spend the time getting to know their audience.

A screenshot of a tweet by Jake Sanders, who's handle is @POSMarketer reads, Just interviewed a customer data pro, and he shared a story about a DTC food brand that targeted young sexy cross-fitters & marthoners, without ever checking to see who was ACTUALLY engaging and buying the product. Who was it? Parents of older kids & empty-nesters.

Image Credit: Jake Sanders on Twitter

One of the most common things we often hear when we ask business owners about their “target audience” is, “Our audience is everyone.” When you target everyone, you can’t really call that a “target.”

A paper target practice with holes all over and three arrows that are outside of bulls eye

Image Credit: DBarefoot via Creative Commons Under License CC BY-NC 2.0


Ignoring Your Audience Results in Wasted Dollars

Wasted ad spend is a persistent problem in marketing. In fact, it’s a problem that’s been gnawing at marketers since more than a century, when marketing pioneer John Wanamaker famously declared, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

There is a vast amount of data to show that companies are continuing to waste their ad spend. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest is that brands are failing to create content or ads that their audience will engage with and failing to show them on channels and platforms their audience is at.

If brands know their audience as they believe they do, then why are we creating messaging and putting them up in places where no one is watching/listening/engaging with them? The answer is bitter, but true! Brands and their agencies have long ignored understanding their audience.

You Cannot Develop New Products or Enhance Existing Products Without Knowing Your Audience

Your audience is one of the best product development partners you can find. If you have only a superficial understanding of them, you will not be able to see how your product should evolve.

For example, our client, Haven Lighting is a frontrunner in the outdoor landscape lighting industry. Their product development has its foundations in a knowledge of their audience. The brand often develops new features and products based on feedback from customers. It’s no coincidence then that the company has grown exponentially since its founding in 2014.

IKEA did this in 2018 with “Co-Create IKEA,” a digital platform that invited customers and fans to develop new products. The brand worked with college students, commuters, and home owners to create furniture and kitchen items.

Knowing Your Audience Enables You to Create Better Content

Let’s be honest. Media — print or digital — is full of content no one wants to engage with. There are several reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that companies and their agencies aren’t creating for their audience. If you don’t know your audience’s specific pain points or what makes them laugh and cry, your content will fail to engage them. On the other hand, if you know precisely what your audience finds entertaining or informative, you will be able to create content around their needs.

What are Some Ways to Know Your Audience

Speak with your audience. Not only will this show you how your product is being received but it will also enable you to understand how you should speak about it.”



Qualitative Research

Different shaped paper conversation bubbles in shades of beige, yellow, purple, and brown

Image Credit: Marc Wathieu Via Creative Commons

Communication is a human pursuit and while today we may have several ways to gather quantitative data about our target audience, few things are as insightful as conversations. If you think your product is geared toward college students, reach out to college students. Speak with them. Not only will this show you how your product is being received but it will also enable you to understand how you should speak about it.

For example, if you are a flashlight company and want to target beginner hikers with your product, using technical jargon to sell your flashlight won’t really work. This may be fine for experienced hiker who understand terms like “lumens”, “strobe”, “IP Rating,” but someone who may just be starting out using your product could easily get confused and be put off.

Our job as business owners and marketing agencies is to not walk ahead of or behind the customer, but to walk with them. We cannot do this if we don’t understand what their destination is.

Quantitative Research

A laptop screen showing Google Analytics data

Image Credit: Justin Morgan Via Unsplash

With so many free and paid tools that enable us to measure user behavior, it’d be a shame to not leverage the data we have. Tools like Google Analytics, Semrush, and Ahrefs are great resources to see what kind of content your audience is looking for. Not only that, but you can also measure what kind of content is resonating with them.

For example, when you see a page has the highest exit rate on your website, you should investigate why this is. It may not necessarily be a bad thing. It is possible that this page provides the user the information they are looking for and once they find it, they leave. To get a fuller picture, you may want to look at the bounce rate of these exit pages. If the bounce rates on these are high then you know you need to make changes that reflect the audience’s needs.

Social Listening

Black and white emojis are painted on silver paint.

Image Credit: George Pagan III Via Unsplash

Simply put, social listening is a way to keep a tab on your brand’s mentions online. Social listening enables you to not only know what people are saying about you, but it also helps you understand the sentiment around your brand. Some common tools like Talkwalker and Synthesio, and more are power-packed with features that businesses, depending on their budget, can use.

Of course, not all companies can afford to invest in heavyweight tools, but that doesn’t mean they cannot take advantage of social listening. Social media is your best resource to not only advertise your product, but to gather feedback from your customers, understand audience sentiment, build conversations, identify ambassadors. Truth be told, social media provide an immense amount of information and smaller brands that recognize this can see astronomical growth.

Knowing Your Target Audience is a Business Requirement

When you invest in learning about your audience, you are investing in your business. This is not a step you or your marketing agency should be skipping over. If your product isn’t for your audience, then who is it for and if your messaging isn’t resonating with your audience, why create it?

At Boxwood Digital, we invest in learning not only about our clients’ products, but also about their customers. This is why we can create SEO strategies and content that drive results. If you’d like to explore opportunities for your business, schedule a consultation with us.