Identifying your target audience is one of the basic building blocks of a successful marketing strategy. Sometimes all it takes to turn a business around (and improve ROI) is to take a close look at who you’re marketing to and then adjust your messaging and overall strategy accordingly.

But it’s not as easy as you may think. Homing in on the right target audience takes time, patience and the ability to take an objective look at your business and your customers.

Before you assume you know your target audience, follow these 8 steps. You might just be surprised by what you uncover

1. Analyze your existing customers. Understanding the characteristics and purchasing patterns of the people who currently buy your product or service can reveal a lot about your business.

  • Take a close look at the data. Consider profiling and modeling your existing customer list to see geographic distributions, age ranges, lifestyle factors and other insights.
  • Recall past successes. Identify campaigns and messaging that have worked in the past. Who were the prospects that responded and how did the campaign influence their buying behavior?

Recently, Responsory completed a Marketing Audit for a technical college that uncovered a surprising audience insight. See how a new perspective on the college’s marketing efforts revealed a significant untapped opportunity.

2. Dig deeper and segment. Every audience demographic can be further segmented to be more specific. For example, if your product is targeted towards HR professionals, these individuals can have a wide range of unique characteristics. Those who work at a large company might specialize in a particular facet of HR, like benefits administration. Others who work at a smaller company likely wear many hats and might be involved in everything from accounting to procurement. Remember to think critically about which segments from an audience group use your product or service and how.

3. Keep an eye on the competition. Keeping tabs on who your competitors are targeting and how they are/aren’t meeting their needs can help you further define your audience targeting strategy and differentiate your business. Ask yourself, who is their target audience? How are they talking to them? What are they doing well?

4. Challenge your assumptions. Don’t assume you understand your customers. Even if it’s “who you’ve always marketed to,” it’s worthwhile to take a critical look and reassess as your business evolves. This is where conducting a thorough Marketing Audit can be especially helpful.

  • Compare your primary and secondary research findings against your initial assumptions about your target audience. Are there differences in demographics? Purchase motivation? Could your audience be further segmented to be more precise?
  • Listen to your customers. Survey and/or interview your existing customers to better understand their wants and needs. Always go with what your customers are saying, even if it conflicts with your original assumptions.

5. Create audience personas. Documenting your ideal audience personas is key to crystalizing your ideas and keeping everybody in your organization focused on the same audience. Effective customer personas contain both demographic and psychographic information, and include details about their lifestyle, roles and responsibilities, communication preferences and media consumption.

6. Find your audience. Now that you have a better understanding of who your target prospects are, you need to figure out where to find them and how they prefer to communicate.  This will help you determine the right mix of tactics and key messages that will resonate with your target audience.

  • Map out your customer journey. By analyzing how your current customers are finding and engaging with you now, you’ll gain insight into the most effective touch points that end in a sale. Get a head start on mapping your customer journey.

7. Run test campaigns and embrace failure. You can test everything from landing pages to direct mail and social media campaigns. By testing, you can find out not only which tactic(s) work best, but also which headlines, imagery and calls to action resonate most with your target audience. Remember, not every test is going to be successful. In fact, sometimes the best insights come from tests that fail. Remember to always analyze your results and apply your findings to your next campaign.

8. Reassess every 12 to 18 months. With rapidly evolving technology and increasingly fragmented audiences, it’s important to reevaluate your marketing strategies on a regular basis. Avoid delivering stale messages and creative because you’re short on time and don’t assume an idea or tactic is going to be successful just because it worked in the past.

  • Revisit your audience profiles and customer personas periodically and make updates based on current data and test campaign results.
  • Consider new ways to connect with your target audience. As your business evolves with technology, so will the ways your customers want to connect with you.

Homing in on the right target audience can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. One of the best places to start is with a comprehensive Marketing Audit, which takes an objective look at the marketing landscape, helps you evaluate your current marketing strategy and tactics and allows you to identify the right target audience for maximum ROI.

One final tip: If your organization demands better online and offline reach among prospect and customer audiences, take a closer look at Smart Zones Audience Targeting. The Smart Zones solution crosses channels, onboards CRM data with high match rates, supports the creation of new prospect audiences, facilitates qualified lead generation and seamlessly monitors audience performance.