defining digital audience

By Rohan Ayyar

We once had a very interesting real estate developer as a client – young, fresh out of the MBA degree mill, and a know-it-all. He wanted to christen an upcoming residential township his company was building “Lux-O-Tika.” No matter how much we tried to explain it was a bad idea (Lux is a well-known soap bar and Tikka is a common food item in these parts of the world), he stuck to his guns.

Eventually he said something that no agency wants to hear, “You’re not my target audience.”

So what was his target audience and how did he conclude that we weren’t?

A target audience, in layman terms, is a group of individuals segmented by their geographic location, demographics (income, occupation, age, gender) or behavioral traits (loyalty, expectations, product usage) that is interested in buying or advocating your product or service.

So even though the client was technically right, he was completely wrong in assuming that he represented his audience. Often in the war between agency’s wild ideas and client’s preferences, we forget one very important aspect: the customers’ needs and preferences.

And how do you find customer needs and preferences? You create a customer profile that defines your target audience or group.

However, it’s not easy these days to define a target market or audience, what with so many different types of platforms and people, who have wildly individualistic preferences but are too broadly lumped together in ad hoc groups such as “baby boomers” and “millennials.”

In this article, we’ll touch on some of the important factors that help us define a target audience on various digital platforms, including content, social media, and email marketing, so you can make sense out of the chaos.

Dispel Myths First

We often hear B2B clients say, “Your idea is great but not very relevant to our business.” All they want is more boring whitepapers (They don’t have to be boring!) that nobody reads and podcasts that nobody listens to.

For instance, some of the basic theories (read, myths) that B2B businesses cling to are:

  • Our sole goal is to fulfill customers’ needs.
  • Our content has to be educational and informative.
  • Funny or ‘snack’ content is for B2C businesses.
  • We don’t need to adopt digital and social marketing methods as soon as they’re invented.

Businesses that consider themselves as “serious” shrink from anything remotely emotive or human as if it’s the plague. The truth is more and more customers, decision makers and product users in B2B as well as traditional industries are now warming up to creative and simple-to-understand content.

Profile Your Audience

This brings me to my next point – planning your content strategy based on your business audience. Start profiling your target audience, which is now called “persona building.” Be sure to include their age, gender, work industry, professional experience and role, and family details. Then, understand their goals for their company, factoring in company size, growth, and individual preferences.

target digital audience

Photo courtesy of (Used with permission)

Finally, compare the profile or persona you’ve built with a few real people who are actual leads or customers. You may be surprised to see how many misleading and preconceived notions you, and your client, have about your target audience.

Yes, your target persona might be in his 60s, but he may not be as averse to social media or branded or funny videos as you previously thought.

Widen Your Reach

Globalization has made it possible to reach an audience sitting in any corner of the world. Your customers may not have heard of you or be able to reach you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want your products. All you need to do is reach out to these “untapped” markets. If Jack Ma had thought Russians weren’t his target audience, would we have AliExpress to sell Chinese cars in Russia?

Consider another example I stumbled upon – a Nebraska-based custom T-shirt retailer which ships internationally. It also offers a T-shirt subscription service. It’s just a no-frills, one-page subdomain but what a neat way to increase customer retention and build your brand!

There are many free, premium and “freemium” SaaS web builders around these days that allow you to quickly create an awesome ecommerce website, complete with landing pages, payment integration, responsive themes, and the usual bells and whistles. Whether you are a B2B, B2C, product or service business, you can create a website in minutes and start selling to places you’ve never even heard of before… Timbuktu, here I come!

Use Tools and Technologies

In the book Socially Savvy Advisor, author Jennifer Openshaw explained why social media is not just for kids. If your business is not on social media yet, this book is a must-read for you.

To cut a long story short, social media is beneficial to everyone, including “traditional” and “serious” businesses. According to Cogent Research, 90 percent of VCs and investors use social media to make informed decisions, and up to 70 percent have changed relationships or reallocated investments as a result.

So how do investors use social media exactly? They use everything from Google Analytics to social listening and monitoring tools. Businesses and marketers understand the importance of using new smart approaches to segment, reach and influence their audience.

This brings me to a very important point – are you listening to your digital audience? There are many SaaS tools that help profile and interact with your target audience, as well as track their online behavior. You can now verify and enhance any demographic or attitudinal data you might have on your target audience, and find out more about their purchases, browsing patterns, device ownership, social media usage, motivations, and receptiveness to advertising. This is some very valuable data and can help you to describe your audience to the T.

Personalize Wherever Possible

One recent marketing technique everyone raving about is personalization. From personalized emails to product recommendation engines, there are countless ways you can create awesome experiences for your customers.

However, a word of caution – personalization needs an in-depth, if not exhaustive, understanding of your target audience’s location, online behavior and cultural preferences. So unless you’re sure you’ve got their tastes right, be warned – there are cases where personalization has gone horribly wrong.

Parting Words

Despite having so many tools and technological resources at hand, businesses and startups routinely fail to overcome simple obstacles and dogged notions when it comes to marketing. The first step towards successful business is to understand your customer. Get that straight and the rest will follow.

P. S. If you’re not sure how to create a highly targeted audience, try this, this and this.

P. P. S. If you didn’t like this article, perhaps you are not our target audience.

P. P. P. S. We eventually succeeded in making the client understand that Lux-O-Tika is not a good name for a residential township or even an apartment building (just don’t ask how).