What Is a Target Audience?

Definition & Examples of a Target Audience

Woman leading a meeting to determine the target market for a new product.
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A target audience is the demographic of people most likely to be interested in a company's product or service.

Learn more about how target audiences work and how they help businesses create effective marketing plans.

What Is a Target Audience?

A target audience is a group of people identified as being likely customers of a business. Target audiences share similar demographic traits including, but not limited to:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Education
  • Socioeconomic status

Identifying your target audience as a business can help craft marketing strategies and define your core customers. Instead of spending money and resources trying to cater to every consumer, defining a target audience allows for more intentional and personal outreach to those most likely to purchase your product or service.

How Target Audiences Work

The best way to find your target audience is by first thinking about the specific needs your product or service fulfills. It's important to identify the pain point, and then determine who has those pain points. For example, if you've learned that creating websites is a hassle and start a business that designs websites, your next step would be to find out who needs a website that would likely have trouble creating one. In this scenario, your target audience is likely small business owners.

The more specific you can identify your target audience's demographic, the more effective you can advertise to them. In this example, it would be best to focus on small business owners that are likely to be less technically-sound. Instead of deeming small business owners as your target audience, you may choose to focus on small business owners over a specific age in a particular location.

If your product is very general in nature, you won't have to do as much market research to find your target audience. If the audience is more specific, it's important to gather data about your customers so you can narrow-focus. One way to collect data is to offer a special price or coupon code to those who visit your website or business if they fill out a survey that captures the information you need.

Market research companies can also help conduct this type of research.

Benefits of Target Audiences

Target audiences help businesses advertise more efficiently as you know who your target audience is and how to reach them. While it's important to reach as many people as possible, and it often seems like focusing only on specific segments of the population is limiting, you need to reach potential consumers directly. 

Directly reaching those interested in your product or service will ultimately put more money in your pocket. Therefore, before you decide what your message is and how to deliver it, you need to understand who you will be receiving it. For people to buy into a product or service, they need to relate to the message's tone and content. By striking a chord with someone, a personal connection is made, and trust is established. 

Let's say the goal is to sell a product to working mothers. The advertising methods might employ digital and social media platforms and may have an energetic and empathetic tone. A better approach to reaching retired seniors is a marketing campaign using print ads in newspapers and magazines that carry a softer and more relaxed tone.

Criticism of Target Audiences

One drawback of a target audience is that companies may become too narrow-focused on the defined target audience that they overlook or disregard other potential consumers. Even well-researched target audiences may mistakenly exclude people who are interested in the product or service, so it's important to use target audiences as baselines, not the end-all. As your product and service offerings begin to expand, it's essential to continuously reevaluate your target audience.

Key Takeaways

  • A target audience is a group of people identified as likely customers of a business.
  • People in a target audience share demographic similarities, such as age, location, or socioeconomic status.
  • Defining a target audience helps create more efficient marketing messages.
  • Focusing exclusively on a target audience can leave other potential customers ignored.