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It may seem counterintuitive, but sharpening your focus to a smaller, more specific audience can increase your impact. A broader audience might mean more people, but you may sacrifice actually resonating and engaging them with your message.  The old 80/20 rule applies here: 20% of your customers make up 80% of your sales.  Talk to those 20% who really connect with what you do or need your product.  

If I wanted to grow my equestrian clientele I would have a huge audience to pull from if I just focused on “equestrians.”  But not every equestrian is running his/her own horsey business.  Of the 150,000 horse owners out there, I only want to talk to the 10% who are business owners. The other 135,000 most likely don’t need my services and would ignore my message.  (These numbers are imaginary). 

Playing the numbers game can be a waste of time and resources.  Sharpen your focus and don’t be distracted by a big number attached to a broad, non-specific audience.

"Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively."

Seth Godin

How do you sharpen your focus?  By collecting data and then analyzing it. Don’t be scared by analytics.  It just means thinking critically about your data and recognizing any trends you can capitalize on. 



Creating surveys are pretty easy.  Social media platforms such as Facebook allow you to create surveys or polls and share them with your followers and groups.  You can also create a survey within many e-newsletter software providers and email it to a list of contacts.  If you don’t have a sizeable contact database already, ask those you do have to share the survey with their contacts/networks.  Keep your survey short and to the point.

Analyze competitors

If your product or service has a competitor (I’m sure it does) take an opportunity to evaluate what they are doing well and what could be improved.  Who are they talking to? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel!  Look at their advertisements, go to their stores (if possible or applicable), check out their stands or booths at trade shows or other events, and visit their social media pages.  You can learn about their audience and subsequently gain insights for your own audience.

Look at current customer trends – don’t ignore what you already know

If you only do one thing to identify your target audience, let it be this one.  Canvas your current customers/client base.  Interview them, identify common traits between your best customers.  Use structured methods, where questions are provided, and unstructured conversation where they can provide valuable insights into their buying habits, media consumption and interests that you may not have considered with your structured questions. 

Make educated guesses

Without pre-existing data or customers you may need to employ the old WAG system (Wild Ass Guess).  This is okay!  If you’ve developed a product or service odds are you’ve already considered your potential audience and have some idea of who you want to talk to.  As you develop your guesses, be sure to consider the why.  If you think your target audience will be women, ages 30-50, why do you think that?  Random guesses and educated guesses are not created equal.  Have some justification for your guesses. Once you have some clientele built up, update your guesses as needed with actual data.  


Create filters

Now that you have your data it’s time to use it!  Identify trends and consistencies meaningful to your business by creating filters.  Some filters are obvious, if you have a brick and mortar store, or only service a particular location, a geographic region is your first filter.   Here are some examples of some basic filters to hone in on your target audience and sharpen your focus.



I've created a filter for designlove's target audience so you can see the end result and how this can help characterize your audience.  



You have your data, you’ve analyzed it through filters, now take it a step farther by creating one or two customer profiles to help personify your ideal client.  I’ve done two for designlove as examples.

claire2Customer Claire is a 35-year-old woman ready to start her own business.  She's been doing the 9-5 thing but really wants to focus on starting and building her own business. Claire has a college degree and household income of $50,000+.   This project will be something she does on the side until she can turn it into a full-time endeavour.  Her new business is a passion project, something she’s wanted to do for years.  She will be very involved in every step of the process.  She will need everything from brand identity, website, marketing campaign and collateral materials.

carlCustomer Carl is a 50-year-old man who owns a small business, less than 20 employees.  Carl has a college degree and a household income of $100,000+. Carl’s business is growing and he recognizes the brand identity created years ago without much thought, has become stale or irrelevant.  He would like an updated new look, the website revamped and all new collateral materials.  He has a history of his marketing efforts, but these could be evaluated and improved upon.  Carl is very busy running his company and would like his marketing contractor to take the lead on presenting ideas for his approval.  He has opinions but will be less hands on and trust the guidance of his contracted designer.  He does not have an in-house marketing department for his business and would like a contractor who can learn his business and act as a marketing department on an as-needed basis.  Carl will be a returning customer as his company grows and marketing needs increase. 

Identifying your target audience is THE important factor to building effective marketing campaigns.  You have to know who you are talking to in order to craft a meaningful message and find outlets where they will see it and can interact.  Knowing your audience can also lead to important product developments or creating new services to meet their needs. 


Want to read some more about identifying your target audience?  Here are two great articles from

6 Steps to Decoding Your Target Audience

Steps to Identify Your Target Market


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