Actionable tips, community conversations, and marketing inspiration.

How to Find Your Target Audience Online

Laura Smous

Senior Director of Product Marketing @ AdRoll

Topics Covered:

You've probably heard of the phrase, "Shoot for the moon — even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." An uplifting sentiment, but it definitely doesn't apply to your marketing strategies. It'll be like shooting into the black abyss of space if you can't define who your target audience is.

One of the essential first steps in business is understanding the people who are interested in your product or service, and where they come from. This information is instrumental in developing an effective marketing strategy that allows you to prioritize resources accordingly.

Customer Demographics

You can't determine your target audience without first breaking down who your ideal customer is. Are they the busy parents planning the ultimate birthday parties, or the first-time homebuyer looking for the best mortgage rate?

Customer demographics span a wide range: age, education, gender, income, location, marital status, occupation, and hobbies. For the purposes of your customer profiles, determine what's relevant for your business. Knowing characteristics like marital status, income, and hobbies will help guide you in developing the ideal messaging and imagery to use when marketing to your customers. A millennial software developer may respond better to an irreverent tone, while a Gen X physician may appreciate straightforward language.

Consider polling your existing customers to see what works, or test different messaging to understand what drives conversions. You can also look at who your competitors are targeting via their messaging (look for clues in their language like, “We save busy parents’ time…” to spot which demographic they’re targeting). This helps identify new audiences that you may have previously overlooked.

Target Audience Geographics

Location is one of the most critical aspects of customer demographics, and other companies agree. In fact, 44% of companies were looking at geographics in 2017 — that’s up almost 10% from 2015.

Online retailers and service businesses can use geographics domestically and internationally to see where their customers are located. Finding existing geographics can be as easy as looking at your web analytics and drilling into where your visitors come from and what they did on your website.

Geographics can also help tailor messaging to particular markets. For example, if you sell home furnishings and goods, your campaigns for customers in large cities could focus on maximizing small spaces, while marketing to suburban customers could zone in on home décor.

Where Your Customer is Online

Now that you understand who your customer is and where they live, it's time to figure out where your customer spends time online. Knowing web behavior helps you place content and ads in the right places, on the right platforms, and at the right time. For instance, your ideal customer may spend a lot of time on Facebook, yet not use Pinterest.

If you’ve been in business for a while, create an online survey for your existing customers and ask what sites they spend the most time on: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, local news sites, or national business news sites (to name a few). If you’re a relatively new business, the Pew Research Center has useful general information on where your ideal customer may be browsing.

How to Identify Your Existing Online Audience

Whether you’ve been in business for a while, or are just starting out, it’s crucial to have some sort of analytics software installed on your website like Google Analytics to learn more about your existing target audiences.

Depending on the platform you use, you can view demographic information like age and gender, where your visitors came from (did they type in your website address and come straight to you? Google you? Click on an ad you have running on Facebook?), and where they’re located, down to the city. You can also see what devices they use and what pages they visit on your site.

Tracking website visitors can also help you understand what product or service pages customers are spending the most time on, and how they interact with your website.

Empathizing With Your Customer

What keeps your ideal customer up at night? Once you’ve identified demographics, geographics, and where your customer spends time online, put yourself in their shoes. To grow as a business, you’ll need to empathize with your customers and speak to their needs.

An online clothing retailer targeting a single, 20-something professional in a big city may share tips on building a polished office wardrobe on a budget. A pet supply company targeting a busy 30-something professional in suburbia may share tips on keeping a cat’s litter box from stinking up the house. Figure out what your customer needs and capitalize on how to fill the gap with your business.

Now that you know how to find your audience, let’s dive deeper into competitor research and analysis. Discover how to derive inspiration from your competitors in the Ultimate Guide to Growth.

Explore Next

Topics Covered: