How to Identify Your Target Audience, Understand Their Problems, and Provide Solutions
Not every consumer out there wants to hear your message or buy your product. And it’s great!
Imagine how much impact your business can make in this world if you understand who your target audience is, how they think, what they care about, how they perceive your brand, and what steps they’re looking to take right now in their business.
The pain points are there. People have needs and challenges that weigh them down. Especially business people.
At first, you shouldn’t expect them to come to you, just because you think they need you. It’s your duty to identify them and answer their questions. And it’s not hard at all.
At the end of the day, effective marketing boils down to these two factors:
If you understand your products and services well (you should), then it’s time to cut through the noise and nail who your ideal customers are, and how to bring them to your website.
Why Identifying your target audience matters
What will be the outcome of flying an aircraft without navigation tools?
It will get missing and probably crash. Right?
If you don’t know and understand your audience, you’re building on a sandy soil — because your business will come crashing come. You could just be spending money, time, and energy without a clear potential for a good return on investment. Your business will not appeal to every audience.
No, don’t even try.
In a game of dart, you have to aim in order to hit the board, right? The truth is, it’s only when you understand who your target audience truly is that you can attract and convert them into customers and of course, increase your revenue.
“I’d first focus on establishing a crystal-clear empathy with the audience that I plan to serve, so I know what their problem is, how they feel about it and what they currently do to try and solve it. The best way to learn this in my experience is in-person, over the phone or a distant third is via monitoring discussions in groups, blog comments, forums and social media.
If I don’t do this step well, I won’t have an audience or make any sales down the line, so it’s the vital first step for ROI.”
In summary, knowing your target audience helps you
i). Refine your value proposition: Your value proposition is the single most important factor you must make clear to your audience. And it’s only when you know your target audience well enough that you can create a value proposition that converts.
Casey and Morgan, the founders of MixMade were able to boost their conversion rate by 2200% because they refined their value proposition through the insights they gained from studying their audience.
What is value proposition?
Value proposition is the main reason your prospects should buy from you. In other words, it’s the value you promise to deliver to your customers.
If you don’t know your audience, tell me, how will you know what matters to them? And how will you deliver the best product to them?
Apple has a great and unique value proposition. This is mostly because they know what their consumers want.
Apple says: “A phone should be more than a collection of features, a phone should be simple and, beautiful and magical to use.”
Apple is reaching out to people who need sleek phones. And not everyone does or think they do. You can see that from their products. They deliver on their promise.
It’s extremely important that you know your audience, create a clear value proposition that will appeal to your audience in simple terms. That’s how to win more customers.
ii). Dismiss what they don’t care about: It’s also important that you know your target audience because it will help you to dismiss what they don’t care about. Knowing their pain points and what they don’t like, it becomes a lot easier to eliminate those things they don’t like or care about from your products and services.
For example, if your ideal customers are in their 50s, they will definitely not be excited about Sugar, because of their health. So, reducing sugar in your product could help.
iii). Know what makes their life better, so you can focus on it: It’s no news that customers use their perceived or desired value to make buying decisions. Their value must match with your value proposition in order to get them to take the right action step.
You’ll likely lose your customers if you are not able to provide the value that makes their life better — especially what they think makes their life better, not what you assume is good for them.
iv). How they choose and compare products: Do you know how your customers compare products?
A thorough research will reveal how your prospects and customers compare and choose products. This will allow you to position your products to appeal to them.
Because in the consideration stage of the sales funnel, they have the option of comparing two or more products before deciding on what they truly want.
If you know how they do their comparison, it will be easier for you to go before them and set the pace. If you're selling women’s apparel, then you’d want to place a high-quality product image beside the listings because 64% of women say they want it.
And if your prospects use Yellow Pages or White Pages to make a comparison, you should list your business there.
v). How they describe their services: Another key benefit of identifying your customers is that it allows you to know how they describe the solutions they are looking for. That will enable you to eliminate guesswork from your strategy.
You can use Google Keywords tool to find out the exact keywords that your customers are searching for.
What is a target audience?
A target audience is a small group of people that are most likely interested in your offering — content, product, or/services.
Have you heard businesses say they target “anyone interested in their services?”
Sadly, most businesses claim that they are targeting small business owners. But I think it’s too broad.
While targeting a specific audience doesn't completely exclude people who don't fit into your criteria, it allows you to put your money where your mouth is — invest your marketing dollars into viable customer acquisition channels that will generate maximum revenue.
For example, a retailer that deals on clothes could choose to focus on men between the ages of 35 and 65 with an annual income of $160,000+ in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
That's a specific audience rather than targeting every man in the U.S.
You could be advertising to kids and teenagers who don't need what you're offering — which would result in a waste of your marketing budget.
With a clearly-defined audience, it’s easier to know where and how to share your brand stories and answer questions as they come.
Target audience Vs. Niche market
Knowing your target audience is key to dominating your niche market. Niche market and target audience may seem to mean the same thing to most people, but they are quite different.
While your target audience focuses on who you’re marketing to, your niche market combines who your target audience is and the problem you are helping them solve.
For example, if you are a life coach, your target audience could be divorced women while your niche market could be helping women who are divorced to rebuild their career.
One thing you must understand about niche marketing is that people don't subscribe to a service or buy a product. They pay for solutions. The only time you will actually win a customer is when they see you as the best solution provider for their problems.
Let’s face it, most niches (especially ecommerce) today are saturated to be profitable for entrepreneurs. It will be extremely difficult to get people’s attention without a unique identity to distinguish your brand from the competition.
How does knowing your target audience allow you to dominate a niche market?
Let’s answer that question:
i). You will create content that appeals to your audience: Content marketing allows you to attract and retain customers. Understanding your customers is the first step towards creating amazing content that will resonate with your audience and convert them into loyal customers.
When you understand who’s at the receiving end, then you can take steps to uncover what they are searching for in the search engines, on Amazon, and even on social media networks.
Then, you can create content to meet their needs while targeting the exact keywords they are searching for.
ii). You will be established as an authority in your niche market: By understanding your ideal customer, you position your brand as the go-to in your industry.
Isn’t it surprising how Shopify grew 10x in 3 years?
Shopify has grown so big in just 11 years. Almost everyone knows Shopify as the trusted ecommerce platform for startups. That’s the power of nailing your audience. Don’t take it lightly.
Shopify became a successful business and trusted brand because the founder Tobias Lutke understood the audience he’s creating products for.
He felt the pain, and decided to fix it. It’s all about making impact in this world. And that’s the benchmark of successful entrepreneurs. These people are not out to make some quick bucks and abscond. No, they choose to touch lives in a positive way.
When Shopify was launched, Michael and his partners developed an effective content marketing campaign based on insights from his target audience.
He created content on topics related to ecommerce and online business. Before long, Shopify’s blog became a hub for empowering, educating, and inspiring entrepreneurs — helping them to start their own profitable businesses online.
You should have such a driving force in your business. Don’t be satisfied with average, but choose to make a difference in the world — make it better than you met it. That’s the underlying “purpose” behind memorable brands like Disney, Starbucks, Amazon, and other brands around the world.
Steps to identify your target audience
How do you navigate the competitive marketing environment when you don’t know who you’re marketing to? Your message will likely fall to the ground because the right audience isn’t receiving it.
Quickly, here are the simple and proven steps to identify your ideal audience:
1). No Data? Begin with Assumptions
The initial stage of this process might seem complex because you don’t even have any data or insights for making better decisions.
More so, if you don’t have existing customers that are satisfied with your products, you’re likely dealing with educated guesses and assumptions. The objective is to eventually test your assumptions to ascertain them.
These are based on your personal experience and some other factors (including the relationships that you have with other businesses).
Before you can determine whether an audience will like your offer, you have to first determine their age, geographic locations, sex, income, and sometimes, how they make purchases online — what motivates them.
Assumptions are not always helpful. Especially in marketing and customer service departments where the prospects and customers are considered first in every decision. But when you use strategic assumptions, then you’re not totally lost.
In the past, by simply knowing someone’s age you can determine whether they are going to like your product or not. But the reverse is the case today. Most 30-year-olds aren’t making their own decisions today — they probably live with their parents or out of jobs.
For demographic data, you have to go beyond and factor in their lifestyle too. Because at the end of the day, how the audience spends more and what they spend it on counts. Millennials, for example, love technology — so they spend more money on Smartphones, Gaming consoles, AI-empowered gadgets, and so on.
So when using educated guesses and assumptions, focus on these aspects and provide answers:
- What specific needs do they need answers to?
- Do they want to find profitable niche ideas for their ecommerce business?
- Are they looking for seamless payment processes, what’s their pain points when it comes to integrating payment processes?
As you can see, we didn’t use any empirical data to make any form of decisions or find answers. We simply hung on assumptions — which has its place in the entire process of determining the ideal audience. But there’s a better option...
2). Profile your existing customers
Most entrepreneurs shy away from profiling their customers because they think it’s a negative practice. And I totally agree. Because you’re going beyond the person’s full name.
During the process, you want to know their past experiences as well — because they all contribute to the decisions they make today. source
Getting feedback from customers is a great way to gather intelligence on what you should offer. Hence, you need the “customer profile” to fully take control of the situation so that during testing, you will know exactly what variables to test.
Here’s a simple customer profile template that will guide you when creating yours. It’s a simple 3-step process:
a). Create a broad description: For this customer persona to be useful, start by looking at a broad picture and describe how your ideal customer behaves.
It goes beyond getting personal information, you also need to understand what they do and what’s important to them in doing business even before they do business with a company like yours.
Right here on EcommPreneur, we cater to four different customer personas. Here’s exactly how we describe them:
Starter Stuart — Stuart just got online and embraced ecommerce. He comes to EcommPreneur.com because he wants to learn about how to get started in this business model. He’s more interested in niche markets, product ideas, and a helping hand along the way.
Premium Patrick — Patrick is a mid-size business owner and a successful one at that. He’s looking to scale his business and sell to the international audience. He wants to invest in premium educational content that will guide him through the entire process. And he wants to be in control. He’s interested in learning about tools of the trade, warehousing, customer acquisition and retention, and so on.
Business Ben — Ben isn’t solely interested in ecommerce, but he wants to find a profitable business idea to build on. He’s had his own fair share of disappointments when trying to start a business online. Now, he wants mentorship and practical resources to upgrade his skill sets and make a living online. He doesn’t want gimmicks, hypes, or unrealistic promises.
Excel Edward — Edward is a successful entrepreneur. He’s built a thriving brand offline and now wants to use the internet to power it even further. Branding is his utmost priority. He signs up to EcommPreneur to learn how to build a brand online, and to expand his business even further.
From these personas, you can see that our business has different customers to satisfy. We can’t afford to create the same type of content all the time because it probably won’t appeal to each one of them.
For example, “Business Ben and Excel Edward” are not your typical newbies or beginners. So they are not looking for generic articles on how to start ecommerce business. But “Starter Stuart” would benefit from such content.
On the other hand, the post you’re reading right now will appeal to customers in every segment or level. Because, no matter your level in business, you continually learn about your target audience, how to better understand them, so that you can provide solutions.
b). Identify user goals
It’s time to know what your customers want to deal with. At this stage, your customer profile or persona begins to have depth — because you’re gaining more insights on how to serve them better.
Remember that different customer types have different goals in mind. For “Starter Stuart,” he’s probably concerned about the beginning, starting a website, or picking a niche marketing.
That’s the goal. However, “Excel Edward” wants to create massive brand awareness online He’s got the marketing budget. All he needs is the direction.
Still using our website as an example, we know that customers want to quickly find the right answers on our website. It doesn’t matter how great our products and services are — if the target audience can’t find it, we have failed in helping them achieve their goals.
c). Identify where customers will find you
Which social media platforms is your business gaining dominance? If you’re not active on Twitter, there’s no need redirecting your customers to your profile. Instead, send them to your Facebook business page, Instagram profile, Pinterest board, and LinkedIn profile.
More importantly, you have to be where your target audience is. If they enjoy engaging on Facebook, then pay attention to that network and begin to build your fan page.
If your target audience visits popular blogs, then you have to be there. How? Pitch the author a guest post topic and contribute invaluable articles to these industry blogs. Then persuade readers (your ideal customers) to visit your website.
What sort of content do they prefer to consume? Is it videos, podcasts, articles, PDF reports, ultimate guides, et al.
If for example, your target audience sells products for professionals, then LinkedIn is ideal. If the product is solely targeted at men, AskMen is a great platform to start connecting with the right audience.
You get the idea.
So, with all the insights you have gathered from your market, you can develop a winning customer profile template or customer persona document for reaching your preferred audience.
3). Study your competition
To succeed in ecommerce business or any other model, you need to make it a point to study your competition. Make no mistakes about it.
There’s a reason why you’re looking up to another company in your industry. It’s not about the gigantic skyscraper where their office is located, but their marketing decisions and strategies.
It provides a lot of data that you need for decision-making purposes. According to Michael E. Porter and Victor E. Miller from the Harvard Business Review, “relevant information gives you the competitive advantage.”
Studying your competition is a great way to know what they are doing well (their strengths), where they having challenges (their weaknesses), what steps they are planning to take, and how you can better position your own business. It’s that simple!
Here’s how you can study your competition:
i). Find your top competitors: This is quick. Simply head over to Google and enter your primary keyword (e.g., industrial filter manufacturer), then click on the “search” icon. You will find your top competitors:
Find the top 5 - 10 competitors in the search results, identify their websites and then move on to the next stage.
ii). Analyze their websites: This approach is important because it tells you what your competitor is doing well, how many keywords they are ranking in Google search results plus the top ranking pages which are driving their sales.
Use the SEMrush tool. Enter your competitor’s URL (e.g., liquidfiltration.com), then click on the “Start now” button.
Next, analyze their results:
So the competitor above is ranking for 231 keywords in the organic search and 88 total backlinks for the domain. Backlinks are important factors for websites that are positioned at the top organic pages right now.
With this insight, you know before you can rank in Google’s top 10 results on the first page, you need to get 100+ backlinks and target better keywords.
iii). Talk to their customers: If your competitor is well-known in the marketplace, then you can find their customers and talk to them. Ask their customers what they like or dislike about “that” brand. And what motivates them to buy from that company.
4). Immerse yourself and look at the data from Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that will help you uncover your target audience, which content they enjoy most, how they discovered your website, and how long they stay.
The 3 Important data points you need from Google Analytics are:
- Landing pages
- Traffic sources
- Bounce rate
Landing pages: These are pages that your prospects first discover when looking for businesses on social media, search engines, and from other sources. Once you log into Google Analytics, here’s the path to locating your landing pages:
BEHAVIOR > Site Content > Landing Pages
Traffic Sources: These are the channels through which people found your website. It could be search, social, referral, or other unknown sources. Here’s the path to find these sources:
ACQUISITION > All Traffic > Source/Medium
Bounce rate: This metric shows the rate by which users navigate away from a particular page. In other words, if a user lands on your homepage and closes the browser without checking out your “About page” or “Blog” then your bounce rate will be high.
Why? Because the user isn’t getting valuable information on your pages. So they left for your competitor’s website.
Note: There are other variables and metrics in Google Analytics that will guide you in knowing your target audience and how they think — but the ones we’ve considered are ideal for people who are new to analytics.
4). Survey your customers
Surveys are strategic methods for getting feedback and finding relevant user data for your campaign. Often times, customers have a lot going on in their minds and they desire to let it out.
Survey forms are simple and they don’t annoy users — they are also the best forms of interactive content that ecommerce and SaaS companies use frequently.
You can use SurveyMonkey to create a quick and relevant survey. Here’s a quick post-event survey you can use to get feedback from attendees:
To get better results with your survey, make it short and clear. You’re not trying to extract a lot of information from users — therefore, 3 - 4 questions should be fine. Else, you’ll wound up getting no answers or annoying your email subscribers.
You can send this survey to your customers via email, embed on your website or product page, use it as a post-purchase message to acknowledge a successful order and request feedback regarding the purchase processes.
Test everything to ascertain your assumptions
Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once said:
“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.”
Earlier, we talked about educated guesses and assumptions. It was necessary because we had no data to rely on. But having conducted competitor analysis, asked questions, send feedback survey, analyzed your competitor’s websites, and listened to your audience, you now have enough data to test.
Everything you learn is subject to change — as long as you test the hypothesis to determine how applicable it is in the real world.
For example, if your social media organic engagement is low, you can run a Facebook ads to boost your post engagement (a great way to reach more people) to drive more traffic to your website for statistical confidence and testing.
You really don’t have to wait for buyers to trickle in on your website, induce it, and move on.
Better yet, asking questions can help you eliminate the assumptions and run profitable tests. If you have assumptions that customers like your website or landing page, it’s time to run A/B split tests to be sure.
Don Miguel Ruiz, in his bestselling book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom says: “The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions.”
Questions such as:
- Why would customers like my Allergen-free snacks?
- Why would they want to order snacks from a mobile device?
- Why would they read reviews before making a purchase online?
In turn, these questions and many others will lead you to uncover the KPIs (key performance indicators) to test your assumptions.
As an example, most of the Healthy Snacks Delivery Box companies assume that consumers want organic, allergen-free snacks and that they are willing to make purchases online even before getting a sample. They also assume that customers will subscribe for snacks on a monthly basis.
Obviously, the KPIs that these companies are actually talking about:
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
So, these are the KPIs that will guide the testing process. Imagine that after testing, the company discovers that the majority of consumers don’t want to purchase snacks monthly — but rather, whenever the need arises (e.g., birthdays, family reunions, college graduations). This new discovery could alter the plan or overall strategy.
While testing assumptions and analyzing all the data you gathered, you’ll discover a lot of problems that your target audience is facing. If you want to find hidden problems that were not obvious during testing, follow this proven process:
i). Keyword research: Use Google Keywords Planner and other third-party keywords research tool to find out what your target audience is searching for in Google.
ii). Talk to your sales/customer agents: No other department has enormous data about your target audience than the sales/customer service agents. They make and receive calls every day — so they are in a better position to guide you on the needs of the customer.
iii). Online forums/discussion boards: Get active on discussion boards and forums. If you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur, Shopify Forums, EcommerceFuel, The Digital Point, and several industry forums can help you to get into the conversation that’s happening around the topic or product that you offer.
iv). Social media engagement: When you post on Facebook or Tweet, does your target audience respond? How many comments, likes, shares, and retweets did you see last week?
The truth is, no every post will drive the same engagement. However, mark those topics that triggered discussions. Your customers may be asking for more of it.
v). Learn from creative criticism: If you’re in business, you must be criticized and ridiculed. However, instead of getting all worked up by it, choose to learn from this honest feedback — whether it’s positive or negative.
If you posted an article on your blog that caused a controversy or social havoc, read in-between the lines and find out why. Then use the insights to product better content.
Are you excited already? Especially after identifying your target audience — understanding the challenges they go through and the needs in their lives.
Well, it’s a huge milestone. However, you need to solve these problems without boring the hell out of your audience.
You can do so with a personalized contextual support, provide a richer customer insights through reporting and analytics, and produce relevant and compelling content that’s easy to consume.
Trust me, there’s no marketing “secret” out there. If there’s a secret, then it boils down to: Knowing your target audience, their problems, and providing answers to their questions.