If connecting with your target audience is important, then finding your target audience is even more important. Research is critical.
"Doing the research before you create the content, before you start the blog, before you run the ad makes you stronger, more informed and better equipped to serve your market the best way possible," says Tommy Walker, an online marketing specialist.
Writing for ragan.com, Walker says your research needs to do more than identify who your target audience is. Research also needs to pinpoint why it is your target audience. Looking at demographics and psychographics in combination yields invaluable insights into how to frame your marketing message and where to place it.
"I'd be lying," Walker says, "if I said this type of research is easy, because it can be time-consuming." He says "this investment in time separates pros from amateurs."
In today's digital world, there is a lot of data to analyze to pinpoint your target audience. "Realistically, most businesses should focus on only two core markers — data that define who your core market is, and one to three secondary markers — data that flesh out the core market," Walker advises.
Core markers might be occupation, age, education levels or residence. Where a buyer goes for trusted information also can be a key core marker.
Secondary markers reflect what motivates a buyer. Examining what a buyer shares on social media can provide important clues to their interests, values, lifestyle and personality.
The final step in the process of targeting your target audience is to construct a buyer persona. This aggregated avatar for your real buyers enables you to develop content aimed squarely at your target.
Walker says it is easier to develop more empathetic content if you address a representative consumer. You may position a product or service very differently for someone earning $30,000 a year versus someone earning $100,000. You also may place paid media in different places to reach buyers with vastly different incomes.
Marketing failures, Walker suggests, can be traced to marketers who skip research or just go through the motions. Businesses should insist on quality research as step one in the marketing process. Research is the discipline that separates marketing from simply hawking goods. Quality research that pinpoints your target audience is often the difference between a commercial success and a commercial flop.