The Cost of Not Knowing Your Target Audience

03.12.20 3:57 AM

Public speaking, performing arts, pitching, and marketing—what do all these have in common? These seemingly diverse niches are all unified in their need to “know their audience.” However, what does that type of knowledge entail? You may have heard this concept iterated as a company’s “target demographic,” “buyer profiles,” or “personas.” Whatever term resonates most with your company, understand that having a firm and studied grasp on your target market is a critical element of business success. Failing to properly identify the people likely to convert will hamstring the growth and success of your business.

Why Should You Know Your Audience?  

Understanding who your business audience is should not only be important—it should be the first step you take on the path to success. Consider, for example, a company trying to sell a set of high-end headphones. Who might be most interested in these? This company understands that it is best not just to guess who might convert on this product; instead, the business reviews its data and discovers that ads that play on YouTube videos related to competitive gaming and streaming services perform well, while those displaying on music videos see very little activity. 


Over time, the brand can narrow its buyer persona—in other words, its target audience for these high-end headphones—to a small subset of internet culture surrounding Twitch streamers playing competitive video games. Of the people who participate in this sphere, 71% are millennials with an average age of 21, and 81.5% are male. Thus, this company understands that advertising to 40-year-old women is likely to result in low conversion and would be an overall waste of time.

The number are in.  71% are millennials with an average age of 21, and 81.5% are male.

This, however, is just the beginning. Once the shape of the most engaged audience is identified, the company must put in the effort to speak that audience’s language—which means more than just choosing words wisely. The company must identify what buyers want from the product they offer and ensure such a message is being conveyed. In the headphone example, if Twitch streamers are seeking gear that produces clear sound quality so that nothing takes them by surprise while gaming, the company needs to clarify that their product fulfills this requirement. 


Similarly, the company must put effort into learning the consumers’ perceived barriers to conversion—cost, accessibility, and fashion are just a few of nearly innumerable examples for this specific product. Discovering that particular audience’s decision criteria, or the critical elements that buyers are considering when making a purchase decision, will allow marketing to be tailored to these unique personas. All of these features and discoveries together, when unified into a targeted marketing campaign, will generate a positive company image that engenders respect, trust, and a sense of reliability among consumers. This, in turn, encourages them to convert because the messaging speaks directly to their needs, in their own language.

Reevaluating a marketing strategy and putting in the effort to discover these targeted features is a must.

The Costs of Missing Out  

Reevaluating a marketing strategy and putting in the effort to discover these targeted features may seem like a lot of work, and perhaps you feel like the amount of time spent on the process isn’t worth it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The costs of missing out on communicating directly with a brand’s target audience are massive and add up quickly. 


Likely the most obvious pitfall of targeting poorly is wasted spend--money is funneled to marketing that is not reaching users who will convert, or it’s not addressing potential buyers' wants and needs appropriately, resulting in low conversion rates. This is often one of a company’s biggest money sinks. In general, reaching a wider demographic for maximum exposure is rarely the best option. 

Companies may also suffer a more prolonged and less noticeable loss over time in the form of product development inhibitions or developments that do nothing to improve sales. Returning to the example of the headphones, a company that does not have data on its target audience may speculate that the reason its headphones are not selling is that they don’t look fashionable enough, so people are unwilling to wear them. This leads the company down a development route focused on looks. However, data from the correct buyer personas would indicate that the main improvement buyers are seeking is a longer headphone cord so they can sit further away from their computers while they game. This lack of audience awareness will lead the company down a costly and ultimately fruitless development path that will sink money into improvements that customers don’t care about and that do not have an impact on the buying decision.

Retargeting in this way enables a business to learn a couple of key facts about its ideal audience.

How to Retarget  

If you’ve identified that your company may be advertising to the wrong audience, a stint of retargeting is in order. Retargeting refers to two prongs of marketing:


    1. Getting bounced users to return to your site and

    2. Reevaluating your target audience 


One of the key strategies companies can use to retarget and dial in on their buyer personas is via interview. By gathering information directly from the people who convert for your company, you can learn valuable and actionable information about what makes people purchase your product and why. There is no substitute for speaking directly with a converted customer to learn what made them convert in the first place.


Retargeting in this way enables a business to learn a couple of key facts about its ideal audience. These include what information the buyer needs to make the decision to convert or purchase, such as:


  • Where these buyers can be found

  • When they are most receptive to the message you’re sending them

  • What features of your purchasing argument are most effective in convincing them that the product will add value


By understanding these thought processes for each potential consumer, any company will be poised to better act upon their data and craft a marketing plan that will target the proper personas at the correct time, with the correct language, and featuring the most effective demonstration of the product that resonates with the buyer for the greatest success.