How to Define Your Target Audience?

define your target audienceLet me guess – you are thinking of starting a business. Wait…maybe you are starting a podcast. And you are trying to define your target audience.

Did I get that right?

You know that the better you define your target audience, the greater your success would be.

It’s popularly said, the riches are in the niches.

But I’m not a fan of that phrase. It takes off focus from the core message.

Instead, let me tell you a story of…

The potter and his golden pots.

There once lived a potter who sold his mud pots at the market. He sold a few pots every week, because there were many other potters selling their earthenware too.

One night he came up with this idea to paint all his pots white.

The next morning he went to the market and put up a sign:

“These pots serve cold water even during hot days!”

And like magic, his pots painted with white paint sold like hot cakes.

The news reached the neighboring kingdom where wealthier people lived, and they traveled all the way to buy his pots too.

But then the potter came up with another idea. He painted some pots with golden motifs and put up this sign:

“These pots with a royal touch, serve cold water even during hot days!”

He charged more for these pots, and all of them just vanished!

He realized every time he focused on a narrower audience, he attracted more people. Even those who couldn’t afford borrowed money to buy the more expensive pots…perhaps just to show off their new ‘royal’ earthenware to their guests.

And that brings us to the idea…

The Idea called Target Audience

Target audience is a term used to describe that tiny group of people at which you are focusing your product, service, marketing and advertising.

It’s very common for podcasters and entrepreneurs alike to think of creating a show or a product for everyone. Although that sounds great, the hard part is finding people receptive to that idea from a sea of 7.5 billion people.

Defining your target audience upfront allows you to get specific. It gives you the power to draw a line in the sand around a tiny number of people. Just like the potter, defining the target audience helps you focus on the challenges these people face and the benefits they seek, so you can build the right set of ‘features’.

Incidentally, the idea of a target audience also introduces a few important segments of the larger audience that you need to acknowledge. They are the:

  1. Buyer
  2. Aspirer
  3. Influencer
  4. Supporter

In order to create something valuable, it’s important that you focus on the target audience while being mindful of these four groups of people that are outside of your target audience.

In this article, I’ll show you how to define and discover your target audience, and also help you understand how to identify and mindfully engage the aspirers, buyers, influencers, and supporters as you start a podcast or a business.

So let’s get started.

1. Define & Attract Your Target Audience

The goal of this exercise is to find out who you should be creating services, content or products for. Who will find these services, content or products valuable?

These are the people that consider your services or products so valuable that they are ready to pay you with their time, attention or money.

At this point, you could be in one of two stages:

  1. You know of a specific problem, but aren’t sure of someone specific who is dealing with that problem.
  2. You want to find a problem and then find your target audience.

If you are in the second bucket, jump to this article to learn how to find problems worth solving.

But if you’re in the first bucket and know of a specific problem, continue to read this article.

1.1 Define The Problem

The first step is to understand and define the problem better. You need more clarity about the problem, and you’ll need to find it. But how?

1.1.1 Find People with Direct Experience

The first step is to find people that are experiencing that problem.

Let’s say you want to start a podcast on Social Media Advertising. You’ll need to find people who are struggling with social media advertising. You can find someone on a subreddit or perhaps on Quora or in the comments section of a popular blog post on a topic like Facebook Ads or LinkedIn Ads.

1.1.2. Listen & Immerse Yourself In Their Experience

Once you find these people, try and reach out to them. How?

Look them up on social media and reach out. DM or @mention work great on Twitter, reach out on LinkedIn, message on Instagram, or if you can find their email address, write an email.

Setup a meeting or video call or just perhaps a phone call with them. Give them a background of what you’re trying to do, and ask them some great questions. You can start the conversation with something like:

“Hi, I saw your comment in <blog, quora, forum, etc.> and I’d like to understand a little more about the context and background to that comment.”

Following up is important. Don’t hesitate to ask questions like:

“What does that mean?”

“Can you tell me more about that <moment/detail>?”

“How did it feel?”

These are just some questions to get you started.

Take notes, record audio/video with the permission of who you’re speaking with.

1.1.3. Define The Problem with Empathy

It’s one thing to define a problem, but a whole different thing to do it with a healthy dose of empathy. Doing so requires you to not just understand the problem at face value, but also understand how people experience it.

One problem can be experienced by different people in different ways. So defining the problem plays a big role in how we solve it.

A very simple way to define a problem in a way that opens the doors to multiple possibilities is by using the ‘How Might We’ or HMW statement.

Instead of saying “Job losses during a pandemic”, you say “How might we reduce job loss triggered by unforeseen events like a pandemic?”

Instead of saying “Podcast discovery problem”, you say “How might we get podcasters to find more listeners in an ever growing market of podcasts?”

As you see, the HMW approach to defining problems opens doors to possibilities of multiple solutions.

1.2 Define The Audience

While understanding the problem is important, it’s equally important to define every segment of your target audience. But how do we define the target audience? Well, we’ll define our audience using two tools:

  1. Persona
  2. Job Stories

Let’s look at both of them in the following two sections.

1.2.1. Persona

Persona is an attempt at defining your audience so you can have a clear idea of who they are and what they like/dislike, their attitude towards people/environment/etc. and such.

Here are some examples of psychographics:

  1. What causes do they support?
  2. What are their personal values?
  3. How is their attitude towards people/money/etc.?
  4. What kind of music do they enjoy listening to?

1.2.2. Jobs Stories

Write down job stories. But what are those kinds of stories?

Well, the term takes root from a theory called the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) theory. The theory was introduced by the late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma. He says:

“When we buy a product, we essentially ‘hire’ something to get a job done. If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again. And if the product does a crummy job, we ‘fire’ it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem.”

The same idea applies to your audience. While you defined the problem in the earlier section, you are now trying to look at the ways your audience is currently trying to solve this problem.

Job Stories helps you implement the idea introduced by the JTBD theory. Here’s a sample format of a Job Story:

When <situation> I want to <Motivation> So I can <Expected Outcome>

The act of writing job stories helps you enrich the definition of your persona, because you now understand the motivations of your audience and the situations that trigger these problems.

1.3. Attract Your Audience

Now that you have taken the steps to understand and define the problem, it’s time to find more people that resonate with your definition of the problem. Instead of finding and chasing these people, we attract them. In other words, your goal is to get your audience to find about your content, products or services.

But how?

Here are a few ways to attract your audience:

  1. Create content with an organic reach.
  2. Targeted social media content.
  3. User-generated content & word-of-mouth marketing.

As you attract your audience, your goals are to:

  1. Refine the problem definition.
  2. Validate ideas and solutions.
  3. Segment your audience.
  4. Grow a community (optional).

As you start to attract your audience, you need to start building an email list of your audience, so you can start to engage with your audience. We’ll look at engagement in a little more detail in the next section.

Growing a community is completely your choice. But it’s important for you to segment your audience. What do these segments mean?

We’ll get into the details in the next section.

2. Segment & Engage Your Audience

Earlier in this article, I briefly touched upon the segments of your target audience. Let’s recap these 4 audience segments really quick. They are the:

  1. Buyers
  2. Aspirers
  3. Influencers
  4. Supporters

There are many other ways you might end up segmenting your target audience based on various other factors. But these 4 segments would still apply to them. Depending on your niche or idea or topic, it could be that some people fall into two or more of these segments.

Let’s look at each one of these, so you can segment your audience accordingly.

1. Buyers

This is the segment of your audience that buys from you. These are people that are in need for which your product or service is the perfect fit. They are motivated to achieve the outcome that your product or service has to offer.

A good example here would be everyone standing on those long queues outside the Apple Store. They are standing there ready to buy.

Your Action Plan

Always let them know when you have a new product or service. Let them try them out even before you launch them.

2. Aspirers

Aspirers are people in your target audience that are in need for your product or service, but are not in a situation to buy because of a hurdle or reason. But they aspire to be able to access your products or services.

Examples of aspirers are people who live in India waiting for Tesla to launch one of its cars in the country. They perhaps belong to the 4th segment of supporters until Tesla actually launches in India.

Your Action Plan

Aspirers are just like buyers. Do everything you do to your buyers. In addition, invite your Aspirers to a private community where you share something more special like BTS (Behind The Scenes), launch videos, etc. Acknowledge their wait.

3. Influencers

Influencers are those that don’t buy your products or services, but have a significant impact on a buyer. These people’s words matter more than anything else to those buyers.

Kids are great examples of influencers. If you’ve ever seen parents buying balloons or some toys for their kids, it’s usually because the kids’ incessant request for that balloon or toy.

This is also the same reason why big brands sign up big celebrities as brand ambassadors. Because their words matter more to the buyers than something else.

Your Action Plan

Influencers play a bigger role on buyers’ decision making. Treat them like a VIP. Address them regularly. Give them free samples, invitations to special events, encourage/incentivize them to invite their fans.

4. Supporters

The last segment is made up of people that may not be directly related to your buyers. In fact they may not be interested in your products or services at all. But they may be interested in you. It could be your friends, colleagues or family members.

End of the day, all these 4 segments are important. It’s important you identify your buyers, aspirers, influencers and supporters, and constantly work on addressing the needs of all these segments.

Your Action Plan

Connect at a deeper level with your supporters. They are here for you because they like you or maybe they also like your vision/idea. Tell them where you’re headed, your vision and goals and how you’re doing against those goals. Share regular updates about key activities. Tell them stories of your buyers, aspirers and influencers.

Define Your Target Audience

It’s now your turn to define your target audience and segment them. Doing this right can help you in many ways. Defining your target audience can help you write better website copies, craft sales pages and emails that convert, can help better position your offering in the market, start a podcast, build a community around your business or brand, amongst many others.

Karthik Vijayakumar

Founder and Chief Creative at Design Your Thinking Labs. Top-100 Podcast Host, Podcast Strategist, and Copywriter. Course Creator and Founder at www.freeyourvoice.live.