How to Define Your Target Audience

Understanding the characteristics and desires of your company’s Ideal Client can help pinpoint the tactics and messaging required to reach your target audience

Peter Drucker, the seminal 20th-century management guru who advised Fortune 500 powerhouses like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and General Electric, among others, knew the importance of targeting an audience.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service sells itself,” Drucker once said.

Corporate marketing decision-makers in the B2B space are already deeply connected to their customers’ needs and desires. But the deeper issue, especially in a modern marketplace where technology channels are clogged with competitors, would still be familiar to Drucker: how do you actually define your target audience?

The answer has become more complicated, even as tools to identify optimal B2B audience targets have become more sophisticated. Data-driven quantitative analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are now an integral part of target marketing initiatives, giving marketers insight they might never have imagined even two decades ago.

Despite the vast number of new tech tools appearing seemingly every day, contemporary marketing is still all about finding your ideal audience, understanding their needs, and then delivering value in order to convert the audience into customers and, finally, customers into advocates and repeat customers.

The importance of aligning marketing and sales

According to Paul W. Farris, in his book, Marketing Metrics, the average first-time customer conversion rate is between 1% and 3%. Yet a repeat customer has a 60% to 70% chance of converting. Increasingly, corporate marketers are aware of this reality, and are steering more resources toward audience targeting.

Consider these statistics from Forbes Insights:

  • 84% of companies expect to increase their budgets on targeting specific audiences.
  • 54% say their primary challenge for audience targeting is identifying the proper personas.
  • 66% of all North American companies say the ability to more effectively reach a company’s target audience is the primary value of digital advertising campaigns.

In short, a properly identified and well-defined audience will ensure that your campaign is accurately targeted, which translates into higher ROI for your marketing dollars.

What is an “Ideal Client Profile”?

To get a better read of your target audience, it’s helpful to understand the concept of the “Ideal Client Profile” (ICP), a data-driven blueprint of a B2B enterprise’s perfect target company. That means envisioning a client that is uniquely suited for your product or service and becomes a regular and supportive customer.

Your Ideal Client is not just one that’s good for business. Its leaders and decision-makers could also serve as mentors, advisors, or even board members at your company. Their extensive knowledge of what your company does and what it offers mean they can serve as an advocate for your success.

It’s up to your marketing staff to ensure that each of the many possible characteristics which make up an Ideal Client Profile are factored into your target audience equation. This will increase the chances that your new customers will end up being committed partners who will bring long-term value to your business.

Consider the key attributes that comprise an ICP:

  • The industry and location where the target audience company resides.
  • Its size and overall business model (e.g., B2B, SaaS, or B2C).
  • Its annual revenues and number of employees.
  • Issues directly impacting that company (i.e., “pain points”).
  • The products or services the target company needs to drive business forward.

An Ideal Client Profile should not be confused with a customer persona, which is more frequently used in a business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing model. A persona is a semi-fictional, personalized representation of a specific customer demographic that companies use to market directly to a consumer audience.

But there can be crossovers in the two concepts: a marketer or sales professional can leverage their understanding of customer personas and use that as a foothold in defining an Ideal Client Profile.

4 steps to defining your target audience

Identifying your target audience requires a combination of diligence, creativity, and focused curiosity. Pinpointing the key players in decision-making, surveying your existing customer base, and checking in on your competition’s successes can all help unlock your Ideal Client.

Taking these action steps will help define who your target is, and how to sell to them.

1. Know the difference between the “supporter” and the “decision-maker.”

A big component of a successful target audience campaign is understanding your target association roles. Specifically, recognize that there are two main roles — the supporter and the decision-maker.

The supporter doesn’t make the ultimate decision to buy or not, but that doesn’t mean the supporter is unimportant. While the supporter may have a junior management title and may not be in the inside circle when big decisions are handed down, the supporter’s proximity means they hold some sway with the actual decision-maker.

Whether the supporter is playing an evaluation role or is running interference for a senior manager, it’s worthwhile to identify a supporter and understand how he or she influences the decision-maker. Chances are that the supporter represents a direct path to the decision-maker.

The decision-maker is the holy grail in any target audience project. This individual, who’s likely either a business owner, c-level executive, or senior manager, owns the final call on any company purchase decisions. The trick is to treat the decision-maker with the respect they deserve. After all, their voice is the final call, especially when it’s a chief financial officer mulling over a seven-figure purchase decision.

2. Check with your customers.

Your email and social media lists are already valuable sources of information regarding your potential target audience, so mine those or use surveys to get a better read on how to expand your reach. Whether it’s running a survey on LinkedIn or Twitter or conducting interviews with current companies, look for commonalities between your current customers and the broader audience you aspire to reach.

Ask questions like “what are your biggest challenges?” or “what worries you most about your competition?” and dig deep when you start getting answers. Once a current customer opens up, that’s when you’re getting the feedback you need to better identify your untapped target audiences and their needs.

3. Scout your competition.

Your business competitors also hold a wealth of valuable information — the goal is to get that information out in the open.

Start by looking at the competition’s website, as chances are their best customers are listed on the company’s home page or among their testimonials or case studies. Also, track the competition’s social media followers and see what those individuals’ business interests are and what products they’re interested in and buying.

By eyeballing your competition and studying their target audience, you can develop an effective target audience blueprint of your own — and get the inside track on your competition’s ICP, as well.

4. Know what organizations your ICP supports.

The professional associations and organizations that your Ideal Client belongs to are a key way to better understand your target audience. Associations serve as a business peer group, with shared objectives and culture that are specific to their industry, and a unified advocacy approach to issues of concern to your potential customer. Those connections can offer a clear roadmap to your Ideal Client’s needs and desires, plus those of other like-minded prospects.

In order to better connect with your target, B2B marketers should actively look at aligning their brand with the professional associations their Ideal Clients favor. Your prospective customers likely send their key supporters and decision-makers to association events for education, training, and updates on current trends; marketers can also attend those conventions or nonprofit gatherings to gain some inside knowledge to set you apart from your competitors.

Do a deep dive into an association’s web resources, and you’ll find actionable ideas that can help you get more insight into your target audience.

The takeaway on defining your target audience

Getting a grip on your target audience is not a standalone, one-time deal. Like any worthwhile business endeavor, a robust and effective target audience campaign is dynamic and run on a regular basis. That’s by design, as the more customer information you accumulate, the stronger your target audience profile will stand up over the test of time.

At Lead Marvels, we partner with professional associations to provide high-quality, intent-based leads for B2B marketers. Let us help you more effectively target and engage with your own Ideal Client, and turn them into real customers. Visit to schedule a demo.

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