Who Are You Targeting? An Audience or Individuals

Image of a Crowd and an Image of a Woman with Curly Hair and Glasses

When you start a marketing campaign, one of the first questions typically asked is who are we targeting? How you answer this question will shape your entire campaign from how the advertisement piece is written and designed to what channels are used to distribute it. There are two steps to answering this question, but most people stop after step one.  

The first step is to identify your target audience which usually includes an age range, income bracket, location radius, and a few other data points specific to your needs. For example, if you run a baby boutique clothing store, your target audience might look like adults in their 20s-30s, with a household income of 70-90k, living within a 10-mile radius of your store.  

The second step is to identify the individuals in your target audience who are most likely to respond. An example of this would be identifying people like Alex and Leslie who have twin 9-month-old girls. They live at 123 Appleberry Lane which is 3.2 miles from your store, have a household income of 89k, and have an interest in lifestyle photography. 

Out of the two categories which one would you rather advertise to? A group of people in their 20-30s you hope have young children or a list of individuals that you know have young children and have behavioral traits that indicate they’d be great candidates for your store?  

Target audiences are important and necessary for any business. They help you narrow your focus and give you a framework to work within. All marketing campaigns need to start there, but they are only giving you part of the puzzle. While marketing to a target audience works, there are some limitations that hold back your success rate. 

Target Audience Limitations 

Not Everyone Is a Good Fit 

One of the biggest limitations of using a target audience is the list of targets is too broad. Not everyone who falls within the parameters you set will be a good fit for your business. For example, not every adult in their 20-30s will have young children, or they might meet your audience requirements but not be interested in boutique clothing. 

You Don’t Know Who You Are Targeting 

While you have a general idea of who you are targeting, you don’t know which individuals are seeing your message. This can be problematic when you are trying to figure out whether or not your campaign was successful.  

Success rates are guesswork based on a higher volume of sales or traffic. Unless customers use a coupon, you have no way of knowing if the people who made purchases received your advertisement. Not every campaign is a good fit for a coupon, and not every customer who receives one will use it.  

Excess Marketing Waste 

Because a target audience narrows the focus but doesn’t look for individuals, there will be an excess of marketing waste. No marketing campaign is perfect, and there will always be a percentage of the campaign that was wasted, but that waste is a lot higher when you target a general audience. As mentioned before, not everyone in your parameters will be a good fit.  

Generalized Designs

When you target an audience, your advertising copy and design have to be more generalized, so they speak to the majority of the people you are targeting. You might have individuals who meet your target audience criteria, are interested in what you sell, but the marketing piece doesn’t pertain to them at all, so they don’t pay attention or make a purchase.  

Targeting an audience is a great first step. It gives you structure and a starting point for understanding who your customers are. But, if you want to take your marketing to the next level, really connect with your prospects and customers, and see a higher ROI, you need to take the next step: targeting individuals.  

Benefits of Targeting Individuals 

Identify Those Most Likely to Respond 

The best part of targeting individuals is data scientist can score the records and let you know which ones are the most likely to respond. Let’s say you want to advertise to 50,000 people, but there’s 500,000 people in your target audience. Which ones do you choose? When you market to a target audience, you’re going to take a random selection and hope for the best. If you target individuals, then data scientists will use predictive analytics to score and rate the records. You can see exactly which 50K people are the best to advertise to.  

Reduce Marketing Waste  

Another benefit of targeting individuals instead of an audience is that you can place your marketing where they will be. You’ll have their name and address, so you can send them direct mail, but you can also add their email address and IP address to their record. This means you can advertise on the social platforms they are interacting with, place banner ads on the websites they’re browsing, and can display television ads on their connected tv when they watch it.  

This is a lot more effective than running an ad during a television program or placing an ad on a website and hoping they’ll tune in or visit the right site. By targeting an individual, you can reduce your marketing waste simply by not guessing which platform and channel to use but knowing exactly which ones to use.  

Customize Marketing Pieces 

Knowing which individuals you are targeting means you can customize your marketing. From simply adding their name to your marketing piece to featuring certain images and copy that is relevant to them. This helps you get your message across in a way that catches their eye and is meaningful to them.  

Knowing How Your Marketing Performed 

Finally, when you target individuals, you can see exactly how your marketing campaign worked by running a response analysis. This takes the list of people who made a purchase and matches them to those you advertised to. Knowing how your campaign performed and who responded gives you valuable insights into what aspects worked and what didn’t. It also makes it easier to run A/B testing on your marketing campaigns.  

Targeting individuals allows you to connect with the right people, speak directly to them, and see real results. Marketing to a target audience is a great place to start, but if you haven’t tried 1 to 1 marketing and targeting individuals, check it out and see the difference for yourself.