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The Importance and Process of Getting to Know Your Target Audience

5 minutes

Note: This article is the first of a two-part series meant to guide you through the process of better understanding your target audience. In Part 2, we’ll discuss how to use your research to build your personas and put your data into action. Be sure to follow us for part two, coming soon!

Have you ever gone to a show where the performer cracks a joke and nobody laughs? Well, I have, and the secondhand embarrassment is always uncomfortable (to say the least!). Nobody likes a joke that doesn’t connect. That same rule applies to your brand and business too, and it is precisely why you should always know your audience.

Why Knowing Your Audience Is Important

Apart from avoiding secondhand embarrassment, there are a lot of reasons why it is beneficial for you to understand your target market.

  • It allows you to focus your messaging, saving you endless hours of trial and error.
  • It saves money, allowing you to efficiently use your advertising and marketing dollars.
  • It also makes you money by increasing your return on investment.
  • It unlocks the door to a killer, high-converting marketing strategy.

Most importantly, knowing your audience will help you create quality brand experiences that will keep customers coming back for more. Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty, am I right? The key is to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time.

So how do you get to know your audience? As with everything else, it all starts with research.

How to Get to Know Your Target Market

There are several tried-and-true methods to better understand your target audience. We like to boil it down into three parts:

  1. Research
  2. Building your personas
  3. Putting your data into action

Today though, we’re focusing on breaking down the best techniques that you should be using to tackle the first and most important part in the process: research.

Part 1: Research, Research, Research

Did we mention research? Yeah, you get the point. Research is a critical first step in understanding your audience. In this stage, the goal is to collect as much information as possible about your target customer group. Eventually you’ll use this information to create personas (and if you don’t know what personas are, fear not, we’ll talk about those soon).

With all the data resources we have at our disposal these days, gathering information is easier and more accessible than ever. But it also can be difficult to figure out where to start. Here are some practical methods for better understanding your target audience.

Conducting Market Research

Do you ever wish you could read your customers’ minds? Turns out, there’s actually a way to do this! It’s called market research. Market research is the process of determining the viability of a product or service through research conducted by interacting directly with the customer base. One of the best parts about market research is that it doesn’t discriminate. It’s for everyone! And we are all about inclusion here at Rule29.

Researching Your Competitors

The best brands center on what matters most to their customers by standing apart from competitors. That’s why competitive analysis is an essential part of the research process. Take a look at 4–6 industry competitors who share the same target audience. Are they using their brands well and successfully connecting with their audience(s)? Conduct a visual and verbal audit of these brands and evaluate the techniques and strategies they’re employing for their messaging, imagery, marketing, and more. This will highlight opportunities for distinction and table stakes for success in the industry and give you better insight into who your audience is and how you should be targeting them.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are essentially intense brainstorming sessions that gather the unfiltered thoughts of a specific group of people. Individually, each participant may not have a lot to say about the topic, but when you put everyone together, participants start to build on each other’s thoughts to offer insight into the hidden motivators and non-numerical data points that make up your target audience.


Interviews are a form of qualitative research that often give the most in-depth insight into your audience. When designed correctly, in-depth interviews (IDIs) dive into customers’ internal motivations, interests, preferences, and personality traits.. Many times it’s best to bring in a third party (like Rule29) to conduct them. When the interviewees feel safe, in-depth interviews can result in some of the most valuable information.

Distributing Surveys

Surveys are the lowest-commitment task a participant can commit to and the quickest way for you to assess your audience’s demographic data. You can use surveys to reach large numbers of people and gather quantitative data (aka data that involves numbers). Anything you want to learn about your target audience can be asked in a survey. Better yet, surveys are easier than ever to create and share thanks to tools like SurveyMonkey. Demographic data is only one piece of the puzzle, however, so be sure to include additional qualitative methods to see the full picture.

Using Social Media & Online Data Tools

Data is your friend here, and it’s everywhere. Chances are, you’re probably already using some online tools that can give you great insight into who’s engaging with your message and who’s not. Google Analytics, for instance, can show you who’s interacting with your website or app and how they’re doing it. Social media channels also house robust data (creep factor = 1000) that you can use to better understand your audience—from basic demographic information to data on customer interests and engagement. Work smarter, not harder; take a look at the programs you’re already using to see what insights are standing right in front of you.

Okay, now take a deep breath, we threw a lot at you there. You don’t have to use every method. Focus on the method(s) that make the most sense for your organization and pay attention to what your customers are telling you. Research and data are only valuable if you take an unbiased look at them and then adapt. If you truly listen, you’ll have all the data you need to start connecting with your market.

Your message is valuable; don’t let it fall on deaf ears. Whether you would like to conduct research or build a strategic marketing plan that makes the most of your data, Rule29 is here to make it happen. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you better understand your target market.