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February 3, 2014 (Updated: March 8, 2023)
Some marketers use the terms target market and target audience interchangeably to mean the people they’re trying to get to buy or use their products and services. These two phrases don’t mean the same thing. Understanding the differences between them can help you better plan your campaigns and strategies based on who you want to receive your message. Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s post:
The target market is the largest group of people a brand wants to reach. They’re the leads you hope recognize your company name and purchase products and services from you. These are the people you often try to snag with your company’s marketing activities. You make your campaign decisions based on the demographic of your target market, like location, age, or ethnicity, depending on who’s most likely to engage with your brand.
The target market also helps you decide on pricing, packaging, and every other step that takes a product or service from an idea to a finished commodity. It essentially shapes your entire business model.
Think of the target market as stores and shoppers in a mall. The target market of the store is anyone and everyone who visits the mall. People’s geographic location and their proximity to the mall influence who shops there. Most often, it’s people who live nearby or are visiting the area. Anyone shopping in the mall could come into your store and make a purchase if they want.
The target audience is a subgroup of the target market who you want to view a specific brand message. They’re the ones you target with certain advertisements or expect to purchase individual products or services. You may run multiple campaigns to appeal to different niches of your target audience. They influence your advertising decisions and help you choose platforms and channels for your marketing efforts. The target audience sets the tone for a campaign strategy.
To use the same example of stores in a mall, the target audience includes people who come to the mall intending to visit your store. It’s their purpose for visiting. Unlike the target market, who might visit your store if it catches their eye, the target audience has a use for your products and services or a reason for visiting your store. Advertising materials like commercials or social media posts may have encouraged them to make the trip.
Market segmentation is a process that lets you narrow down your target audience from your target market. It lets you group consumers by factors like demographic, needs, or interests. When you segment your audience from your market, it can make your marketing messages stronger and more targeted. It also helps you develop personalized strategies to reach the right people for every campaign.
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The biggest differences between the target market and the target audience come from their practical marketing functions. Some of these include:
The target market is the largest group of people you want to sell your products or services to. It’s the biggest category of clients and consumers you can reach. The target audience is a more specific group within the target market. It’s smaller because there are more criteria about which leads qualify for each target audience.
Let’s use CopyPress as an example. Any brand, company, or individual that needs content marketing services is part of our target market. But we have many smaller target audiences. Those who need product descriptions are one. Those who need help with SEO are another. While some of our leads and clients could fall into both categories, the content we create and the marketing messages we use to advertise them differ.
You use criteria to define both your target markets and audiences. Everyone in the world isn’t in your target market, even if that category is bigger. Criteria that influence the target market are demographic, like age and gender. For example, the target market for a board game may be players ages five to nine. There are lots of people that fit into that category.
There are usually more qualifiers when choosing a target audience. The criteria of the target market still apply, but there are others to help narrow it down even further. That board game company may have multiple products for players ages five to nine that appeal to their target market. But for a specific game, they may advertise to children in that age range who speak English as a second language and like animals. These additional qualifiers speak to a lead’s needs or interests rather than personal characteristics about themselves.
Messages for the target market are broad, just like the people it captures. They help you pick words, images, and designs for things like storefronts or product packaging. These messages don’t have to be too specific, because there are fewer keywords and adjectives that describe the leads that fall into the target market.
Messages for the target audience are more personal. They’re funny, relatable, interesting, and valuable to the leads that fit into each niche. For example, when CopyPress wants to reach a target audience for our international content services, we may say things like, “if you want to reach your audience abroad in their native language, rely on our creatives who speak it, too.” This message is too specific for our target market because not everyone needs content in another language. It’s also not right for every one of our target audiences. A company that needs blog posts only in English probably doesn’t care how many other languages our creatives can speak and write in.
You may wonder which is a better marketing strategy: targeting your market by promoting your brand, or targeting your audience by using personalized advertising? The answer may be different for each company, but some factors to consider when deciding where to invest your marketing budget include:
What you’re selling may help you decide which group is the better target. If you sell general goods and services like paper towels or Webhosting space, you may benefit from creating content to reach your target market. These are items everyone in your industry—and sometimes everyone, period—needs, regardless of their hobbies, interests, or age. The focus is on how to convince these people that your brand is better than the competition.
Specialized niche items benefit from a target audience approach. This could be beneficial for products like book genres, clothing styles, or types of content marketing. These things can appeal to a broad audience, but other factors beyond a basic need affect the desire to purchase. It’s not about getting people to find your brand, it’s about getting them to buy the specific products or services you sell. You want them to see how your offerings are better than the competition, but also help them pick exactly which one of your options is right for their needs.
Related: How To Get Started With Pain Point Marketing
Where you have your business may also affect the group to target. An in-person business in a standalone store may appeal to a target audience. People make deliberate trips to your store. You likely communicate with them through newsletters or advertisements, not signage outside your store. However, if the in-person location is in a mall, strip mall, or town with foot traffic, you could try to appeal to the target market with your outdoor, in-the-window signage.
Online businesses are a little more tricky to pinpoint when discussing location. Because the company exists only in cyberspace, you can target both the market and the audience with different forms of content. You may reach your target audience with social media posts, paid ads, and direct marketing. SEO can help you reach your target market by rising to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) for your industry keywords.
Who you target may affect where you place your marketing materials. Posting to social media, sending email newsletters, or creating an online community work well for a target audience. Your marketing team curates those spaces and understands the nuances and people who belong to or follow them. You know their likes and dislikes, and what types of content they hope to see from your company. If you’re not sure of what they want to see, CopyPress can help. Request your free content marketing analysis today. This report shows how your content stacks up against its top three competitors. It also gives you a list of gap content or content areas you can cover to reach your niche target audiences.
“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”
Director of SEO at Auto Revo
If you’re looking to reach the target market, you may get more value from promotional materials in less curated spaces. This may include signage outside of a store, billboards, or even radio and TV ads. In these spaces, you’re guaranteed to reach a bigger group of people. Your curated target audience may or may not see them.
Use these tips to learn different ways you can find and reach your target market:
If you’re unsure who belongs in your target market, look at your current list of customers. What are their common characteristics? Do they share a similar location, demographic, or interest? Knowing who already sees your brand as important, and needs your products or services, can help you understand the collective to capture with your marketing efforts.
Conduct an analysis of your competitors. Consider running a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to find out what’s popular in the current market and determine which strategies work for your brand. This can be helpful for new companies trying to understand where they belong in a certain market.
When creating materials for content marketing, choosing the right keywords and topics helps you get better search engine rankings. Better search engine rankings grab more organic traffic and have the best chance of pulling people into the wide net of your target market. Frequently updating your online channels, like social media feeds and your website, helps too.
But using the right keywords isn’t enough to turn your target market into paying customers. Remember, most of your target market is just casual leads who may need the broad products or services you offer. Pairing target market promotions with target audience campaigns help you turn casual leads into loyal clients.
Use these tips to learn about ways you can find and attract a target audience:
When creating content for a target audience, relevancy is just as important as consistency. Provide your followers with useful information that matters to them. That’s what sets your target audience apart from your target market. Creating niche-specific content also makes it easier for you to engage with the target audience and for members of your online communities in the same niches to engage with each other. Consider sharing your blog posts, articles, and videos on the content marketing channels where each group of the audience spends the most of its time.
Partnering with influencers in a particular niche can help you reach a target audience. Influencers advertise and market to their own target audiences. If you share the same target audience as an influencer, a partnership grants your brand access to new people who already need your specific products and services. When those come recommended by an influencer they already trust, you have a better chance of increasing not just interest in your brand, but sales, too.
Related: Influencers: What They Are And How They Can Help Your Business
Referral systems let you use your current target audience to grow an even bigger one. Supply loyal customers with referral codes for friends, family, or colleagues. This is an incentive to get your audience members within the same niche to talk and share with one another. You may also consider offering points or a rewards system for people who bring in a certain number of new customers or clients. This practice makes your audience feel like they’re getting something special from your brand and you’re doing it for little to no cost to the company.
Creating and using hashtags on social media is another way to target an audience. People follow hashtags on platforms like Instagram and Twitter to see content relevant to their interests. If you’re using the right hashtags and you’re part of that collective, more people interested in your niche may see your content. Remember to use specific hashtags to target just the right audience. For example, using the hashtag “travel” may be too broad, and would be better to reach a target market. You may try something like “luxury travel” or “travel to Greece” to get more specific with your niche.
Knowing the difference between a target market and a target audience is essential for anyone in marketing or sales. It can help you decide just how specific your marketing campaigns can get on a specific budget or in a certain time frame. At CopyPress, we help develop content for both groups. Schedule your free strategy call today to find out how we develop the right target strategy for your company.