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Some marketers may use the terms target market and target audience interchangeably to mean 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.

What Is a Target Market?

The target market is the large group of people a brand wants to recognize, buy, and use its products and services. This specific, well-defined segment of consumers is the focus of the company’s marketing activities. All campaign functions and decisions reference the target market. It looks at the demographic features of who’s most likely to engage with a brand, such as location, age, or ethnicity.

An example of a target market may be stores and shoppers in a mall. The target audience of the store is anyone and everyone who visits the mall. Geographic location and proximity influence this type of target market. Anyone shopping in the mall may come into the store and make a purchase.

Why Does the Target Market Matter?

Your target market influences all your marketing and business decisions. It can help you understand people’s wants and needs. The target market also helps you decide on pricing, packaging, and every other step that takes a product or service from an idea to the finished item. It essentially shapes your entire business model.

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What Is a Target Audience?

A target audience is a group of consumers who you want to view your brand’s message. This is specifically the group of consumers targeted by advertisements and the segment of people you most expect to buy your products or use your services. You might make advertisements to better appeal to niches within your target audience. Using the same example from the mall, the store’s target audience may be the people who come to the mall intending to visit that store.

Why Does the Target Audience Matter?

The target audience influences your advertising decisions. It helps you choose platforms and channels. It can also help you decide which messages to use or influencers to select. The target audience sets the tone for the campaign strategy aspect of marketing.

What Is Market Segmentation?

Market segmentation is dividing large potential customer groups into more approachable collections. It helps you narrow down your target audience from your target market. Segmentations allow you to group consumers by demographic, behavioral, needs, or interest criteria. It can also make your marketing messages stronger and help you develop strategies.

Differences Between Target Market and Target Audience

The differences between target market and target audience relate to their practical marketing functions. Some of these functions include:

Size

A target market is the largest group of people to which you’re trying to sell your products or services. It’s the broadest category of consumers that you can reach. The target audience is a more specified group within the target market. It’s smaller because it has more restrictions placed on who fits inside the metaphorical circle.

Criteria

Companies use criteria to define both their target markets and audiences. However, there are usually more qualifiers for the target audience. Criteria that influence the target market are often demographic, like age and gender. The target market for a board game may be players ages five to nine. It’s broad and may appeal to many people.

With the target audience, there are often more restrictions put on who fits into the group. While the criteria of the target market still apply, others help narrow in on more specific customers. To continue with the board game example, based on the content, the target audience may plan their advertisements around an audience of children ages five to nine who speak English as a second language and like animals.

Message

Marketers frame messages for the target audience around the most basic demographic features. They may guide things like word choice for text on the product box. The messages for reaching a target market are less specific than those for reaching a target audience. This is partly because there are fewer specific keywords and adjectives to describe people in this group.

Messages for a target audience are more personal. They may be valuable, funny, relatable, or interesting to people that fit the particular niche. They may also prompt people to share them or talk about them online. When you’re writing your message for a target audience, you know more about what words and topics resonate with them and, therefore, can specialize the information you share.

Segments

As we discussed, market segmentation helps you divide your customer base into groups. You may segment your target market into target audiences and other smaller groups. The target audience is the smallest and most personal segment you can have, aside from an individual customer.

What Factors Affect Whether You Target the Market or Audience?

You may wonder which is a better marketing strategy: targeting your market by promoting the product, or targeting your audience by using personalized advertising. The answer may be different for each brand, but some factors to consider when deciding where to invest your marketing budget include:

Product Type

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 toothpaste, you may benefit from product promotion and trying to reach your target market. These are items everyone 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.

In contrast, specialized niche items may benefit from a target audience approach. This could be beneficial for products like instruments, a certain genre of books, or a specific style of clothing. While at their core, these things can appeal to a broad audience, other factors beyond a basic need play into the choice when making a purchase. Personal style, musical ability, or topic preference are part of the decision process. Understanding how to appeal to people in these specialized groups may help increase sales.

Business Location

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 may spend more time focusing on the target audience with direct social media posts, paid ads, and SEO.

Advertisement Placement

Where you place your signage and other marketing materials may affect who you choose to target. Posting to social media, sending an email newsletter, or presenting your material in a space where you’ve created a community is good for a target audience. This is because you’ve curated these spaces and understand the people who belong to them or follow them. You understand their likes and dislikes and what type of content they hope to see from your company.

You may get better results from a target market if you put your promotional materials up in less curated spaces. This could include options like signage outside of your store if you’re in a mall, billboards, and even radio and TV ads. In these spaces, you’re guaranteed to reach a broader group of people and you may not know if your curated audience is part of them or not.

Want to know even more about advertisement placement and who you should be targeting? Request a free content marketing analysis today to start improving your content marketing efforts!

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Ways To Reach Your Target Market

Use these tips to learn different ways you can reach your target market:

Review Your Current Customers

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 can help you understand that larger net that you can target and capture with your marketing efforts.

Analyze the Competition

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.

Attract Visitors Consistently

When creating materials for content marketing, choosing the right topics can help you get better search engine rankings. So can updating your online presence, like social media feeds and website, frequently. This can lead to more people visiting you online. Do consistent keyword research and study the people within your market to figure out what content they’d enjoy experiencing regularly.

Ways To Reach Your Target Audience

Use these tips to learn about ways you can attract a target audience:

Create Relevant Content

When creating content for a target audience, relevancy is just as important as consistency. Provide your followers with useful information that matters to them. This makes it easier for you to engage with them and for members of the community to engage with each other. Consider content marketing channels like blog posts, articles, social media posts, and videos.

Use Influencers

Partnering with influencers in a particular niche can help you reach a target audience. An influencer’s followers fit into their target audience and, if yours aligns, you have access to a brand new collective of people. This is a highly targeted way to reach your audience.

Try Referral Programs

Referral systems let you use your current target audience to grow an even bigger one. Supply loyal customers with referral codes for friends. This is an incentive to get your audience members talking and sharing with one another. You may also consider offering points or a rewards system for people who bring in a certain number of new customers. This can make your customers feel like they’re getting something special from your brand and you’re increasing your audience at the same time, for probably little to no cost to the company.

Use Hashtags on Social Media

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. You may try something like “luxury travel” or “Greece travel” 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.

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