Why You Need to Define Your Audience (& How to Do It)

In business, as in life, you can’t be everything to everyone. It’s essential to narrow down who you really serve, and target your work to focus specifically on them.

Before designing a new website, we like to get crystal clear on who the target audience is, and how our website strategy can reach and engage them. (Otherwise, you’re shooting in the dark, which can end up wasting precious time and resources.)

Below we’ll walk through a couple different strategies to narrow down and define your target audience, depending on which phase of business you’re in—whether you’re just starting out and looking to develop your target audience, or if you have an existing audience you’d like to find more clarity around.

But first—why do you even need a defined, target audience?

Why you need a target audience

Intentionally defining your business’ target audience (aka your “ideal client”) is important for several key reasons:

  • it helps you refine your communication and marketing strategies so you can truly reach your audience with compelling content

  • it provides clarity into your audience’s real needs, so you can better offer solutions to meet those needs

  • it helps you focus your efforts (and resources!) on the potential clients/customers most in need of your product or services, and most likely to purchase from you

  • it gives clues to where your ideal clients are “hanging out,” and thus where to find and connect with them

If you’re building a new audience…

If your business or blog is still somewhat new (or perhaps you haven’t even started yet and are ahead of the game here in your research phase!), we recommend working backwards: starting with your ideal client in mind and building your business around reaching them, specifically.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Create your ideal client Avatar

In this brainstorming phase, you’ll clarify exactly who you’d love to work with in your business. (Only by knowing who they are can you really focus your efforts on reaching and serving them!)

Envision yourself in a client/customer relationship with your ideal client—someone whose burning needs your business can meet, someone you enjoy working with, and someone you could see a beneficial business relationship with. Ask yourself the following questions about this person:

  • How old are they?

  • Are they male? Female? Non-binary?

  • What do they do for a living?

  • What’s their education level? Income level?

  • Where do they live?

  • What are their hobbies?

  • What are their goals or aspirations (either personally or professionally)?

  • What are their fears or worries?

  • (And feel free to define any additional characteristics of your avatar that are significant to your business—perhaps what language they speak, if they have children, their health status, etc.)

After musing on these questions, write them down into a cohesive character description. If you’d like, you can even give your avatar a name. (We’ll be referring back to them again!)

2. How will your ideal client interact with your business?

Next, we’ll explore how your ideal client will interact with your business—how they’ll find you, why they’ll reach out to you, what your business relationship will look like. This will help us in step 3 as we define the broader community you’re serving.

  • What burning problem brought them to you?

  • What can you do to solve this problem? (Be specific!)

  • How do you want them to feel when they interact with you or your business?

  • What type of relationship do you have with them (short-term, ongoing, etc.)?

  • How will you communicate with them? How will they communicate with you?

  • How will they use your website?

3. Where is your avatar hanging out?

By this point we’ve created a good picture of who your ideal client is, what they like, what you can offer to them, and how you’ll interact with them. But now we need to know: where can you interact with them? Think about:

  • What groups or organizations might your avatar be part of?

  • What are some interest areas they may follow or seek information on?

  • What are some search terms (aka keywords!) they may use to seek this information?

4. Define your audience

Now it’s time to make some friends for your avatar! Think about the key characteristics and needs you’ve outlined above and re-write your avatar description at the community level, with the following components:

  • Demographic (e.g. female, 20s-30s, busy professional)

  • Burning need (e.g. wants to create a website for her side hustle, but doesn’t have time)

  • How we’ll connect (e.g. Pinterest, Google search)

If you’re growing an existing audience…

If you’re starting with an existing audience, there’s a slightly different strategy to define and narrow it down—and you have some additional information and tools available to you.

With an existing audience, you already have some useful data you can turn to for a glimpse into who your audience currently is (though this just a starting point and we’ll work from there!).

Here’s how to move from understanding your current audience to defining your ideal audience:

1. Take a snapshot of your current audience

With an existing audience, you already have at least some information on who they are and how they’re interacting with your business. Depending on your business type and structure, here are some methods for taking a snapshot of your current audience:

  • Take a look at your website analytics—who’s visiting your website? Where are they coming from? What content are they viewing? How are they interacting with that content (are they subscribing to your newsletter, downloading certain resources)?

  • If you have a large social media following, you can take a look at your analytics for that particular platform. Both Facebook and Instagram have audience analytics dashboards that include demographic information.

  • Do you have a client list from your business documentation? What information about your audience demographics, needs and goals can you tell from that?

  • Don’t have a useful snapshot from the methods above? Conduct a survey of your current audience!

2. Differentiate your “best” & “worst” performing audience members

Not all clients are necessarily your ideal client. Some could have needs you can’t necessarily solve. Some could be a pain to work with. Some could have a budget that’s really too low for the value of your services.

It’s okay to accept that not everyone is going to be your ideal client, and you don’t need to enter into business relationships with each potential client you come into contact with. The goal is to free yourself up for establishing those ideal business relationships that bring you the most joy, impact and income!

To get started on differentiating your ideal client from your not-so-good clients, first choose an action or attribute that defines “success” in your business relationship. This element will vary considerably depending on your business type and the phase you’re in, so choose something that applies to you and your personal business goals.

Some potential measures of client success include:

  • Purchasing a specific product or service from you

  • Completing a certain number of purchases

  • Completing a specific action

  • Having a certain subscriber rating in your email marketing service

Next, segment your audience into three groups:

  1. Those who have achieved your measure of success

  2. Those who have not achieved your measure of success, but are on track to do so

  3. Those who have not achieved your measure of success, and are not on track to do so

The way you segment your audience may vary depending on your success measure, but the purpose is to start differentiating your higher performing and lesser performing audience members.

3. What are the qualities of your “best” performing audience members?

Now, let’s look into what makes the difference between a high or low performance on your success measure. Explore your data to look for trends on the differences between the audience members of your first and third lists. Are there any differences in:

  • Age?

  • Gender?

  • Geographic location?

  • Income or education level?

  • Interests, hobbies, profession?

  • Specific promotions received from your business?

  • Specific actions taken in your business?

4. Define your ideal client

Now let’s bring it all together to define your ideal client based on the trends of people who have completed your success measure.

Outline the key characteristics of your ideal client:

  • Demographic (e.g. female, 20s-30s, busy professional)

  • Burning need (e.g. wants to create a website for her side hustle, but doesn’t have time)

  • How you connect with them (e.g. Pinterest, Google search)

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Why you need to define your website audience (and how to do it) // Web design tips and resources on the Five Design Co. blog
Why you need to define your website audience (and how to do it) // Web design tips and resources on the Five Design Co. blog