Recently, I saw a television commercial for Ford that opens with a teenage son talking to his dad. The son complains that there must be something wrong with the family’s car because “it won’t go over 65,” the stereo is faulty (volume won’t go above a certain level), and the hands-free cell phone feature is broken. The voice-over then explains Ford’s safety features, specifically designed to limit distractions for new drivers. 

Who’s the target audience for this ad? Clearly not teen drivers who like to drive fast, listen to music, and use their phones. Rather, the ad targets parents, particularly parents of new drivers.

You’ve probably seen ads like this that resonated with you. Maybe the ad reflected a personal interest (an adventure vacation, a new gym membership, or going back to school to earn a degree) or fulfilled a need (a second car for your family, an easy and healthy dinner recipe, or a home security system). The ad seemed to “talk” directly to you—and prompted you to make a purchase or file it away in your brain until you were ready to make a purchase decision. This is an example of successful audience segmentation, where the ad’s message was specifically targeted toward consumers with similar characteristics.

Audience segmentation simply means dividing your customers and potential customers into sub-groups with similar qualities to better reach them. A clearly defined audience is a critical component of any marketing strategy. In today’s vast media landscape and given the reality of limited advertising budgets, marketing your product to everyone and anyone isn’t realistic or efficient. Targeting specific consumer groups allows you to break through the noise and reach those people who are most likely to buy.

How Can You Segment Your Audience?

1. Know your product and customer.

Before you decide on a segmentation strategy, do a little bit of research to confirm the following.

  • Describe the benefits and capabilities of your product. How are they relevant to your customers? Do different customers value different benefits?
  • Dig into your sales data. Who is currently using your product? Men under 30? Women over 60? Teens and tweens? Businesses?
  • Based on the data, were there any surprises? Are there potential new customers who have not been previously targeted?
  • Where are your customers located?

2. Create your segmentation strategy.

Now that you have a good understanding of your customers, you’re better equipped to select the best strategy for segmenting your audience. Remember that as you go through this process, it’s all about finding the right balance. You want to narrow your audience to go after the right customers, but make sure that it is still large enough so you are not leaving potential buyers out. Key factors to consider include:

  • Demographics: These are socioeconomic variables such as income, gender, race, education level, and/or marital status that describe “who” might buy your product. For example, a luxury car brand may focus its marketing efforts on men and women with annual incomes over $150,000. They might also further segment by targeting single men between ages 35 and 44 in ads for a sports car, and married men and women between ages 35 and 44 for an SUV.
  • Psychographics: These are the attitudes, beliefs, personality type, and interests/hobbies that explain “why” someone might purchase something. For example, in addition to the demographics noted above, the car manufacturer might also target parents for its SUV ads, as these vehicles can appeal to safety focused young families.
  • Geographics: Purchasing behavior can also vary based on location. If you are the owner of a single location restaurant, you will want to target local customers only. It would be a waste of time/money to advertise nationally.
  • Behavioral: Behavioral segmentation groups customers based on their previous behaviors—whether they’ve previously purchased a particular product, how often they used the product, or whether it was purchased for a special occasion. A marketer of a new technology might focus its efforts on individuals who tend to purchase similar products at or near their release. These purchasers are often described as “innovators” and “early adopters” and can help ensure a successful product launch.

Now that you’ve segmented your audience, you can confidently:

  • Evaluate and determine the best channels to reach your target audience such as digital, television, email, or social. If you want to reach teens, you might focus on digital rather than print advertising as this group spends more time online.
  • Focus messages specifically for this audience to drive a desired action, such as purchasing your product.

Need some help getting started? Here at LMD we have lots of experience helping our clients define their target audiences to achieve their goals. Call us today!