How To Select The Perfect Target Audience For Your Startup
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
As the founder of a startup, the embryonic stage of your business is easily the most enjoyable part of the startup journey. That’s due to the fact that everything is so new. You have this great new idea for a product or service that you’re extremely excited about and you can’t wait to ship it because you believe that it could change the world (If you’re reading this—I’m sure you probably have that feeling right now).
However, before you launch your startup and change the world with your new product or service—you’ll first need to make one of the most important decisions that a founder could make in the embryonic stage of business—which is choosing your brand’s target audience.
A target audience is identified as the specific group of people that a brand aims to appeal to.
The reason selecting the right target audience is such an important decision for a founder is because choosing the right audience initially could lead to the exponential growth of your business. However, choosing the wrong target audience could be the primary reason that your business fails.
Here’s how to select the perfect target audience for your startup so that you won’t have to worry about that last part.
Who would you love to serve?
The first step in selecting your brand’s ideal audience is identifying the crowd of customers that you would love to serve the most. Take a second and think of the types of customers that you would most enjoy spending a great deal of time interacting with.
Then, create a customer avatar. You could do that by researching the answers to the following questions:
What’s their age range?
What do they do for a living?
How much money do they make annually?
What are their hobbies?
Where do they live?
Which websites do they frequent?
What do they read and where do they get their news?
What’s most important to them?
What keeps them up at night?
What do they dream of?
Once you have the answers to those questions—write them down. You’ve now created a customer avatar—and everything that your brand does publicly should appeal to that avatar. But before you make the final decision on your avatar—make sure your brand’s products or services are something that would be attractive to your avatar and more importantly—something they could afford.
The best way to do that is by narrowing your target audience through niching.
Picture yourself as a chief searching for the perfect people to join your tribe. But your tribe isn’t for everyone—because the brand that tries to appeal to everyone ends up appealing to no one.
So, as the chief of your tribe—wouldn’t you want to take that journey with the people that you could actually inspire? The people that are most likely to purchase your products or services? In his classic book, This Is Marketing, author Seth Godin, declared, "What the marketer, the leader, and the organizer must do as their first job is simple: define ‘us.’"
Defining your "us" consists of this statement that Godin often uses, “People like us do things like this.” You’re much more familiar with your brand than I am—so ask yourself, "What is it that my brand does that my avatar/tribe could gravitate towards?" If you don’t have the answer quite yet—maybe you will after figuring out the answer to this next question.
What's missing in their lives?
It was journalist and novelist Christopher Morley, who once said, "There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning, and yearning." In order to maximize what your startup will earn—you must first learn exactly what it is that your audience yearns.
Some of the most successful founders of all-time grew their brand by mastering the art of being able to identify exactly what it was that their audience yearned for and positioned their brand to fulfill it.
— Former Apple CEO and co-founder—the late Steve Jobs, identified that Apple’s ideal audience would consist of people that yearned to "Think different" in regards to technology.
— Former Nike CEO and co-founder Phil Knight, identified that the target audience for his athletic apparel brand consisted of athletes that yearned for a brand to inspire them to "Just Do It."
— Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, identified that his target audience consisted of people that were yearning for more energy and excitement and would purchase his energy drink because "It gives you wings."
Successful founders find or create the thing their ideal audience yearns for (even if that audience doesn’t yet realize that they yearn for it) and provide whatever it is that’s missing to make their lives better. As Steve Jobs once said, "Some people say, 'Give the customers what they want.' But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do."
After you create an avatar of your ideal customer—think of what they're currently missing in their lives and position your brand as the only brand that will help them receive it.
Align an ideology
The strongest brands in the world have an audience that shares an ideology. A great way to determine just how strong a brand is by asking the question, "Could another brand take their customers if they emulated their tactics?"
For example, it would be nearly impossible for a competitive brand to cause Harley-Davidson to lose market share in the U.S. even if they emulated their marketing strategy. That’s due to the fact that Harley-Davidson’s core asset isn’t their products—it’s their ideology.
The people that purchase Harley-Davidson motorcycles and apparel share a certain ideology and see the world through the purview of rebellion (which is why so many of them have tattoos of the brand).
Think of an ideology for your brand that your avatar would gravitate towards and align it with your brand. You’ve now created your brand’s core beliefs. And those beliefs should influence everything that your brand stands for. Convey those core beliefs through your marketing efforts and it’ll unify your tribe while also serving as their rally cry for generations to come.
I’d be remiss if I concluded this article without reminding you that there’s a huge difference between a brand’s target audience and its minimum viable audience. For example, the MVA for Taco Bell consists of anyone looking for a quick, hot, and cheap Mexican snack.
However, Taco Bell's target audience consists of 18 to 34-year-olds that are looking for a few quick tacos or burritos on their way to or from doing something they love (the next time you see a new Taco Bell commercial—notice the demographic that it aims to appeal to).
Now that you’ve selected your target audience—focus all of your marketing efforts towards fostering a relationship with them. A relationship built on the commitment that your brand will improve their lives.