Defining your target audience: Who are you serving?

Being an entrepreneur inherently means being closely involved in your business. But as you choose the colors, fonts, and imagery that all play a role in your brand identity, the lines between your personal preferences and those of your ideal customers can easily blur—particularly if you lack a clear understanding of who your target audience is, and what they value. Here are a few ways to define your target audience and build a brand that speaks to them.

Understand your audience’s basic demographics. Defining your target audience starts with broad demographics (age, gender, marital status, geographic location, and household income), based on the markets your business is equipped to serve.


What sort of environment does your target customer live in?

If you worked with a realtor to secure your businesses physical space, request local real estate market data. Contact the sales departments of local newspapers, or community-centric websites and ask for a media kit. The United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey also provides a free, granular view of any market region’s demographics. Though this demographic information won’t tell you about the psychology of your desired audience, it can help you assess where the most opportunity lies, demographically speaking.

Psychographics. You and your neighbor may share an age range, educational background, and income level—but have very different lifestyles and values. Psychographic profiles identify such “what” and “why” differences. These allow you to segment a demographic pool of “like” individuals, based on more telling attributes, like hobbies, interests, values, and priorities. Ultimately, these points of differentiation determine why people buy the things they do, and prefer one brand over another. The closer your brand is aligned with what your target audience values, the more likely they are to choose it over a competitor.


Where does your target customer spend his or her free time? What hobbies does he or she have?

Though you may not be privy to the proprietary marketing data large corporations are able to use to decipher the minds of their ideal customers, you can extract equally relevant information from your own “best customers” or even, acquaintenances that fit into your target audience profile. Ask them to participate in a brief interview or short survey about their preferences: What do they like to do in their spare time? What do they want more or less of in their life? Do they tend to value price, or exceptional service from a business? What event or opportunity (negative or positive) has caused them to end a relationship with a business? How do they like to communicate? What national brands do they like, and dislike, regardless of industry—and why? All of these questions can help you understand more about the needs and wants of your target audience and why they make certain choices. (Studies also indicate that consumers tend to be more receptive to new brands that feel “familiar” based on their existing brand preferences).

Bring your target to life. Give the “idea” of your target audience a real identity. Suppose you’ve honed in on the demographic of working mothers between the ages of 35 and 45 with an average household income of $100,000, who live within three miles of your business. From your psychographic research, you know these women place high value on caring for their family, despite leading a busy life. Using what you know, write the rest of your target customer’s story. As long as you stick to the information you know, be as creative as you wish. You may find that you uncover simple ways to create a relatable brand, based on her needs, challenges, and wants, whether it’s the ability to “valet” park so she’s not late for her appointment, or carrying an organic line of products that you know she values. Cut a picture out of a magazine that “looks” like your target customer, to give her a face. Give her a name, too.


Post the image near your computer so that “she” is always top of mind. As you select your brand elements, remember, it’s all about her. We know from studies on color psychology, for example, that various hues of red can incite feelings of energy and passion. Green and blue hues on the other hand, tend to induce peace, and a sense of relaxation and calm. Though you, a passionate entrepreneur, may love the energy a splash of red puts into your logo, your frazzled working mom target audience may respond far more favorably to a tranquil blue.

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The Path of Inspiration logo was chosen by a couple taking a trip around the world who wants to document their adventure via photos on their blog. They envision their audience to be like-minded travelers, passionate about exploration. The founders of Boom Coffee know their audience is young and playful and wanted their logo to be “fun and energetic” in order to appeal to them.

Building a successful brand starts with understanding one key element: It’s not about you. The more you can identify your target audience and the deeper wants and needs they have, you can ensure the brand elements you create and in invest in deliver customer-appropriate messages that eventually lead to a lasting customer relationship.

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Author: Stephanie Taylor Christenson