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Target Audience vs Buyer Persona: What’s the Difference

Identifying who your ideal customers are is critical to your business’ success. It is the catalyst to a targeted strategy, stronger relationships, and more sales. 

Most often, marketers use the terms “target audiences” and “buyer personas” when segmenting and identifying ideal customers. While target audiences and buyer personas are the best methods of identifying ideal customers, they are often interchanged and thought of as the same thing. The consequence of getting it wrong is that your marketing efforts become less effective. 

Consumers have become more sophisticated and their expectations have also tremendously increased. At the same time, competition has become more intense. Therefore, it is prudent to not confuse the two terms and use the correct approach when defining your ideal audience. 

In this article, we will discuss the difference between the target audience and buyer persona. Plus, provide insight into which you should work on and when so you can become more efficient in your marketing activities.

What is a Target Audience?

The target audience is the traditional approach to identifying ideal customers. It points to a group of people that may be interested in your products or services. 

A target audience considers demographic and physical traits, such as gender, age, location, interests, annual income, attitudes, problems, and solutions. 

For example, the target audience for an online SEO tool could be marketing agencies located in the EU with over 100K in annual revenue. In essence, the target audience offers you a glimpse of your company’s customer base. 

How to develop a target audience?

Here is how you can develop your target audience:

  1. Analyze your product or service: this includes the features and benefits. Then use that information to compile a list of people who may find your product useful.
  1. Perform competitor analysis: find who your competitor’s customers are or who they are currently targeting. After which, decide whether to target that market or a different niche they overlook.
  1. Dig into your existing customer base: this may require you to study or gather historical data and trends on your existing customer. Find commonalities such as interests and characteristics. Once you have gathered your data, find other customers who share similar traits that you can market to.
  1. Collect information about the psychographics of your audience: examples of psychographic characteristics that you should collect include attitude, hobbies, values, personalities, and opinions. 

When is the target audience used?

The target audience is most often used when selling to a wider audience. This audience should include people who fit your product’s criteria or are interested in your product. 

The target audience is commonly applied in social selling and social media promotion campaigns. 

For example, social media ads let you target your audience according to their interest. You can as well target your audience according to demographics or location. With social media ads, you have unlimited options when selecting the people you want to target.

Alternatively, it is also ideal for promoting your unique selling points, such as superior materials, superior craftsmanship, or affordable prices. 

Here is an example of a unique selling proposition from Freshbooks. As you can see, the message (or rather unique selling point), “Accounting Software Built for Owners” will easily resonate with every entrepreneur that would want to use an online accounting software.

It’s safe to say that a target audience broadly describes consumers that are most likely to buy your product or services. As a result, it is more common in a B2C context. 

Importance of creating a target audience

The Marketo Engagement Gap report shows that 51% of customers complain brands target them with irrelevant content. 

Moreover, 56% of consumers believe businesses need to focus more on developing a deeper understanding of their needs. This shows that businesses are not doing enough to meet or fulfill customers’ expectations. 

Thus, the best way to reach out to your customers and even meet their needs is to develop a target audience. By developing a target audience, you can create messages that target the right people and show how your brand can help them meet their needs.

Unfortunately, the target audience approach has limitations. It fails to see that customers within a target group won’t share the same needs or interests. 

Besides, it fails to understand the goals and motivation of these customers. This makes it difficult to maximize your marketing campaigns. The solution to this is by coming up with a buyer persona.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is an audience segmentation approach that uses real data to identify and define customers interested in your product. It aims to give your ideal customers a face, names, occupation, challenges, and likes or dislikes, even though it is fictional. 

As a result, it requires you to gather more information on your customers and segment your target group beyond the demographic and physiological method common with the target audience. 

With a buyer persona, you have to find your audience’s habits, characteristics, or behaviors and use that information to create a strategy that will get them interested in your product. 

A simple buyer persona would take into account the following: name of the buyer, gender, age, occupation, location, education and work experience, daily activities, pain points, and life objectives. Let’s look at the example below of the marketing manager, Amanda.

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Notice how it is so detailed?

How to create a buyer persona?

To effectively create a buyer persona, you must conduct lots of market research, surveys, customer interviews, and even gather information from the internal team and CRM/sales tool. 

Apart from that, segment your audience into those with common objectives as well as determining whether you are targeting other businesses (B2B) or individual customers (B2C). 

If you are targeting other businesses, you may go beyond looking at the economic and behavioral factors of the person with the purchasing power and look at factors like company size or market share. This will help you determine their financial position or ability to buy. 

Lastly, note that buyers of the product may not necessarily be using the product. For example, LEGO products are mostly used by children but it is parents that are buying them. That means, if you are crafting marketing messages for such an audience, they must appeal to both the buyer and user.

Having such information gives you a clear picture of individual needs and preferences. You can now spend your resources on qualified prospects, guide your team to develop solutions that target your target customer’s needs and personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience.

Why create a buyer persona?

If you want to generate maximum results from your marketing efforts, you need to define your customer personas. 

However, note that B2C buyer personas are different from B2B customers personas. In B2B, you will be engaging with a business or company, trying to convince them to buy your solution. In B2C, you will be engaging with a consumer directly.

Secondly, in B2B, the sales cycle is more complex since more people are involved in decision-making. This is not the case in B2C, where the consumer makes the final purchase decision.

Creating a buyer persona helps marketers understand their prospects better. This will eventually:

  1. Get you more leads and customers. Research shows that by creating personas, 56% of companies have generated higher-quality leads.
  2. Help you create more effective marketing campaigns. For example, persona-based content increases online marketing engagements and opportunities by 73%.
  3. Improve interpersonal relationships with your customers. 
  4. Improve customer trust as you fulfill the right needs

Target audience or buyer persona, which way?

When marketers speak of solving customer’s problems and challenges, you will most often hear the words target audience and buyer persona thrown around or used interchangeably as if they mean the same thing. 

But getting the difference can help you understand what makes consumers tick. Creating personas is critical for any business making a content marketing strategy. Here’s why.

  1. Personas provide more detailed characteristics of potential customers

Unlike the target audience, which will merely summarize your ideal customer, the buyer persona digs deeper to uncover important information about your target customer. This information helps you develop a deeper understanding of customers to easily meet their needs and increase customer retention. 

If we revisit our example of the marketing manager, Amanda, you will notice how it is easy to identify and remember her. 

This is because we have valuable facts about her, such as her responsibilities, how she is evaluated, and her trusted sources of information. You can use this information to determine the best time to market to her and her firm and how likely she will buy. With such detailed information, we can find higher-quality leads ready to convert.

  1. It gives you more psychographics

There are certain factors that will push an individual to buy your product. They are called motivational factors and include goals, challenges, objectives, or pain points. One can only know these factors by crafting a buyer persona. 

In essence, a buyer persona helps you know more about the factors that help a customer in decision-making. It also helps you know how your product can solve a customer’s problem. These are vital in improving your marketing campaigns and outreach methods.

  1. You can use different marketing messages

Since different buyer personas have different interests, you won’t succeed with conversion by communicating the same message to all customers. For example, the tone and voice to use with a recently married couple trying to buy a house will differ from retirees also looking to buy a house. 

A buyer persona gives you the power to adjust your tone for different personas. Besides, you may adjust your topics, distribution channels, and even the content forms you use for different personas. This will trigger the right responses, as your customers can vividly see how your product or service can help them. 

Conclusion

As you can see, creating a buyer persona is essential if you want more visitors and customers coming to your business. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook a target audience. 

There are instances where you should begin in audience segmentation. 

However, the buyer personas approach has a greater potential or success rate, considering that the marketing landscape is changing too quickly. 

If you choose to use it, remember to constantly refine and revise your approach through A/B testing or adding more personas and boost your marketing efforts.

Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

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