Every marketing strategy gets better when it's focused on a specific target audience. But the only way this works is if you understand your target audience inside and out. You can’t base your knowledge on preconceived notions, false assumptions, stereotypes, or anecdotal evidence; you need objective data to fuel your audience understanding and subsequent decisions.

So what steps can you take to better understand your target audience?

How to Better Understand Your Target Audience

These are some of the most important strategies for better understanding your target audience:

1. Work with an agency. A shopper marketing agency will help you with several aspects of better understanding your target audience. They'll work with you to better understand your brand, examine your current scope of marketing and advertising, evaluate past campaigns, and help you conduct the market research necessary to target the right demographics. From there, they'll devise campaigns to gather even more data and launch new marketing strategies to test with their initial conclusions. Agencies cost money, but they're also highly effective – and they have the expertise necessary to properly identify and understand your most important demographic segments.

2. Challenge your existing assumptions. Oftentimes, marketers build an understanding of a target audience based on initial assumptions. You might assume that teenage boys are more impulsive than the average person, or that older men are more focused on their careers than their hobbies. But this isn't necessarily true, especially if you dig into more specific niches. Adopt a mentality of constantly questioning and challenging your existing assumptions. Instead of trying to prove yourself right, try to prove yourself wrong.

3. Conduct short surveys. One of the best ways to better understand and audiences to conduct short surveys. Surveys are an excellent tool for gathering both qualitative and quantitative data, and if you conduct enough of them, you can glean powerful new insights about your target demographics. Short surveys are especially valuable because they're much more likely to be completed, even by people who hate surveys. Provide incentives to increase your completion rates even further.

4. Host focus groups. Surveys are nice, but they don't always tell you the whole story. If you're interested in gathering even more information, consider hosting a focus group in which you interview a small group of people after they use with your products and services. What do they like most? What do they like least? How does this make them feel?

5. Use customer personas as models. A customer persona is a documented model of a specific target customer, defining who that person is, how they see the world, and the types of strategies that work best for them. It's much more effective to create characters in the form of customer personas than to rely on your working memory and vague abstractions when creating new marketing materials.

6. Monitor onsite behavior. Pay close attention to onsite behavior, especially if you can observe the onsite behavior of specific target demographics. How long do users spend on each page? How likely are they to convert? Are there any interactive elements that seem especially popular or unpopular?

7. Review brand mentions. Brand mentions on social media are an excellent way to monitor how people are thinking about your brand in aggregate. When people mention your brand name on social media, is that mention usually positive, negative, or somewhere in between? What types of people are talking about your brand? What can you do to steer the conversation in an even better direction?

8. Read reviews closely. When people in your target audience leave reviews for your products and services, read them carefully. Don't just pay attention to the quantitative data; figure out what, specifically, these people love and hate about your offers. Obviously, you can use this information to improve your core products – but you can also use it to create better marketing and advertising collateral.

Always Be Refining

The context on which you build your marketing strategies never stays the same for long. Your audience is going to change. Your competitors are going to change – and new ones will emerge. And market conditions, including everything from consumer trends to economic factors, are constantly evolving. The only way to stay relevant and continue improving your results is to always be refining; in other words, you should constantly be questioning your assumptions, uncovering new data, and updating your knowledge and approaches.

Better understanding your target audience is the first step to mastering your marketing and advertising approach. Once you have a solid idea of who your customers are and how they see the world, it’s going to be much easier to craft compelling messaging and persuasive campaigns. If you do it right, your job as a marketer is going to get much, much easier.