Finding Your Target Audience
No matter if you’re sending a cold email or running a Facebook ad, you need to be extremely specific about who you’re selling to.
We’ll sometimes hear things from clients like “Our market is huge! Everyone will buy our product!”
Not true. 🙂
Well, this can be the case for established brand name products. But usually, it’s a sign that you’re going to waste a lot of money on audiences that won’t convert.
Focus on the people most likely to buy. This reading will help you do that.
First, some examples of what we’re looking for.

Examples: Good Target Personas

Here are some good target personas from past clients we’ve had:
  • Product: Pre-made dinners. Delivered weekly. Cooked in a Sous Vide oven.
    • Audience: Young couples/professionals who don’t have time to cook dinner and are middle class or wealthier.
  • Product: Make fantasy soccer teams. Then bet on them. Daily.
    • Audience: People — generally men — who have bet on soccer matches before and play fantasy soccer.
  • Product: Send cold emails. Using a clean dashboard. Without unnecessary tools.
    • Audience: Salespeople and sales managers who are overwhelmed by the complexity of a competing sales tool.
  • Product: Find engineering jobs that match your cultural values.
    • Audience: Engineers who are extremely burnt out at their current jobs and are actively searching for a new one.
  • Product: Let users pay to subscribe to premium content on your Wordpress site. In minutes.
    • Audience: Blog owners trying to monetize their site who are dissatisfied with a competing Wordpress plugin.

How to Identify Your Target Audience

Let’s say we sell high-end running shoes. How do we find people to sell them to?
Idea #1: We could run Facebook ads asking people to buy our shoes.
This is a terrible idea. There are too many people on Facebook who don’t need running shoes. The only thing in common with these people is that they have feet. Some of them can’t afford high-end running shoes. Some of the people don’t click Facebook ads. In short, there are too many unqualified leads.
There’s too much bathwater out with the baby. Too much chaff with the wheat. Too many bad analogies with the good.
Idea #2: We could run Facebook ads, but only to people who have indicated an interest in running.
This is a little better. We can be relatively sure that these people need running shoes. We don’t know if they need a new pair right now. Or whether they can afford something higher-end. We can do better.
Idea #3: We could run Facebook ads, but only to people who are interested in running AND have an income in the top 25% of the population.
This is the first group that legitimately has a shot.
Now we know they have the wallets to stomach a higher price for better quality shoes. They certainly have the ability to buy our shoes. But we still don’t know whether they need shoes right now — we’d have to hope for an impulse buy.
Idea #4: We could run Facebook ads to the same people as above, cut down ONLY to people who have bought through a Facebook ad before.
Now we’re getting somewhere. But what have they bought through Facebook?
Idea #5: We could run Facebook ads to runners with an income in the top 25% of the population who have bought running shoes on Facebook before.
You’re catching our drift. Keep rolling.
Idea #6: We could run Facebook ads to runners with an income in the top 25% of the population, who have bought high-end running shoes on Facebook before. Multiple times.
Onwards.
Idea #7: We could run Facebook ads to runners with an income in the top 25% of the population, who have bought high-end running shoes on Facebook before. Multiple times. And their last purchase was greater than three months ago.
Just enough time for their shoes to wear out. They need new ones. Now.
Idea #8: Find people like #7 who have bought shoes after being cold emailed, who recently posted a negative review of another high-end shoe on Amazon. Find them and email them directly talking about how yours is better.
Honestly, ideas 3 through 8 are good and we’d test them all. (Facebook handles some of that targeting for us, especially around showing ads to people who click on them.)
But there’s one audience that will respond better than any of the ones above.
Any guesses…?
Idea #9: YOUR OWN CUSTOMERS!
Obviously, you’ll need new customers. Not just recurring old ones. But it’s important to keep in mind.‌
If your company already has customers, go through a list of your top 100 customers, and drill into who they are and how they found you.
For example, did someone find you through a support forum because your competitor's software sucked? What's their job title? Are they at a certain level of funding? Did they just get divorced?
If you have customer email addresses, you can use services like Clearbit Enrichment to input their email and collect more information about them and their company.
Bucket your customers based on what you learn about them.‌
If you don't know how someone found you (called attribution), that's OK. We'll dig into a more robust way to do this in the acquisition section of the course, and you can revisit this section. Use your intuition for now.
There are some sophisticated ways you can use your own customers to find other people as close to them as possible — called lookalikes — when you run ads. We’ll talk about this more in depth in a few modules, as well.‌

Invert Your Customers

Lastly, and this is extremely important, think through it backwards.
Given that someone has those features (went to that forum, got divorced, etc.), how likely are they to convert?
You can avoid compelling (and wrong) narratives by thinking this way.
If 70% of your customers are from New York, but New Yorkers only convert 2% of the time...and your California customers convert 50% of the time...you should focus on California. Not New York.
This is a tricky stats idea. Read through it again to make sure you get it. We call it "flipping the Bayesian."
Many marketing teams get this wrong.

Ladder of Product Awareness

This brings us to the simple but powerful concept you have to grasp in order to figure out who your target audience is: the Ladder of Product Awareness (LPA).
The LPA illustrates how aware and in need an audience is of your product.
Everyone you advertise to will be somewhere on this ladder:
Great storytellers have the ability to fascinate everyone with their narrative; they don't settle on relating only to their core audience (i.e. the first step of the ladder).
However, the closer someone is to step 5, the more time, energy, and money it takes to move them up the LPA so that they’re receptive to your ads.
So, only if you've already exhausted audiences on Levels 1-4 (unlikely) should you attempt to move people up from the bottom. That’s a luxury problem. Until then, focus on writing increasingly appealing copy to those higher up on your ladder.
Put another way, your ideal audience:
  • Feels the problem.
  • Would pay to solve the problem. Regularly.
  • Is on the channel you’ve chosen to reach out to them.
  • Is disenfranchised with a competitor.
  • And has a need to switch to you. Urgently.
Let’s drive this home.

Customer Personas

Customer Personas tell a story (between a long sentence and a paragraph) of specific customers and the exact moment they hit an urgent problem.
You want to avoid talking in generalities.
Let’s say your product is Down Dog, a yoga app that lets you do yoga anywhere, with fresh routines every time you open it.
There’s a difference between saying that your target market is “moms interested in health” and “Gillian, the mom who just got a raise at work and has free 30 minute window to exercise, but realized the gym is too far away to get to in time.”
Gillian is a customer persona.
Another target market: “Women who use competing yoga apps.” Straightforward. And actually pretty good. But, how could we make it better?
“Renee, who just closed her yoga app in the middle of a session because she got bored of the same routine and her mind started to wander."
Finding the painful moment forces you to add more details about your customer’s problems and increases the likelihood that they’ll buy. Fleshing out these details will help you target the right people and write copy that actually converts.
When you understand what prompts someone to care about you, you recognize which objections you should proactively address in your copy. That improves conversion.
You may have heard of this persona-building exercise before. You may have thought it to be a superficial exercise. That's only true if you don't know what to do with it. This course teaches you what to do with it.

Audiences vs. Personas: what's the difference?

You see the words "audiences" and "personas" used pretty interchangeably in marketing. But the way we use them, there's a distinction:
Personas are ideal audiences.
They’re often described with paragraphs and sample photos instead of shorter sentences. They’re used as a starting point for coming up with audiences to target. We also pull from personas when we write ad copy.
Audiences are bound by what we’re capable of targeting in real life.
So, for example, we can target the “Small Business Owners” demographic in Facebook’s ad manager because it’s an explicit option. We can also target CMOs at Series A companies > 15 people in Clearbit and actually send them emails.
That being said, we use the words interchangeably ourselves. (Most marketers do.)
Today, we care more about personas. The goal is to get you thinking about your ideal audiences — and taking steps to figure out the urgent and painful moments they face.

Final Note: Don’t focus on the product

Your suitcase just broke. Your flight leaves in an hour and fifteen minutes. And you have a lot of clothing. So you rush to the closest furniture store to buy a cheap new suitcase.
No time to browse. You run up to a salesperson.
“I need a suitcase. ASAP. I don’t care what type. I just need it to be reliable.”
“You’re in luck: autonomous vehicle technology has revolutionized the suitcase industry. We have a self-driving suitcase that just came in that will change your travel life forever. It starts at only $3000.”
“Uhh…that’s way too much. I just need a normal suitcase — I can carry it. Don’t you have anything cheaper?”
See, you don’t need a self-driving suitcase. You just need a suitcase.
In fact, you technically don’t even need a suitcase. You just need something to hold your belongings.
The store should be focusing on the fact that you can’t carry your clothes yourself. And solve that. Instead of solving whatever techno-babble nonsense they want to upsell you.
This is obviously an extreme example, but it’s very tempting to focus on your product and its features — or get caught up in hot trends — instead of focusing on the problems real buyers face.
We’ve seen this problem pop up for real companies built around trends like blockchain, AI, and the Internet of Things.
When it comes to finding an audience, these technologies aren’t actually important. Novelty only gets you so far.
It’s the problem you solve that makes you important to customers.

A reminder of how this course is structured

At the end of this module, you will complete a project that ties all this knowledge together — and puts it to use for your company.
For now, absorb these readings and take notes.