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Target Market vs Target Audience – know the difference

In the world of content creation, particularly for websites and blogs with the main purpose of selling or promoting products and/or services, one of the first rules of thumb that you hear in terms of creating content is ‘know your target audience’. That content rule is largely correct. However, for some in the industry, you will read or hear the both terms, target market and target audience used interchangeably – this is incorrect since they are not one and the same.

Target Market

A target market is defined as the whole group of people that a brand wants to sell to. Usually a target market will consist of consumers who share similar buying habits, characteristics, demographics and even buying power. It is through the identification of these variables that a brand can concentrate its marketing efforts. For example, people who go to the mall on a weekend is a target market. They represent the consumers who possibly use the weekend to take their kids to the mall or don’t have time during the work week to shop. Therefore, weekend mall shoppers are a target market.

It is crucial for companies and brands to understand who their target market is and many spend lots of money doing research to define and monitor its target market. Remember, it’s in the best interest of the brand to recognise the nuances since not all products are for all consumers. Target markets frequently affect a product’s price and the manner in which it is promoted and distributed.

Target Audience

A target audience is a much narrower and defined group. This is the group that the brand expects to actually buy the product/service it is promoting or selling. In essence, they are a ‘sub set’ of the larger target market group. Using the example above of the weekend mall shoppers, we can say the target audience for the ice cream shop located in the food court at the mall, would be parents who have also brought their kids with them. Similarly, for the movie theater at the mall, the target audience would be those persons who might be movie buffs and are also visiting the mall on the weekend. Promoting the latest movie release and adding a free bucket of popcorn to this target audience is a prime example of selling to your niche in a win-win arrangement. You get the consumer to spend and the consumer gets a movie and popcorn!

Unless you’re a big gun…

One of the best examples of a company which actually sells to EVERYONE regardless of target market or audience is Amazon! In one of my earlier blogs, I mentioned that Amazon was the retail champion of 2020. I mentioned then, that in 1994, Jeff Bezos wanted to sell books online, which he did for 4 years. Clearly Mr Bezos was a risk taker, since selling books online is an extremely niche target audience – especially back in 1994 when we were all into flipping the pages of an actual book and visiting Barnes and Noble to sit, have a coffee and browse the shelves at our leisure. Today, some 27 years later, Amazon has earned the right and ability to target everyone!

Just a small fry…

For the majority of new businesses who are now where Amazon was 27 years ago, and trying to hit the right niche and audience, it is critical to do your research. There are thousands of other businesses that are looking at the very same target audience, but the key is in what makes your product/service different than what is already on offer. For example, if your product is cosmetics, determine who and what – who are you selling to and what are you selling? The audiences can be vast – stay at home moms between the ages of 30-35, career women between the ages of 40-45 with no children, young men between 25-30 who are into grooming and skin care. Refining or segmenting the market into a small specific audience that can generate leads and traffic for small, new businesses can be the difference between success and failure. Also of critical importance, once you have confirmed your target audience, is differentiating the messaging i.e. content.

The tail wagging the dog

It is important for small businesses to remember that the product /service does not dictate the audience. Many people make the mistake of starting a business before they identify who their target market is. A target market or target audience influence all kinds of marketing decisions that a small business makes – from product development, pricing and promotion, sales processes and shopping preferences. As a business owner, your focus should be on meeting a consumer’s need/s vs creating a website and marketing to anyone with access to wifi. Competition is stiff in the world of online marketing, so make sure you do your homework!

If you like this blog or would like to share your own experience with this subject area, please feel free to comment below.

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  1. It’s interesting and good to know the difference. Although I knew that there was a difference, I wasn’t sure how big the difference was between a target market and a target audience, but when you’re starting an online business you need to know who your business is targeted to.

    When you know who your target audience is, what are some good ways to find them? Do you have a blog post about that? I find that keywords, SEO, and hashtags are good for that, but I was wondering if there are any other good methods.

    1. Hello Christine. I’m pleased that you found the information useful. It’s pretty easy to confuse the two. As far as your question about some good ways to find your target audience when you know who you’re trying to attract, is via  research like you said e.g. keywords, SEO and scoping out the competition to see what they are doing. I’ve not done a blog on that – not a bad idea. But check out this link for some useful info which also provides a link to how to find new customers: https://www.inc.com/guides/201…