An official website of the United States government

How to identify, target, and keep your digital audience
July 16, 2021

By Glenn Pingul and Bryce Kelly 

During a recent poll of YLAI Network members, an overwhelming number of young leaders noted that while they understood the importance of branding, they still felt as though they were struggling to figure out just who they should be marketing toward. Business and nonprofit managers of course want to receive as much support as possible, but they also want to know how to stand out from the crowd and build a loyal audience.

The YLAI Network team brought these questions to an expert: Glenn Pingul, the director of outbound marketing at Zulily, an e-commerce company. Here is what Glenn had to say to our YLAI Network members about identifying and analyzing your digital audience.

What are the benefits of marketing to a specific audience?

When your marketing is unfocused, this leads to not only wasted impressions as you try to connect with prospects who aren’t really your customer base but also wasted spending on your marketing strategies.

Marketing to a specific audience helps you focus on sharpening your value proposition — the “it factor” of your product that tells why someone should care to invest in it. This focus also helps you plan and prioritize the things that are most important to your specific audience and cut out the things that aren’t important, or deprioritize them so you don’t waste time on things that your customers are uninterested in.

How do I find my target audience?

There is an expression: “Build a better mousetrap.” It’s a phrase attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and speaks to the idea that if you make a better product people will beat a path to your door to get it. It’s an adage many marketers follow that often leads to the mistake of focusing on building “something,” then struggling to find someone to buy it. Ideally, you would start by thinking about the marketplace you want to serve and assess gaps in that market that you could fill.

That said, if you already have a product or service, you can find your target audience by asking yourself the hard question: Who cares about my product? What benefit would it bring them? Would they pay for it?

Consider how much they would pay for it, vis a vis your cost to provide it. In essence, you are both defining your value and who might value it. Defining your audience will then help you figure out how to find them, for example, if they are under 30, via digital channels and social media.

How do I analyze my audience? 

To analyze your audience, you need to assess the potential strengths of your target audience to determine if it is big enough to generate sufficient demand (i.e. sales), such as:

  • Size
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Growth rates
  • Competitors, etc.

You also need to assess whether that audience is viable from a purchasing standpoint. For example, if your price point is $1,000, is it reasonable to expect to target teenagers? It might be better to alter that target audience before you go to market.

How can I best get feedback from my audience?

Your customers are your crowd and you need to treat getting feedback like receiving a new form of currency. It has loads of value, and the best way to get it is to make feedback central to how you market to your customers. Every interaction, every site you sell on, you should capture reviews (positive or negative). In your packaging. Via customer support. Everywhere you can. Many tools exist to capture and track feedback across your channels and, more importantly, to analyze it to understand where your product/service shines or could use help.

When should I grow my audience? 

There is an expression: “Walk before you run.” Don’t start growing your audience until you really know what value you provide, what you are and are not, who you want to market your product to, and just as importantly, who not to market to. Crawl first (before even walking) and start to test the market, via messages, images, channels, price points, etc., to see what resonates with your customers. Pick up the pace from there and consistently gauge progress against what you have done in the past. If something works, do it more. If something fails, analyze why and likely stop doing it.

Grow your audience in a way that you always know what works and doesn’t. Marketers who are frantic in their approach and who try to market to everyone do not succeed. Digital audiences give you the ability to test, get signals on what works and doesn’t, and then test again. That’s not only how you find your audience, but that is how you keep them.


Thank you, Glenn, for your expert insight! Look out for more resources about expanding your business with #YLAIBrandBetter

Este artículo está disponible en español.