The Target Audience Companies Keep Forgetting About

The Target Audience Companies Keep Forgetting About

29th September 2011

I do a lot of training sessions, I speak a lot and I help companies figure out what their strategy should be when it comes to online. Even though every client is different, there is always one question which I will ask every client, every attendee at training sessions and sometimes even the audience when I speak: what is your target audience?

Funny enough in nine out of ten times the answer is wrong. Or at least partially wrong. They are always missing one part of their target audience. Let me explain.

The obvious target audience: your (potential) clients

When the question is answered the first answer usually is “our clients”, followed by “our potential clients”. And off course they are right: these are their target audiences and you want your online strategy to at least focus on them for the most part. After all, they are the ones bringing in the money, right?

A client should be able to find their stuff on your website, they should be triggered to not just buy the stuff they usually buy, but also ‘new stuff’. There are many conversion experts who can tell you exactly what you should do if you want to please these (potential) clients and make them buy your product. It is a big part of your online strategy and a big part of your target audience, but not all of it.

The not so obvious target audience: the influencer

The answers usually stop at the clients and potential clients. And that is where I get surprised over and over again. It seems as if many organizations still do not have ‘influentials’ down as their target audience. And in this case I don’t just mean the Robert Scobles of this world, but potentially everybody who is willing to talk about your product or services, without them actually having to buy your product.

The influentials are people who you should target in a different way than your potential client. After all, you are not convincing them to buy a product, but to talk about the product.

And that is a very important difference. These people do not want to be targeted like a potential buyer. If you ‘haunt’ them trying to convince them to buy the product they are more likely to start hating the product in stead of loving it. And they might start talking about your product, it won’t be in a very nice way. And at that point your strategy is doing the exact opposite of what is is supposed to be doing.

So how do you please these influencers?

To be able to please the influencers you’ll have to get up from your chair. Stand up, walk around and sit on a different chair: that of the influential. And its not that difficult really, because you might very well be a potential influencer yourself. Maybe not of your own product, but maybe of somebody else’s. Just think: How would you like to be treated?

Influentials have been there forever, it is nothing new. In fact, the first person who actually understood the usage of influentials, those spreading his words, may even have been Jesus Christ. After all, he had twelve followers (with one of them un following him by the way). But he didn’t just look at these followers as the ones he should be spreading to word to, he looked at the apostles as people who could spread his words towards others. You could say he ‘invented’ word of mouth. And we have been doing that ever since, just think about your every day life. You eat a specific restaurant because you probably heard from somebody the food was good. And you want the iPad because your next door neighbor has one…

So as a marketer you are targeting people like yourself, those that are willing to talk about your product. As said, what not to do is target them in the same way you are targeting your potential clients. Here are three ways you could give them the opportunity to spread the word:

Social Media Buttons

One of the easier ways is to get your social media buttons in order. But you should think a step further than just “like”, “+1+ or “tweet this product”. Make people important by giving them the opportunity to share about the product. For example make a tweet button which says “I have this product and its cool” or something in that line. The essence is that you speak to them not in the selling way, but in the ‘we are connected” way.

Get them to write reviews

The influentials are the people you want writing your reviews, it doesn’t have to be somebody who bought the product with you necessarily. It could be somebody who is using the product you are selling. Try to convince them too to leave a review of the product.

Let them share their experiences

The most important part here is that you give the influentials the possibility to share their experiences. It could be an experience about you, about a product, but also an experience about someone else, anonimised if necessary. You could for example explain how much you care for customer service and ask them to share about what they think is good customer service. Have them share a story on what they thought was good or bad. The next time they will be talking about customer experience chances are they will mention you as someone who really cares about customer experience.


The essence of it all is that you start thinking of your target audience not just as potential buyers, but also as potential influencers, or apostles. Make sure you help them spread your word without selling them anything.


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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