Our world is full of business terminology that people use without knowing the exact meaning. For instance, many people use the terms “target audience vs target market” interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing at all.
Imagine a mall that’s full of thousands of shoppers. From the perspective of a mall retailer, they are all “targets”.
But target audience vs target market… which are they? Let’s start with some examples.
What if you’re selling popcorn at a movie theater? The target audience would be the people coming to watch a movie. The target market, on the other hand, is everyone at the mall that could potentially decide to head to the movies (and thus get interested in buying popcorn).
Knowing the difference between the target audience and target market is essential for any sales rep, marketer or entrepreneur. The target market is defined as the whole group of people that a brand wants to sell to. In contrast, the target audience is much narrower; it’s a particular group of individuals the company expects to buy the product.
To put it short, the broader pool of potential clients is the target market. At the same time, the specific group of shoppers is the target audience.
You must clearly understand the difference between everyone who can potentially buy your product or service vs everyone who’s going to see your message inviting them to consider buying it.
Another example would be a company gives online Spanish 101 lessons. Their target market would be everyone with a guaranteed income and a desire to learn the language. While their target audience would be people who are looking for a similar service, such as “Spanish for beginners.”
In this case, you’re spending money on the target market and not the target audience. Hence, you must clearly understand the difference between everyone who can potentially buy your product or service vs those who are most likely in the market right now.
Creating a clear definition of your target audience, looking at a specific campaign (for a particular target audience), understanding who’s listening and who’s not — I believe is much more of an art than a science. Just like in the movie theater example, you need to look beyond the numbers and understand human behavior and trends.
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Many experienced entrepreneurs emphasize that human behavior still defines the marketing game. So beware — before jumping in, make sure it makes sense to you or your typical customer on a basic human level.
Perhaps you could start by targeting yourself first. That way you’ll understand better the little insights that can make or break a successful marketing campaign and startup.
Let’s consider tablet computers for children. It would make sense that the more IT savvy the parents are, the more likely they are to buy a tablet for their kids. So, the target market for kid tablets is IT savvy adults, right?
Not so fast.
You may have heard stories about Silicon Valley executives raising their kids completely gadget-free. In this case, a smarter approach could be approaching the grandparents. This audience is perfect for those who don’t know what gift to give their grandkids and want to keep up with the times.
If the tablet is not high-end, another angle could be targeting the gadget to lower-income families. Then you could drive home the link between technology and the higher likelihood of a child’s future success.
A similar example: marketing an apartment complex. Having an audience in mind is critical when you start thinking of setting pricing and investing in amenities. Secondary features can make your offering attractive to groups you hadn’t thought of: is there access to a bike path? Maybe a new business park is opening up? All of this can help you narrow your targeting in a way that sets your offering apart from nearby competitors.
I could encourage you to brush up on marketing terms, but that’s not nearly as important as understanding who your target audience vs target market truly is. Think through the whole process that applies to your product or service — starting from the moment the customer finds out about you.
If you do a good job of narrowing down what’s on the mind of your target audience, you might just hit the jackpot.
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