Understanding Target Market vs Target Audience: What’s the Key Difference?

Understanding the key differences between a target market vs target audience is an important step to creating a marketing and advertising strategy that works.

Understanding Target Market vs Target Audience: What's the Key Difference?

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With so many terms and colloquialisms used in digital marketing, it can be hard to determine exactly what is meant by phrases that sound similar, like “customer persona” and “ideal customer profile”. 

Another common example of terms that are often confused with each other is “target market” vs ‘target audience”. 

Both mean different things and have different applications in your marketing and advertising strategies. When you don’t understand the difference, it can be difficult to create well-rounded plans that bring value to your brand. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between a target market vs target audience and explain why each one is important for a digital marketing strategy.

    What is a Target Market?

    These are the people who you think will search for, recognize, purchase, and use your products or services. The target market will have similar demographic features, such as: 

    • Age
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Ethnicity
    • Income
    • Education
    • Marital Status
    • Occupation
    • Location 

    A target market refers to a large group of people who you think can benefit from your brand’s offerings. 

    This market is the focus of your marketing activities, and all of your marketing campaigns should reference it. 

    However, keep in mind that the target market is rather broad. While there might be some demographic similarities, the target market is a less-defined group of end-users.

    How to Identify a Target Market

    As mentioned above, a target market is part of the foundational development of your business. 

    You don’t want to use guesswork to think about who it might be, you want to conduct research and know for certain who you are marketing to and who uses your products or services. 

    Here are a few of the steps to take when identifying your target market.

    1. Analyze Your Products and Services

    The first step is to take a look at what it is you have to offer. 

    What problems do your products or services solve? What types of people need those solutions? 

    Once you know the type of people who will be interested in what you have to offer, you can move on to the next step.

    2. Conduct Market Research

    The next step is to complete some market research and learn more about the people who you think will be interested in your brand. 

    You can use market analytics tools to help you understand the digital landscape and narrow down your market.

    3. See What Your Competition is Doing

    Your competitors can be a rich source of information. 

    Take a look at your top competitors and see who they are marketing to and what their markets are. You can use that information to determine if your market is the same, or try to find a gap in the market that you can focus on.

    4. Create a Target Market Profile

    Once you’ve decided who your target market is going to be, you need to document that so everyone in the company will know. 

    Even though a target market is most often used in marketing, it’s information that sales and customer service can also be used in their strategies.

    Why Should You Identify Your Target Market?

    Identifying your target market is a key step in the foundational development of your digital marketing strategies. After all, you need to know who to market to. 

    For example, if you sell mustache trimmers and beard oil, you probably aren’t marketing to women and don’t need to include them in your broad marketing strategies. Your target market is probably closer to men who are in the 30 to 60 age range. 

    The target market influences all the decisions your brand makes in marketing and even in business. 

    It helps you understand how your products and services benefit those who will use them and what type of approach will work best. 

    It helps to shape the steps involved in your sales and marketing efforts and what type of growth your brand should have.

    What is a Target Audience?

    Now that you understand what a target market is, let’s turn our attention to a target audience. 

    A target audience is a segment of your target market that you want to view specific marketing messages and advertisements

    In fact, target audiences are most commonly used in advertising when you need to narrow down and get specific about the people who want to advertise to. 

    A target audience is important for particular marketing activities like campaigns, promotions, and new initiatives. 

    It is more detailed and smaller than your broader market, which makes it a critical factor to consider when you aim to get granular with your marketing message and target a particular segment of your market.

    How to Identify a Target Audience

    Identifying a target audience works differently than your target market. 

    While a target market is a broad group that is essential for all of your business decisions, a target audience isn’t as essential to the growth of your brand. 

    You probably will have many target audiences for different campaigns and can create them using the following steps.

    1. Examine Your Customer Base

    Rather than starting from scratch, you have a target market to look at when creating a target audience. 

    Examine your current customer base and see where there is room to break that market down into different segments based on demographic or behavioral traits.

    2. Figure Out Who Your Audience Isn’t

    You want to know both who your audience is and who you don’t want to target in a specific campaign or advertising strategy. 

    That can help you create better filters for your strategies. You should avoid sending messages to parts of your market that won’t be receptive.

    3. Research Industry Trends

    Knowing more about your industry and the upcoming trends that are occurring can help you figure out which audiences will be most interested in your brand message. Who will be more likely to engage with the offering or advertisement you are promoting.

    4. Create Buyer Personas

    A buyer persona is a fictionalized representation of a real customer and can be used to help document and segment your target audiences within your target market. 

    A buyer persona can then be referenced during your marketing and advertising strategies by everyone in your organization.

    How Relevant is the Target Audience to Your Strategy?

    A target audience is incredibly important for your marketing campaigns and advertising decisions. 

    The types of platforms, channels, messaging, and formats you want to use will be dependent on the specific target audience you want to capture in your campaign. 

    Think back to our men’s facial hair care example from earlier. Let’s say you are creating a campaign to educate new beard growers about how to maintain their facial hair. 

    You probably want to target younger men in that campaign rather than the older end of your market. 

    That might mean you use TikTok as an advertising platform instead of Facebook. Also, that you use short-form content rather than long-form articles to advertise to the target audience.

    Target Market vs Target Audience: What’s the Key Difference?

    When it comes to comparing the target market vs target audience, the key difference is in the specificity of the group. 

    While both terms refer to a group of people who are interested in your brand’s products or services, a target market is a broader group of all the people who you think will be interested in your brand. 

    Your target audience is a specific segment of that broader market who are the focus of individual marketing campaigns. 

    Another way to think about target market vs target audience is to think about it as marketing vs advertising. 

    A target market is a foundational building block of your entire digital strategy, while a target audience is more important for your different marketing efforts and advertising strategies. 

    For example, if you sell books for kids aged 4 to 6, the children aged 4 to 6 are your target market. However, your target audience for marketing campaigns might be the parents and grandparents of these children, as they are the ones who will actually make the purchase.

    The target market refers to the end consumers (the kids) and the target audience refers to the people you need to reach with your marketing efforts (the adults who buy the books).

    You only have one target market, while you might have several target audiences that you use in different campaigns and advertising strategies.

    Target Market vs Target Audience FAQ

    What is the difference between target audience and target market?

    The target market is the broader group of people who might be interested in your product or service. The target audience is a specific segment within that market that you aim your marketing efforts towards.

    What is an example of a target market?

    An example of a target market could be “young adults aged 18-24 who are interested in fitness and healthy living.”

    What is considered a target market?

    A target market includes the broader demographic, geographic, psychographic, or behavioral groups of people who are potential customers for your product or service.

    Is market segmentation the same as target audience?

    No, market segmentation is the process of dividing a market into distinct groups based on various criteria. The target audience is a specific segment you choose to focus your marketing efforts on within the larger market.

    Wrap Up

    While the target market and target audience sound similar, they both refer to very different things. Knowing both is key to creating digital marketing strategies that convert. 

    Speaking of that, optimizing your conversion rate is an essential step in creating a successful flow of new business through marketing. 

    To learn more, check out our interactive guide to conversion rate optimization!

    You’ll learn how to create a conversion-focused strategy along with best practices, tips, and much more.


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