What Is a Target Demographic? (Plus How to Identify Yours)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Demographics represent characteristics of a group of people, which you can use to create more customised marketing efforts. There are many types of demographics and methods for gathering information about customer demographics. Learning about target audiences for business use may improve your ability to generate sales revenue and find loyal customers. In this article, we explain what target demographics are and provide steps to determine them.

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What is a target demographic?

When a business wants to identify its target customers for marketing purposes, it defines them using target demographics. Demographics represent the observable and measurable characteristics of a group of people or a population. Some common examples of demographic information include:

  • age

  • gender

  • race or ethnicity

  • geographic location

  • education level

  • occupation

  • income

  • marital status

  • number of children

  • living status (renter or homeowner)

Understanding the demographics of current and potential customers can help a business define its target markets.

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Target demographic vs. target market

A target audience and a target market are similar, although they represent two different concepts. You cannot create a target market without identifying the customers' demographics. Here are some differences between the two terms:

Target audiences represent specific characteristics

Demographics refer to customers' identifiers. For example, a customer may be a 32-year-old single woman who makes $76,000 annually or a 50-year-old unemployed father of two. Each of those traits demonstrates a demographic.

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Target markets represent customer groups, whereas demographics help define and create target markets

Using the previous example, the 32-year-old woman may represent a group likely to purchase a makeup company's new line. You can create a target market using those demographics, such as single women between the ages of 18 and 35, who make between $50,000 and $80,000 annually.

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Target markets include more details

To create a target market, a company often relies on more information than just customer demographics. For example, beyond age, gender and income level, a company may research customers' interests, hobbies or preferences. The term for this information on customers' internal motivations is psychographic research. Using the previous example, the makeup company may seek out that specific demographic group but focus its marketing messages on its members who enjoy wearing natural-looking makeup rather than bold styles.

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How to identify a target audience

You can use the following steps to help identify your workplace's target audience:

1. Define the business

To understand your workplace's target audience or audience, it may be best to first understand your employer's business. Think about the products or services your workplace provides. Ask what needs or interests the company meets or what problems it solves. Identifying these goals can help you figure out the type of customers you want to reach.

For example, a company that sells at-home exercise equipment may want to target customers who already work out often and feel comfortable using equipment without instruction. Or it may target individuals who are new to working out and need easy-to-use equipment. By evaluating the business and its customer goals, the company has a broad idea of who it wants to reach. Taking further steps to define its customers can enable the company to customise its marketing or services.

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2. Analyse current customers

If you work for a company already selling products or services, you can look at the company's existing customers to learn what demographics it already reaches. If the company has a digital presence, such as a website or social media profiles, you can use analytics software or tools to find this information. These resources can often tell you customer demographic details such as age, location and gender. You can also sometimes learn details about your visitors' interests or lifestyle preferences.

For example, the at-home exercise equipment company can use analytics tools to discover that men between the ages of 25 and 50 who live in Australia represent its typical customer. This information demonstrates who the company has already reached, but it may not represent its target audience. Depending on its target audience, the company may want to keep its marketing efforts the same to reach a similar audience or change them to attract new customer types.

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3. Communicate directly with customers

You can contact customers directly to learn more about their demographics. This may be more time-consuming, but it can give you accurate information. You can communicate via phone, email or social media to ask customers about their demographics.

For example, if you run an at-home exercise equipment business, you could message some of your members on social media and ask them about their ages and gender or for photos of themselves using your products. Always get consent before posting a customer's photo. This information not only helps you learn more about the customers in your target audience but also begins to define what the members of your target audience look like to other people.

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4. Conduct secondary market research

Once you have a general idea of your workplace's target audience, you can conduct basic market research. This research may involve only a few steps, but it can provide valuable insight into your workplace's customer demographics and assist in creating a target audience. You can begin by researching online resources that provide information about demographic trends, such as census websites, government-operated reporting organisations and private data providers. Here are some questions to guide you in this research:

  • What are the current demographics of your area?

  • How do they compare to the demographics of your workplace's target market?

  • Are there differences between your region and national demographic trends?

You can also research more information about your workplace's customers directly. For example, if you work for a clothing company and design activewear, you can contact speciality shops or athletic brands to learn more about specific demographics that wear their clothes. Alternatively, you can interview people in groups similar to your target market to better understand their motivations and interests. You also can conduct surveys or focus groups with members of these relevant populations to gain insights into their demographics.

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5. Review your competitors

Now that you have the information to create a target audience, you may have questions about the customers you've already reached. You can use research tools and social media profiles to review your competitors' demographics or review their products or services to see if they're targeting the same people as you. For example, a clothing company can use social media analysis tools to see what kinds of clothes its competitors sell and against what demographics those clothes appeal. This information can help reveal opportunities for new products or services your workplace can provide through marketing campaigns.

Another example is an online service provider that's competing with other services. It can look at other companies or products to see if there are similarities that appeal to its target audience. It may discover that an online video streaming service offers a similar service for less than it does.

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6. Create personas

Last, you can create personas of your target audience, which represent members of your target market based on their demographics. Personas are fictional characters you can create to represent members of a specific demographic.

Personas help define the members of your target audience and their behaviours, motivations and interests. If you have the resources to do so, creating personas may be ideal in helping you understand that specific group and its needs. You can begin by determining the person's age range, gender pronouns, location, social or economic status and interests. Then, describe who they are or what they've experienced in their lives through fictional stories consisting of a name and a brief biography.

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