A Practical Guide to Audience Targeting

Knowing your customers is the first step to building an effective marketing and sales strategy. If you don’t know customer expectations, how will your business meet them? 

With audience targeting, marketers can segment their audience by their needs, interests, demographics, geography, and psychological behaviors. You get the right messages in front of the right audiences. In other words, you create and deliver personalized experiences to every single customer.

When you know who your customers are and how to use audience targeting, you’ll spend less time and money on marketing that doesn’t work. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about audience targeting and how to use it for your business. 

Table of contents

Why audience targeting matters

Audience targeting is important for every business, regardless of industry. Here are the top reasons why. 

Build customer loyalty and brand affinity 

Customer loyalty and brand affinity are two metrics that increase your customer retention. The two are connected, but brand affinity is how customers feel about your business and products. Loyalty focuses more on how someone continues to buy a product or service from a brand because it works and they like it. 

With strong loyalty and affinity, customers will buy your products even if your competitors offer discounts or deals.

Audience targeting helps you better understand your target audiences and what they care about. For example, you can analyze data from online surveys or social media to determine how to connect with them. Look at what types of content they engage with and reflect that on your paid and organic channels. 

Deliver more relevant content 

In a Marketo survey, 51% of consumers said that many brands send irrelevant content that irritates them. Of course, an annoyed customer won’t pay attention to your brand’s message.

Instead of creating content for the sake of it, focus on what your customers care about most. Audience targeting can help you identify the type of content your audience wants. 

Here are a few strategies you can use to identify content that resonates with your audience. 

  • Review mining – Pull online reviews from Google, Trustpilot, and your website. Compile your data and look at patterns. What benefits do they mention? For competitors, what are the main complaints? Include those patterns in your content, landing pages, and ads.
  • Sales feedback and CRM data – When sales and marketing work together, you have a more complete picture of customer pain points and needs. Then, create content that solves those pain points and answers their questions.

Increase personalization and customer satisfaction

Personalized marketing isn’t just sending emails with the customer’s first name. It’s understanding how you provide the most value to your customers and how to use it to improve marketing results. 

Here are a few ways that audience targeting improves personalization. 

  • Track past customer purchases and make personalized recommendations for similar products or refills. When you know what they’ve bought before, you can get more repeat customers. 
  • Create personalized customer profiles that show every interaction a customer has with your brand. For example, a skincare brand could look at which product videos a customer views. Then, serve ads for the products in those videos. 

Audience targeting identifies your target audience’s interests and behaviors. Your marketing team can curate personalized emails, ads, and content for each customer. Personalized marketing also shows customers that a business cares about their needs. It can feel like the brands “get them”, so they are more likely to stick around.

Lower your ad spend and improve performance

Targeting ads too broadly often results in wasted ad dollars. You spend more money to reach a larger audience, but only a tiny percentage of them convert.  

When you narrow your marketing efforts to specific consumers, you focus on moving prospects down the sales funnel. You spend less on ads that don’t perform. Instead, get the most effective ads in front of your audience for a higher return on investment (ROI) and conversions. 

Remember the rule: develop your marketing efforts based on quality instead of quantity. 

Types of audience targeting

There are various ways to target audiences using both first-party and third-party data. Here are some of the most common ways to reach a specific audience. You can segment your audience in several different ways – demographics, interests, and purchase behavior.


Demographics focuses on audience data that focuses on general characteristics, which include but are not limited to:

  • Age
  • Education
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • Family size
  • Income
  • Marital status 

Targeting your audience with these segments is more effective for top-of-the-funnel campaigns. You’re trying to create awareness of your brand in the market. 

You can also be more specific with your demographic segment. For instance, instead of “18 to 25-year-old females,” you can use “females that work in finance industries.” 

Interests (psychographic)

Psychographic targeting focuses on the consumer’s personality traits and motivations that affect purchasing decisions. It helps marketers develop more differentiated segments than demographics alone.

Psychographic targeting generally includes the following:

  • Interests
  • Attitudes
  • Activities
  • Opinions 
  • Values

You can identify what products and services will suit a customer’s lifestyle, values, and interests. 

Purchase (behavioral)

Behavioral audience targeting is based on customers’ past searches, purchases, and other behaviors. It looks at what customers previously bought, why they made a purchase, and how often they buy certain products.

You can collect this information from a customer’s profile, search history, and activities on your website. An efficient tracking system can also measure how a customer interacts with your brand on social media. 

Behavioral audience targeting can help you identify customers who have already shown interest in their brand. Then, you can convince these customers to move further down the sales funnel with relevant content and ads.

How to find your target audience

The people who will buy your product or service and become loyal customers are your target audience. 

If you have an established customer base but are new to audience targeting, create profiles of your current customers. However, if you are starting a new business or launching a new product, you’ll need to define your audience. Here are some suggestions on ways to find your target audience.

Ask questions

Before determining your ideal audience, you must first define your product or service. What problems does your product solve? Who will benefit from it? Once you find your answers, you can curate your marketing efforts specifically for different audiences.

For example, a health food company debuts a new gluten-free snacks line. They are offering gluten-free and health-conscious consumers a new option for snacks that fit their dietary restrictions and lifestyle choices. 

Analyze your customer data

Do you have a CRM system with customer records or a loyalty program? Depending on the information you’ve collected, you can comb through it to find trends in customer location, age, or gender. You can also determine the behavior, attitude, and interactions of customers with your brand. 

You can also gather audience data from other online tools, like Google Analytics, to determine your site’s audience. Similarly, you can also utilize Amazon data to find out who is buying your products on Amazon.

Survey your customers

If you have a customer base but don’t know much about them beyond an email address, try surveying them to find some basic demographic and psychographic info. You can use SurveyMonkey or a similar tool to create a survey, and then offer your customers a small incentive to fill it out.

Remember to ask specific questions from your customers to collect relevant feedback. For example, suppose you’re a clothing company. You can ask your customers the following questions in the survey:

  • What are three clothing brands you frequently wear? 
  • Why did you choose our “black oversized hoodie” over other options?
  • What do you like the most about our products? What do you dislike? 

Create customer personas 

You can also find your target audiences for different products by creating customer personas.

Customer personas help marketers understand the audiences they want to sell to. They also help marketers understand how customers will use their product or service. 

Use research tools

First-hand data has the highest level of accuracy. So it’s better to collect consumer data on your own. You can also opt for different research tools if you don’t want to spend much time on data collection.

Marketing research tools can be useful for uncovering industry-level audience trends. Tools like eMarketer, Simmons, IBIS World, and AudienceView provide demographic and behavioral data by vertical. 

You can use this data to understand overall consumer patterns. However, it can require a lot of manual work and it’s not fully customized to your business or customers.

Work with a market research firm

Are you rebranding or planning a product launch? Maybe you want to make your campaigns more effective. Professional market research can help you design the right audience.

However, research is only part of the equation. You also need insights and actionable steps that you can implement in your marketing. Goodway created Passport One™ to help brands create and implement actionable targeting strategies. It’s a good fit for brands: 

  • With existing first-party data that needs enhancing
  • That don’t have first-party data and want to start collecting and leveraging it

Passport One is an audience-discovery tool that provides marketers with a curated database to reach customers, enhance existing first-party data and create new opportunities for closed-loop measurement. 

With PassPort One, brands can: 

  • Access over 300 million consumer profiles
  • Improve, model, expand, and compare first-party data to create new segments
  • Discover more sophisticated audience segments 
  • Uncover any audience data, including insights and behavioral trends
  • Target and suppress advanced audiences across device IDs and media channels

Audience targeting for programmatic ads

Audience targeting has always existed. A prime example of this is posters and billboards for outdoor advertising. While it targets an audience in a specific location, it is invisible to people living far away.

Demographic targeting has been around for a long time as well. In fact, it is still the primary way to buy audiences in traditional media channels like print, TV, and radio. The digital nature of programmatic advertising lends itself to unique audience targeting tactics that didn’t exist previously, including: 

  • Retargeting
  • People-based marketing 
  • Exclusion targeting
  • Look-alike targeting


Remember when you searched for out-of-state flights and started seeing ads for the exact flight? That’s retargeting. With this strategy, you can target users who visited your site and performed certain actions. 

A few years ago, retargeting was only available in digital advertising due to advanced tracking tools. But recently, traditional advertising has been catching up. For example, with advanced TV, you can track users as they watch TV and use on-demand services, and serve them retargeted ads.

People-based marketing

People-based marketing combines audience data from offline and online sources to create detailed customer profiles. Instead of grouping customers into broad categories or targeting by channel alone, businesses focus on reaching real people. 

You can upload your offline CRM data into an advertising platform and segment your audience in various ways. Let’s use a pet store as an example. 

You can segment users who are frequent shoppers and encourage them to sign up for a rewards program. You can also offer them a coupon for being loyal shoppers. Not only that, but you can also cross-sell by targeting dog food shoppers and showing them offers to buy dog toys. Similarly, you can show cat litter shoppers’ offers for cat food. 

The possibilities are endless when you slice and dice your customer data to create custom segments relevant to your business.

Exclusion targeting

Also known as suppression targeting, exclusion targeting is another way to refine your audience. Exclusion targeting allows you to choose audience segments you don’t want to reach out to. Doing so also ensures that these people are blocked from seeing your ads. 

For example, customers who only buy dog products probably don’t have a cat. Thus, when setting up campaigns, you can exclude your dog audience so they don’t get the ads for cat products.

Look-alike targeting

Finally, look-alike targeting allows you to create a mirror audience with the same characteristics as your first-party data. For example, you can create audiences similar to your retargeting audience or those in your CRM data. 

This targeting tactic lets you expand your audience and reach new people who are more likely to be interested. Because they share similar qualities to your existing customers, you increase the chances that they’ll make a purchase too. 

Expert audience targeting strategies

Now that you know the importance of audience targeting in marketing, you can start developing your strategies. There are many ways to collect data from audiences to know if they have the potential to be your customers.

Here are some expert-level audience targeting strategies you can adopt to take your marketing efforts up a notch:

A/B test your ad creative 

The possibilities for A/B testing are endless – call to action, logo placement, image background color, button size, color, offer, and messaging. However, for a true test, all elements of the creative need to stay the same except for the comparison being tested.

A/B testing splits an existing target audience into two groups. The first group (Group A) acts as the control group, while the other (Group B) serves as the treatment group. 

Here’s a short checklist to set up an A/B test for your marketing campaign:

  • First, pick one variable to test.
  • Identify what you want to achieve from this test.
  • Determine which group is the control group and which is the treatment group.
  • Divide the groups equally and randomly.
  • Only test one variable at a time in a single campaign.


Geography seems straightforward – only advertise where you sell. However, some areas might be more responsive than others. Comparing can help you figure out which regions perform best.

You can group customers by country, region, city, rural, suburban, urban, and even postal codes. Also, using tactics like geo-conquesting can increase conversions. With geo-conquesting, you use location data to identify when someone is nearby a competitor’s location. When they are, you can your product instead. 


When your message is received can impact how effective it will be. You can test out different times of day and different days of the week to see when your customers will be most receptive.

A Hootsuite analysis of 30,000+ social media posts found the ideal timing for social media posting on different channels. 

  • Facebook – 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Instagram – 11:00 AM on Wednesdays
  • Twitter – 8:00 AM on Mondays and Thursdays
  • LinkedIn – 9:00 AM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • TikTok – 7:00 PM on Thursdays

However, this is general knowledge. It can be a useful benchmark but customize it for your customers. Audience targeting can help you identify the best time for your audience. 

Technology and device

What technology is your audience using to view your ads? Optimizing for devices, browsers, and operating systems will ensure that you reach your audience correctly. For example, using Google Analytics, you can see how many customers use desktops, mobiles, or tablets. 

Knowing this information helps you design products and apps for diverse target audiences. But, you can get more granular with it. 

Real results

Using these audience targeting tactics, we’ve seen great results across countless campaigns. For example, in our campaign for a cable marketing group, we used offline data for an online Facebook campaign. We also created look-alike audiences based on offline data. 

There was a 79% drop in the cost-per-lead (CPL) and an 80% increase in leads over a 12-month period.

Audience targeting does more than help you reach a desired audience. It tells you what messages and content will resonate with customers. Leveraging audience data with marketing can help brands increase conversions and lower spend on paid and organic channels.