Seth Godin, the best-selling author, marketer, entrepreneur, and public speaker has a quote that I love: “The key to failure is trying to please everyone.” As a marketer, I’m constantly annoying my clients with questions about their ideal customer. Sometimes I get a well thought out and researched response. Other times I get a vague answer. While it might be true that all adults over 30 years of age could potentially be your customer, those are not well-defined parameters for marketing purposes.

There’s a temptation to think as broadly as possible about your target audience. Even seasoned marketers make this mistake. It might seem logical, after all, why wouldn’t you want to sell to as many customers as possible?

You have probably heard the saying, “When you speak to everyone, you actually speak to no one.” Anyone who has tried to organize a departmental or company-wide activity knows how difficult it is to cater to everyone’s desires. You end up organizing an event using the lowest common denominator which results in minimal enjoyment for all.

By narrowly defining the audience you can develop messaging that reaches and connects with individuals. The message can address a specific problem the person is experiencing, but in order to be effective you need to understand precisely who you’re talking to. This is true in both B2C and B2B marketing.

Developing an audience persona is a great way to pinpoint your target market. Choose the perfect customer for your product or service and create a bio for that person that answers three main questions:


  • The person’s background (job, career path, family)
  • Demographics (gender, age, income)
  • Personality identifiers (demeanor, communication preference, device usage)


  • Personal and/or professional goals
  • Challenges
  • Opportunities


  • Write down quotes about the person’s goals and challenges
  • Common objections (why might they not buy?)

Here are some best practices to use when developing audience personas:

  1. Focus on the motives behind the behaviors
  2. Keep personas fictional but also realistic
  3. Choose one primary persona (for each product or service)
  4. Tell your persona’s story

There are many methods you can use to develop an audience persona. The worst and easiest way is to make it up using assumptions. You’ll be far more accurate if you use industry, business, consumer and marketing data collected from multiple sources to develop an audience persona that is based on your best customers.

There are some easy ways to collect the data you’ll need to develop your audience persona(s). Interview customers and look for similar traits. Ask your sales people about their best clients. There’s a good chance the sales people will know a lot about the customers including personal information. If you keep an email list of your customers you can send out a survey.

Okay, I know this is a digital marketing column. If I were contractually obligated to do anything, it would be to include something in this column that mentions the internet. So here it goes. Most companies use Google Analytics to track their company’s website usage. This tool provides multiple reports that show extensive information about your site’s audience. You can see basic demographic information like gender, age, and geography, but there’s much more available.

Because Google is collecting an estimated ton and a half of data points related to web usage, there’s psychographic information that will help you better understand your visitors’ personality. There are affinity segments that highlight the users’ interest. Whether a person is an avid skier, a technophile, or a news junkie, their online behavior will give this away. There are also in-market segments that provide insights into current shopping behavior and interests.

Another resource that can provide a plethora of relevant data points is social networks, specifically Facebook and Linkedin. Your company page on Linkedin provides professional demographic information of the users who follow your page including seniority, job function, industry, and company size. If you’re active on the professional social network you can see the characteristics of your followers who are most likely to interact and engage. If you have a company Facebook page you can easily look up demographic information about the people who follow your page – their age, gender, and geographic location.

One of the great benefits of taking the time to define your target audience is that it can help you determine your company’s positioning. Carving out a niche segment in the market will eliminate all of that pesky competition you have to deal with. You can’t be all things to all people, so let the other guys try to please everyone and fail.