In order for your organization to craft compelling messages that lead to sales, you need to tailor those messages around a specific target audience. Really, you want to craft your marketing copy and content as though it were being delivered to one specific person. 

That may feel counterintuitive. After all, the mission of your organization is to reach everybody, or at least close to it. But the fact of the matter is that if you try to talk to everybody at once, what ends up happening is that no one listens. 

In fact, $37 billion is wasted in ad spend every year from ads that fail to engage a target audience, according to Marketing Evolution.

Defining your target audience allows you to understand exactly who you’re talking to: their age, gender, educational background, interests, particular pain points, and consumption patterns. Once you have clearly identified this person, you can begin speaking to them personally. 

Here are four ways to go about discovering who that person is. 

1. Start With Who You Already Have. 

Unless you’re starting a marketing strategy from scratch, your organization likely already has a database of customers or members. Learn as much as you can about those people.

Depending on how robust your data gathering tools have been to this point, you may have something substantial to go off of simply by pulling demographic reports of the people whose information you already have. 

If that isn’t the case, you may need to become more creative in the ways you learn about them, perhaps developing surveys for regular customers or case studies on the various projects your organization has been involved in.

2. Gain Insights From Similarly Situated Organizations.

Another way to gain insight about who you should be targeting is by looking to other organizations with a similar service, product, or mission. For nonprofit organizations, this may be another nonprofit with a similar goal. For others, it may be a competitor company with similar products or services to your own. 

Pay close attention to how they are speaking to their target audiences by looking at their websites and social media feeds, even attending webinars or downloading the various lead magnets they may be offering. 

It can be difficult to know exactly how effective their particular marketing strategies are at reaching their target audiences, so you don’t necessarily want to take their messaging strategies as gospel. However, there is much to learn by looking at a handful of similarly situated organizations, especially if you begin to see certain trends across more than one organization’s messaging.

3. Create Marketing Personas.

Once you have gathered information that helps you understand who your target audience is, take your process a step further by creating a persona for them. Create a description of your ideal customer, the one person that your organization is seeking to reach. Give them a name, a job, an educational background and defined income. Further, spell out their personal desires, frustrations, and goals. 

For example, the target persona for a suburban church may be Amy, a college educated mother of three and wife to a first responder who is over extended and perpetually busy. All of her children participate in sports and other activities, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day for her. Nevertheless, she wants to learn how to grow closer to God, become a better parent and spouse, and raise children who are kind, godly, and spiritually healthy. 

On the other hand, a target persona for a business-to-business project management software company may be Ralph, a mid-level manager in a medium sized organization who is managing too much, facing pressure from senior leadership to increase productivity but always feeling like he never has enough time to give each of his direct reports the level of care and attention they need to succeed, because he is constantly buried between a mountain of administrative tasks. 

For some organizations, you may even have more than one target persona, with unique marketing messages for each persona. For example, you may create a persona for the person in an organization who has the buying authority for your product, another for the person who will be managing the use of your product within the organization once purchased, and still another for someone whom the purchasing decision affects and may have some measure of influence in the buying process. 

Creating these personas helps you to give flesh and bones to the audiences you are seeking to reach.

4. Consistently Evaluate Which Marketing Messages Are Landing.

Discovering and defining your target audience is an ongoing process. You may think that you should be talking directly to one type of person when it’s actually someone else who would be interested in what your organization has to offer. Refining your audience description will allow you to continually hone in on that one precise person. 

In order to do that, your organization should constantly evaluate which marketing messages are making the biggest impact and mining into what makes those messages so effective. Why is a certain message, phrasing, or emphasis landing while others are not? 

Be willing to take a chance on certain messages, testing them for a sufficient amount of time to gauge their effectiveness but ultimately pulling them for revision if they simply aren’t working. Learn as much as you can about the people whom you want to serve. If you take the effort to understand their particular desires and needs, it will go a long way in connecting with them in a way that piques their interest for what you have to offer.