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What Is A Target Market? A Guide for Aspiring Marketers

WVU Online | Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Think about anything you have ever bought because of an ad, commercial or a friend told you about it. Did it feel like the brand had you exactly in mind? That’s because you were a part of that brand’s target market — the group of people that need a product the most. All marketers must be able to identify and understand a target market. With WVU Online, it’s one of the many skills rising marketers learn.

What is a Target Market?

In marketing, a target market is a group of consumers at which a product or service is aimed. These groups often have things in common like age. For example, a generation can be considered a target market for a product or service.

A target market answers the question of who are we talking to? It helps you learn about who you’re talking to, how old they are, where they are located and some of the other characteristics of this group - things that are important to identify in all types of digital marketing campaigns.

Target markets typically start as broader statements about a group of people in which a product or service is targeted at.

Target Market vs Target Audience

Marketers need to understand both a target market and a target audience and the differences between them.

While a target market is a broader group of people that a product or service is aimed, a target audience is the specific group of people with shared characteristics in which ads and other promotional efforts are aimed.

For a target market, demographics are an important factor in establishing a broad group of people you’re talking to, and for a target audience, psychographics are an important factor in understanding what your target market is thinking, believing, etc. A target audience cannot be identified without first identifying the target market.

Both a target market and a target audience are important for marketers, and understanding the differences between the two sets a good marketer and a great marketer apart.

Target markets help answer the question who are we marketing to? in a more general sense while target audiences help answer the question how do we reach this group?

The next step in truly understanding who you’re talking to is to create a user persona. A user persona is a profile created by marketers that represents an imaginary individual within the chosen target market and audience. Usually, you give this persona a catchy name that reflects the audience, and you fill in details about them from age and education level to their thoughts and beliefs. To create a user persona, you need the target market and target audience information you’ve already collected.

Identifying a target market and a target audience are important skills for marketers because it helps guide your next steps in the process of creating and executing a campaign.

Why Target Markets Are Important for Businesses and Marketers

Target markets are valuable to businesses and marketers because they help you effectively sell a product or service to the right people. They help marketers and businesses streamline the marketing and sales process and save resources in the process.

By getting it right from the beginning on who you are selling to, you ultimately save valuable resources like time and money while effectively selling a product or service.

Let’s look at an example.

Say a company just launched a new collection of dog toys, but they have products for all kinds of pets and farm animals. When it comes to selling the new line of dog toys, the business’ marketing team needs to decide on the target market. It wouldn’t be their current customer base because they sell products for all kinds of animals, so they would choose to target dog owners specifically.

Dog owners are their target market for the new dog toys. By choosing this group, the marketers know exactly who they are talking to and who the new products are aimed at. If the marketers were to sell to everyone, they would be wasting time and resources on trying to sell products to people who have no use for them.

The company with new dog toys employed the concepts of a target market in order to sell its product. While just an example, it shows how target markets are valuable to businesses and marketers alike.

Target markets help businesses and marketers reach marketing goals and objectives, and they play a role in broader business and company goals.

It is vital for aspiring marketers to understand target markets because understanding target markets are the foundation of all marketing skills.

Target markets are the driving force behind certain marketing strategies and decisions, and they help guide the steps of the marketing process.

By keeping in mind who you’re trying to reach and talk to, aspiring marketers can learn to make the appropriate decisions moving forward in the marketing process. Being able to identify and understand target markets helps kickstart the skills an aspiring marketer needs.

Target Market Segment Types

When it comes to finding a target market, there are a few different approaches marketers can use in settling on a target market. The four most common approaches and techniques are highlighted below.


Demographic segmentation is one of the most common ways to find a target market because it is information that is usually easiest to obtain about a specific group of people. Demographics are things like: age, education level, income, nationality, gender, ethnicity, marital status, race, and employment.


Psychographic segmentation is another common way to find a target market because it is information about the beliefs, thoughts, opinions, values, interests and lifestyles.

Finding a target market based on psychographics can be a bit difficult at times, and it requires more research than finding a target market based on demographics.

Despite being a bit more difficult to find, a target market based on psychographics can actually provide more information that is beneficial to marketers because it tells marketers how an audience is thinking.

Say there is an app designed to help young people transition from the life of a partying college student to the more structured life of a young professional.

An example of this target market based on psychographics is: people ages 21-26 who were partiers in college but are looking to disconnect from the hectic schedules of the last year of college and find more structure and balance in their routines.


Behavioral characteristics is a segmentation method that relies on the behaviors and behavioral patterns of the company’s current consumer base.

Because the group of people are already consumers of the specific brand, more information is available to marketers about consumer behavior and potential patterns related to certain products and services and marketing efforts.

New products may be introduced by a brand based on what has already performed well and the data a marketer has on previous products.

A target market based on behavioral segmentation would be the group that previously bought a specific product from a company. For example, say a coffee company launches a new line of tea to diversify its product offerings.

The company would probably choose from its current consumers who have bought tea from them in the past rather than the consumers who are dedicated espresso buyers.


Geographic segmentation has become increasingly important and popular as marketing has become a more global practice.

With the importance of the Internet in the marketing and sale processes, companies and marketers have to be aware of geographic considerations. For global companies and businesses, they may find that focusing particular products and services on target markets like French consumers or Japanese consumers are useful.

How To Define A Target Market

1. Research (and More Research)

The first step to finding your target market begins with multiple rounds of in-depth research.

Some marketers will use secondary research (research from other people and databases) while others will use primary research (things you execute and analyze like surveys and focus groups) and company data. Some of the best marketers will use both secondary and primary research to craft a clear picture of their target market.

When it comes to researching a target market, in-depth research is important because it helps create a clear picture of who you’re talking to. If you can truly understand the driving factors and characteristics of your audience — who they really are — you’ll be able to market effectively to them.

2. Segment Your Target Market

Once you have an idea of who you’re talking to, it is time to segment your audience so that you can identify exactly who you’re talking to.

Using the different segmentation methods above, you can paint a picture of who you’re going to be marketing toward and communicating with.

As a reminder, demographics and geographics help set the scene of who you’re talking to, and psychographics and behavioral methods help tell you how to talk to them and why you should talk to them.

Once your audience is appropriately segmented, you can begin to think about how what you offer solves something for the target market.

3. Understand What Your Segment Needs and How You Can Be the Answer

Ultimately, the purpose of marketing is to answer something or to provide a solution for the target market.

Once you know who your target market is, it’s your job to understand their needs, wants, desires and problems. Now that you know this information, you need to figure out the benefits of your product or service.

When you find the problem/desire of the audience that is directly answered by one of your benefits, you’ve found the right way to market toward this group. This overlap of a target market’s desires and your product’s benefits sets up the rest of the marketing process.

Real-World Examples of Target Markets

One mistake many people make is deciding to market to everyone.

You can’t be everything to everyone, but if you can find who needs the solutions you provide, you’ve succeeded. The company we’ll look at that uses target markets effectively knows it can’t be everything to everyone, but it can be the traveling solution for a specific group of people.

Airbnb, the homestay, hotel-alternative company, operates on the idea that to truly experience a new place, you need to be immersed in it.

Unlike hotels, which are pretty standard regardless of location, Airbnb provides the opportunity to stay in lodging that is authentic to the location an individual is in. Airbnb has long used psychographics and geographics to create target markets.

In one of their latest campaigns, the company launched a new product called Airbnb Rooms where individuals actually rent rooms out of a host’s home. To help with the launch of the more budget-friendly option, the company created 30-second testimonials from people talking about the experience with their hosts.

Given that it’s a more budget-friendly option, this campaign has a target market of younger travelers who are looking for authentic experiences in cities they’ve never visited before.

When looking at some of the other installments of this campaign, this target market really emerges as you see pictures and videos from the trips these individuals in the testimonials took. Take a look at another one of these commercials and pay close attention to the nods toward the target market.

Learn How To Develop Your Marketing Skills at WVU Online

Now that you’ve got an understanding of the foundational theory and skills of target markets, take your knowledge to the next level with the degree and certificate offerings at WVU Online.

Learn the skills all marketers need, plus skills and certifications that fit your specific interests. If you’re ready to take the leap, don’t hesitate to explore everything WVU Online has to offer and how they can help you reach your career goals.

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