Marketing Audience Definition: What You Need To Know

Do you know who your true marketing audience is?

Stop and consider:
Why am I asking what appears to be a relatively basic marketing question?

Most marketers get it wrong!

They ONLY focus on customers and others who have an impact on purchase.

You overlook 2 other key elements of your brand’s total audience.

  • People who make money from your business (like employees) and
  • People interested in your business without purchase or income intentions (like community).

So don’t rush to check off target customer definition and marketing persona activities from your “To Do List”! Or, you’ll miss the larger, long term picture.

Instead, put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask:

  • What type of information and products do they want and/or need?
  • When and in what context do they want the content?
  • What will get them to act?

Based on customer context, location, timing and device used:
Ask yourself: “How can I best serve my total audience?”

To build and retain all of your audience, they need to know they:

  • Can TRUST you to support them and
  • Know you serve the community’s higher PURPOSES.

To accomplish this, you must know:

  • Who your audience is,
  • What your audience needs and wants from your business, and
  • How they want you to support their higher level aspirations.

By defining your audience in these broader terms, you maintain consistent messaging, build trust and grow business value.



Know Your Audience: How To Improve Marketing Results

As a marketer, you MUST understand your audience!

This isn’t negotiable.

You must know your audience first-hand and this means talking to them.

Tom WebsterIn a previous career, Tom Webster called this “The Bon Jovi Problem.”

When people said, “I don’t understand how Bon Jovi could sell 50 million records,” he replied “The problem is that you don’t understand 50 million people!”

At its core, this reflects Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans. A true fan is someone who will buy anything you produce and they meet 2 key criteria:

  • Create sufficient value from each fan. Kelly assumes $100 in profit.
  • Must have a direct relationship with you and must pay you directly.

As a result, they create the Long Tail Effect for obscure, low-sales products.

What’s your biggest challenge?

Jeff Rohrs“Audiences are all around you. They are direct, responsive, and extremely cost-effective. They’re also new, constantly evolving, and quick to anger if you cross them.

You company needs audiences to survive. If you aren’t building, engaging, and activating proprietary audiences of your own, you’re falling behind,” according to Jeffrey Rohrs, author of Audience.

Rohrs includes non-buyers in his definition of audience!

Actionable Marketing Tips:

  • Use every prospect, customer and end-user interaction to gain more information. Understand buyers from their perspective, not yours! EVEN if you are a customer for your offering. Otherwise, you risk being blind to what sets you apart from competitors and near substitutes.
  • Develop your target audience based on real customer feedback and data Create target customer definitions by digging into feedback and data from your audience’s point of view.


Audience Marketing Theory: What Will Make You Get Better Results

Meeting your audience’s needs is at the heart of marketing. At the broadest level, this drives your business. As a result, integrate marketing across your business.

Since your audience is key to your business, you must take the time to understand them and what they need from you. So your offer is unique. Without going through this process your business has no reason to exist.

At the foundation of marketing is to define your target audience correctly. In the process, it stress tests your business’s mission. Also it ensures the true needs of your entire audience align with your purpose.

People are the invisible ‘P’ in the 4 Ps of Marketing.

Because they’re assumed to be at the center of your marketing and your business more broadly.

Beyond your marketing persona, Integrate your target audience’s point of view  into every element of your business to maximize profitability.

Here’s what marketing theory says about your customers and your audience more broadly.

Theodore Levitt Defines Audience Based On Marketing Myopia Theory

Theodore LevittIn 1960, Theodore Levitt published Marketing Myopia in the Harvard Business Review. In it, he states businesses fail because they defined their business category wrongly.

For example, railroad companies missed the opportunity in terms of air travel because they didn’t consider themselves to be in the travel business.

Over time, businesses define themselves based on their offering, not their customers’ needs.

So they miss opportunities to grow and expand. Since they don’t see new products and services as competitors and substitutes. In the process, they neglect to meet existing customers’ evolving needs. 

In Levitt’s words:

“ […T]the entire corporation must be viewed as a customer-creating and customer-satisfying organism. Management must think of itself not as producing products but as providing customer-creating value satisfactions.”


Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker Defines Customers At Heart Of Business

According to Peter Drucker:

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer!”

Further, Drucker states:

“Marketing is not only much broader than selling; it is not a specialized activity at all.

It encompasses the entire business as seen from the point of view of its customers.

“Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise.”


If you limit marketing to a lead generation and sales support function, you limit business growth and increase costs.

Without taking a business wide approach to your customers, you limit your ability to maximize customer lifetime value (aka: CLTV).


Clayton Christensen Defines Audience With Job-To-Be-Done [JTBD] Approach

According to Clayton Christensen,

Your customers are not buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.”

This is similar to what Levitt said:
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

To fulfill their purchase objectives, you must meet their jobs-to-be-done (or JTBD for short.) This is independent of any product or service.

To start, understand the job-to-be-done. Also include associated experiences your customer needs and/or wants. So they will buy from you. This consists of 3 types of jobs:

  • Functional jobs focus on your audience’s main objective.
  • Emotional jobs relate to how your audience wants to feel about themselves and how they’re perceived by others.
  • Consumption jobs consist of how well a specific solution does the functional job.

Include all of the criteria that your audience uses to judge your offering (content, product and services). Focus on finding unmet customer needs and/or wants. Then:

  • Segment them based on importance and unmet needs and
  • Integrate time and likelihood metrics, aligned with jobs-to-be-done.
Christensen says: 'The competitive field is likely completely different from what you might have imagined.'Click To Tweet


So, use the solutions people jobs-to-be-done as the basis to identify the weaknesses of your competitors and close substitutes weaknesses.In every market there are multiple competitors and substitute offerings.


Audience BIO Approach: How To Get The Best Marketing Results

Why do you need to expand your audience beyond just customers?

By only focusing on customers, your business misses key ROI opportunities to:

  • Extend reach of owned media without cost.
  • Build trust and brand based on existing relationships. This requires you to be socially diverse across your organization and communities. Others with a vested interest in your organization can have major influence on your business. Since they may amplify problems or create opportunities.
  • Increase information input at low cost.
The key element of building your audience is the strength of your relationship with each member. The stronger the relationship, the increased value and marketing power.Click To Tweet


While organized by similar traits and/or activities, these individuals may have different points of view from your business.

Also they may NOT be as internally consistent as you assume. And this creates the potential for negative issues to get amplified quickly via social media and word of mouth.


Audience BIO Approach Defined

The Audience BIO Approach states your marketing audience consists of 3 groups:

  • Buyer relationships: Customers of your content, products and/or services. Also includes people who influence purchase and/or use of the product, pay for it but don’t use it, and end-users who need or make offering work. Also includes past customers. Key factor: They influence purchase decisions and repurchase.
  • Income relationships: Employees and others who have a financial relationship with you. Includes management, employees, alumni, Board of Directors, investors, suppliers, distributors, and/or agencies and other independent agents. When you don’t include these people, you increase costs. (Also, some segments are more trustworthy than your CEO according to Edelman Trust Barometer 2020.)
    Experts and Peers Most CredibleKey factor: They influence your brand’s trustworthiness and purpose.
  • Other interest-based relationships: These people have a vested interest in your business for other reasons. But their interests may not be aligned with the success of your organization. They include journalists, government, local community and competitors and category peers.Audience trust depends on purpose
    Key factor:
    They care about how you treat your employees and your organization’s higher purpose. So continue to monitor across platforms.

BIO Approach to Marketing Audience Definition - Chart includes audience attributes and metrics

Actionable Marketing Tips:

  • Take the time to assess characteristics of each sub-segment. Address each target audience to understand their content and information needs. Also discover the best context and ways to reach them. Why?  To create consistent content and address  sub-segments in a more personalized way.

Marketing Audience Definition: BIO Approach-Worksheet


3 Reasons the BIO Approach Will Make You Better Target Audiences

Unlike traditional target audience definition approaches, the BIO Approach to marketing audience definition creates measurable business results.

  1. Solidify relationships across each segment of your marketing audience. As a result, you expand your owned audience and develop an owned team of influencers. Unlike paid influencer marketing programs, they increase your marketing reach through highly trusted word of mouth.
  2. Build true community, not just social media numbers. As a result, you’re able to break though content clutter to attract and hold attention. This reduces the need for paid promotion. Also enables you to create user-generated content of higher quality and larger numbers of people.
  3. Increase business value over time. Due improved relationships and purpose you keep customers and employees longer. In addition to retaining company memory and bench-strength, you reduce customer and employee acquisition costs. So you improve your ROI.


Marketing Audience Definition Case Study

Based on my experience marketing at Bertelsmann, I know this approach works.For example, in our Science Fiction Book Club, I generated $50 of incremental profit for non-book products. Because I knew what these customers truly wanted.

AND you can achieve do this too!

Target Audience Case Study: Vlogger Amy Landino’s Good Morning, Good Life Planner


Amy LandinoAmy sold out her Good Morning, Good Life Planner priced at $54.99 in 35 HOURS.


  • Print journals are road-tested related products for “How To” books. Also they work as stand-alone products for people who didn’t purchase the initial book to expand your offering and marketing.
  • Within her existing broader audience, Amy had built a “paid” audience for the accompanying book “Good Morning, Good Life”. In addition to helping edit and improve the book, they market the book and  related journal.
  • Amy self publishes to maximize profits and to own her content!


Actionable Marketing Tips:

  • Assess your audience’s needs to fine products you can offer to increase revenues.  Use an engaging quiz on your site or social media to measure level of audience interest.
  • Create related content to build anticipation and increase use. Check out Amy’s how to use your planner video. In my opinion, many businesses don’t re-image existing content to better onboard new buyers. By doing so, you increase customer retention and extend your content distribution.

Marketing Audience Definition Conclusion

For marketing purposes, your audience is broadly defined as anyone your business and/or brand engages with, either directly or indirectly.

Where most marketers go wrong:
They only focus on customers, often at the risk of saying something that offends another key segment.

So use the BIO Approach to define your target audience. These people have a

  • Buyer-related association. So they buy, influence, and/or use your offering,
  • Income-based relationship. They make money from your business as employees, suppliers, distributors, and/or investors.
  • Other form of association or relationship. Includes local community, media, government, competitors and others.

Of critical importance:
While they have an association with you, their interests may not be aligned with yours.

The key to audience definition success is to narrow your focus so you identify and understand your market niche so you can dominate it.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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