How to identify target market through surveys


Because marketing is customer-centric and values-based, all marketers must have a thorough understanding of their audiences to succeed. To achieve this insight, you’ll need to identify your target audience in the first place. It’s best to learn about your respondents in their own words, so you should use a combination of online surveys and target market research to determine your ideal customers.  

Are you ready to get started? Continue reading to learn how to identify your target market through surveys. 

What is a target market? 

A target market is a well-defined group of people to whom you market your products or services. More than that, the members of your target market should be interested in and value your offering. 

Consumers have a diverse range of lifestyles, values, wants and needs. Not everyone will face the same problems, and a product that one person is ecstatic about might not even turn another person’s head. For instance, a woman in her 50s likely has different clothing preferences than a woman in her 20s. 

You’ll further break down your target market into segments. Target segments are distinct, homogenous groups within your market. A homogenous segment should align on a predefined characteristic that’s important to your business. 

For example, if your target market is a group of nurses, you might distinguish between nurses who are parents and those without kids. The working parent’s segment will be wildly diverse, but they’ll all share one unifying trait — parenthood. You can then personalize your marketing messages to each group. 

Understanding this distinction will help you develop products, marketing messages, distribution strategies and pricing structures that suit your target market and each segment. 

Importance of defining a target market 

Your target market allows you to differentiate your marketing strategies across customer segments. Defining your target market will benefit you by: 

  • Creating competitive advantage: In today’s marketplace, consumers can easily compare products with a simple online search. Your customers will find the products that best suit them, which means a company with a generalized marketing strategy loses a critical competitive advantage. 
  • Engaging prospects: HubSpot found that 40% of marketers and salespeople find it difficult to solicit responses. Consider using a differentiated marketing strategy with products and messaging designed for your audience segments to engage more prospects. Consumers are far more likely to care about an offering if they can see how it fits into their lives. In fact, audience targeting is one of the best tactics to generate more demand from ads. 
  • Increasing brand advocates: Attracting the right customers will also empower you to delight your audience. If the people who buy your products or services align with what you have to offer, you’ve set yourself up for success. You can provide your customers with an offering they love and want to recommend to their friends. Brand advocacy from your current customers generates 68% of new customers on average. 
  • Budgeting your marketing spend: Understanding your target market enables you to allocate marketing funds strategically. Every ad you place, content strategy you develop and distribution channel you add will center your target market’s needs. 

How to define a target market

To define a target audience, you first need to understand your overall market, then drill down to the individual customer segments you want to target. 

Understanding your overall market 

To know your overall market, begin with your business plan, considering the following questions: 

  • What products or services are you selling? 
  • Which industry do you operate in? 
  • Who are the customers in that sector? 
  • Do they all share a particular set of problems, demographic characteristics or professions? 
  • How large is the market, and what is its projected growth in the coming years? 

Secondary market research can help you answer these questions broadly, but surveys will help you get more specific. The stronger your foundation at this stage, the more effective your segmentation strategy will be. 

Identifying customer segments 

Once you understand your industry and the market at large, you’ll need to break this group into homogenous segments. If you’ve conducted strong research in the previous stage, you can use those insights to spot patterns. Did your initial market research reveal differences across age categories, gender or location? 

Send out another survey to confirm these customer segments and dive deeper into their values, needs, lifestyles and pain points. With this data in hand, conduct a target market survey analysis to form a complete picture of each segment and determine which groups will be your most lucrative investments. 

Selecting segmentation characteristics 

As you conduct your target market analysis, you’ll need to know which characteristics make good segmentation bases. Each attribute carries distinct advantages and suits different business needs. A few of the most common segmentation characteristics are: 

  • Demographics: The most straightforward to identify demographic characteristics includes information like gender, age, and location. 
  • Shopping behaviors: Does your target market shop online or in-store? Are they methodical buyers, or do they trend toward impulse purchases? How price-conscious are they? 
  • Lifestyle: You might segment based on your audience’s hobbies or which devices they use. Are they planners or improvisers? Do they work from home, or are they in the office? Do they travel often? These questions are just a few examples of ways you can divide your audience based on any lifestyle characteristics relevant to your company. 
  • Psychographics: What are your target customers’ values? Do certain segments share opinions about a relevant topic? For example, you might identify an environmentally conscious segment or a group that values learning. 
  • B2B characteristics: If you’re a B2B company, you might segment your audience based on their industry, revenue or number of employees. 
  • Pain points: Sometimes, your products or services answer multiple problems. For example, exercise equipment could appeal to health-conscious consumers and people who simply love exercising and acknowledge the health benefits as a nice side effect. 

Your business goals and initial survey responses will help you determine which characteristics you should use to segment your target audience. 

How to find your target market through surveys 

As we’ve hinted throughout this article, surveys are one of the best ways to gain deeper insight from your customers in their own words. 

With surveys, you can learn about your target market’s shopping habits, values, lifestyles and pain points as your customers see them. Many online survey tools also allow you to apply logic-based progression to give each potential segment different questions — all in the same survey. 

As you get started with your target market survey research, follow these steps: 

  1. Send a preliminary survey

First, you’ll want to generate a solid foundation for further research. Gain an understanding of your overall market by sampling the general population. At this stage, you should ask basic demographic questions and important behavioral or psychographic questions based on your business goals. 

For example, if you own a bookstore, you might need to know how many books each person reads in a week, month and year. You might ask whether they shop for books online or in-store. How often do they purchase new books? What’s the ratio of physical books, audiobooks and e-books they read? 

  1. Analyze the overall data

Once the responses roll in, analyze the data to determine your target population and some of their characteristics. Start by filtering out respondents whose answers indicate they won’t be a good fit for your business. 

Following our bookstore example, respondents who don’t read any books or only read sporadically will probably not be a lucrative market. However, respondents who read multiple books a month will likely be a great starting market. 

  1. Determine your target market

Once you’ve filtered your results and have a set of responses that align with your business goals, you’ve got the foundation for your target market. Gain a deeper understanding of who they are by analyzing their other answers. Which behavioral and demographic categories make up your target market? These categories will form potential target segments you can validate and survey further. 

  1. Create your survey

Use the categories you identified above to design a survey that digs deep into your target market. You have a set of potential segments, so create questions that validate those divisions. You can also explore each segment more in-depth.  

If your bookstore’s target market of readers includes e-readers, physical book collectors and audiobook readers, ask questions that help you better understand each of these segments. Do the genres they read vary across mediums? Does each segment’s reasons for reading differ? Are e-book readers more likely to buy more often? Are paperbacks or hardcovers more popular? 

Since your preliminary survey created a solid foundation, you can use this survey to get as specific as you need. The more holistic your understanding of your target segments, the more effective your marketing strategies can be. 

Use robust survey creation tools to apply logic to each question. For example, if a respondent says they only read e-books, you can employ survey logic to guide them to a specific set of questions only applicable to digital readers. 

Optimizing these tools allows you to ask specific questions for each segment and keep the survey length manageable for every respondent. Asking the right number of questions is one of the most important aspects of a successful survey. 

  1. Select your sample

Once your survey is ready to go, you’ll have to choose who receives it. Obtaining a representative sample is critical to generating usable results. An online sample marketplace like Lucid allows you to pull from multiple panels to increase your sample’s representativeness. 

You also want to send your survey to participants who fit your target market. More niche companies with a specific target audience might need extra help identifying enough potential respondents without overwhelming their budgets.  

If that’s the case for you, you can turn to an online ecosystem with hundreds of suppliers to find a sample that fits your target characteristics. At Cint, we let you define your audience based on over 200 attributes.  

Once you have a strong sample base, you can hone it further by asking screening questions. These are required for every survey. They’re immediate questions you pose to respondents to ensure they represent your target audience. If they choose your intended answers, respondents can complete the rest of the survey. If they have different answers, you can filter them out of the survey due to disqualification. 

Screening questions ensure you focus on the answers of your target audience. If your survey is intended for female pet owners, the screening questions could ask respondents to confirm their gender and whether they owned a pet. If anyone answers no, you can disqualify them from the survey and use the qualifying responses instead. 

  1. Send and analyze the results

Now, you have a well-designed survey and a representative sample to send it to. Celebrate and watch the responses roll in.  

Once you receive your answers, analyze the data to confirm which target segments will be most viable to your business. Filter based on qualifying questions for each segment to see the relative size of each group. Look for patterns within each segment. What are their similarities and differences? How can you use this information in your marketing strategy? These qualifiers will let you transfer survey responses into a viable business plan. 

In addition, you should use segment qualifiers to filter respondent answers. You can compare the answers of different segments and analyze the variations, adjusting future campaign plans as needed. 

Questions to ask to confirm target market 

While many online survey tools allow you to define your target characteristics, it’s crucial to use screening questions and qualifiers. These are necessary steps for all surveys, allowing you to confirm your target audience. 

Screening questions 

The first questions your respondents see are your screeners. In your preliminary survey, you determined who your target market is. Use that information to form questions that filter out any non-target participants.  

You might base your screening questions on demographic variables such as age, gender, marital status and income. You could also include behavioral factors. In our bookstore example, you only want to target people who read a certain number of books a year. Turn this information into a screener to deter irrelevant responses that might muddy your data. 

B2B companies will likely have different screening questions than B2C companies. For example, you might only want to target employees with buying power. You could achieve this by asking a preliminary question about the respondent’s job position. 

Perhaps you’re targeting companies with a substantial budget to potentially spend on your products. For example, if you’re an advertising agency, you might ask how much the company spends annually on ads. Then, you can filter out the participants who answer below your target number. 

Use disqualification logic in your survey creation tool to send anyone who gives a non-target response directly to a “thank you” page. 

Segment qualifiers 

In addition to screeners, you can use questions to differentiate between each segment, as mentioned above. These segment qualifiers won’t affect who can complete your survey, but they might impact the questions each respondent sees. If you don’t have specific sets of questions for each segment or need your entire target market to answer certain questions, filter the resulting data based on these qualifiers. 

For example, the advertising agency might want to gather information on universities, clothing retailers and restaurants. They can ask questions about the respondents’ industries to glean insights specific to each segment. If the agency has unique questions that only apply to universities, they could use question logic to send university respondents to that page. Otherwise, information filters can reveal how the universities’ answers differed from the restaurants’ and retailers’ responses in the analysis stage. 

Find your target sample with Cint 

You need a thorough understanding of your target market to achieve desired business results. Use surveys to glean firsthand knowledge about who your customers are and what they want — directly from the source. No matter how specific your target market is, our online sample can help you find a representative sample quickly and affordably.  

If you’re ready to use surveys to find your target market, contact our team today to learn how Cint’s innovative tools can help.