Hitting the Mark: Defining Your Target Audience

Spring 2021

Known around the world for its signature family-friendly entertainment, The Walt Disney Company excels at defining its target audience. In the book, Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, we learn how founder Walt Disney’s idea to make people happy has evolved into a singular philosophy that guides all the decisions for the company. 

“We’ll create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.”

Whether you operate a nonprofit or a business, identifying your target audience is the key to your success. Who will benefit from your message, goods, or services, what do they need that you can offer, and where are they located? When thinking about your target audience, consider:

  • Who are you serving? Disney serves people of all ages. Give careful thought to the demographic characteristics of your ideal client. If your organization serves all people regardless of age, race, or ethnicity, then articulate that. However, if you are working with a distinct population, your description should be more specific. 
  • What are the needs and wants of the intended audience? Disney’s target audience wants to be entertained and happy. Likewise, if your client is operating an after-school mentoring program, your audience will likely be families of school-age children in need of after-school care or mentoring.  
  • Where is your audience located? Disney’s audience is everywhere. Your scope may be more limited and defined by your geographic reach. For example, if you run a community foundation, you are limited by the size of the community. However, if you serve clients statewide, consider all of the people living within that state as your target audience. 

Once you have identified the who, what, and where of your target audience, put the elements together. You now have a one-liner that describes your target audience. The best part? You can use this single statement to guide the decision-making for your nonprofit or business. And when applying for grants, you already have the answer to the always important “describe your target audience” question.