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Determine your survey target audience

4 steps to determine your Target Audience

Vidya VenugopalanVidya Venugopalan | February 11, 2016

When it comes to defining your survey’s target audience, the methodology isn’t all that different from determining the target market for your product or service. You just have to reframe your mindset and your questions slightly.

Step 1: Define your Survey’s Objective

Consider the objective of the survey regarding your product or service. Be very clear in what you are expecting to gain out of the survey. Just like you wouldn’t try selling high-end baby clothes to families who are barely making their mortgage payments or to families with teenage children, so too should you not ask prospects who have never done business with you about their experience with your company.


    Establish what you want to achieve with the information you obtain with your survey so you can determine who you need to get the information from.

So, let’s assume that your ultimate goal is to improve customer retention rates. In this case, you’d create a customer feedback survey questionnaire with conditional criteria to reorder the flow of the questionnaire appropriately with existing, loyal customers following one particular flow, while former customers would take a second route. Or, you could create two separate questionnaires – one for loyal customers and one for other customers. The conclusion, though, is that your target audience consists of existing and former customers.

Step 2: Use Existing Information

Next, you need to use the information you already have available to identify the right people. We’ve already established that all former and existing customers are your target audience, but to reach them, you need to know who they are, which you can determine using the information (customer data) you already have.


    Don’t forget to take advantage of any existing information, whether it’s in-house or from other sources, to help you further define your target audience.

The same information can be used to segment these customers, i.e. splitting these customers into a group of loyal, returning customers and former customers.

If you’re running a survey that also includes prospects, you can use existing market research to segment your market.

Step 3: Narrow Down your Audience even further

This might be easier said than done, depending on the information you have available. Ideally, you want to narrow your target audience down to the people who align best with your survey’s objectives.

For example, with our goal to increase customer retention rates, we definitely want to ask former customers why they didn’t return to our baby clothes store. However, we also need to dig a little deeper first. If you’re a company that sells high-end baby products, we’d want to eliminate families whose children are now too old for baby clothes, especially if they used to be loyal customers. The obvious reason they no longer buy is because they no longer need the product.

    To increase the accuracy and usefulness narrow down your target audience as much as possible using available information. If in doubt, though, it’s best to include rather than exclude.

We’d also want to eliminate one-off customers such as those who may have purchased baby clothes as a gift or those who live in another city or country. No matter how great our store is, someone who lives in London will not fly to New York just to get a pair of cute baby booties – they might order online, though, which is another matter altogether.

Clearly, narrowing your audience down this far depends a lot on the information you have about your customers. Keep in mind, though, that cost is rarely an issue with online surveys, which is why it’s often a good idea to include customers you aren’t sure about rather than leaving them out. So, if you aren’t sure that someone’s child is past the age of baby clothes, include them.

Step 4: Get the Ball Rolling

Now that you’ve defined your target audience and, implicitly, your objective, it’s time to get to work. Create that questionnaire, send out the survey, analyze the data and let your respondents know how you’re acting on the information they provided you. This latter part is essential and something very few entrepreneurs do. Remember, letting your customers know you are listening to them, taking their feedback on board and doing something about it is critical and will improve your retention rates significantly. If you simply ignore them, you can wave good-bye to their desire to ever respond to another questionnaire.


    Follow up with your respondents and tell them how you are acting on their information to show that you are listening to them and that their opinions matter to you.

Effective feedback questionnaire survey design starts with defining your survey’s objective but also requires you to know who your target audience is. Otherwise, you could end up with a very low response rate or horribly skewed data that will do more harm than good.