If you approached a dozen business owners and asked who their target audience included, at least one would say, "Everyone." Some brands are so convinced of their value in the marketplace that they have a hard time seeing who couldn't benefit from their offerings. 

In an era of targeted marketing, brands understand that they need to gear their efforts to appeal to specific audiences--they just believe they can address multiple target audiences simultaneously.

But mass targeting rarely pans out the way it's intended. Research found that U.K. brands, which use a mass targeting approach, reached their target audiences online only 47 percent of the time. 

Narrowing Isn't Restrictive

Defining a narrow audience and going after it results in higher conversions and deeper engagements

People who aren't ideal customers are unlikely to convert at any point, so reaching them repeatedly is throwing away money that would be better spent on prospects likely to engage and convert. Nielsen found that brands that combined their campaigns' creative with media targeting saw their sales increase from 15 percent to 36 percent in an 11-year span, proving that delivering the right message to the right recipient fuels sales rather than limits them.

"Brands use lots of different channels for advertising an event, but the event's execution team is measured by how many people attend," said Stephen George, CEO of Surkus, a brand event engagement platform. "They go very broad--using billboards, influencers, platforms--that mitigate the risk of low attendance numbers, but they stop targeting; they're just looking for bodies."

George says marketing can always deliver bodies, but the purpose is to get the right people. With this in mind, his brand's platform was built on an algorithm to determine which of its members should be introduced to specific events within its platform.

"Without that type of approach, the focus becomes quantity over quality," George explains. "For example, if you're launching a women's running shoe but only have men in attendance at the launch event, you haven't reached your core audience at all. Simple targeting like that can be lost when it's down to the wire and attendance or sales become the biggest concern for a campaign."

The critical part of targeting is to go beyond what looks fulfilling to create something truly fulfilling to the people most in need of the service or product being offered. There's nothing wrong with a mishmash event, a glossy diamond ad, or the standard real estate structure, but there's also nothing particularly appealing about these things for people who want the opposite.

It's not enough to be noticed, as a brand. You have to elicit a response. 

Simply using the basic demographic data that most brands cling to--age, sex, location, education level--doesn't quite get businesses where they need to go.

Collect real-time information.

George says when his team is assessing whether someone is a fit for a specific event, they want up-to-date information on the person: Did he just move to Los Angeles? Are the Rams his new team? Using apps, survey tools, and other data collection methods give brands an edge and can also collect information to target those surveyed later.

Look for ways to create real connection to your brand.

Showcasing a brand's desire to draw in a specific audience doesn't come across as desperate--it makes the brand's target audience feel seen. Play this up in messaging to the audience, showcasing testimonials, the brand's "why," and team stories relevant to audience members' interests.

Ask for feedback.

If a company invests time and money in developing an ad, a platform, or a product, it should follow up with customers and prospects to determine whether it actually hit the mark. 

Casting a wide net sounds like a safe bet, but it's anything but. A wide net makes it more likely that a brand's ideal audience will slip right on through. Rather than cling to the idea that "everyone" is their target audience, it pays to remember that everyone wants to be someone.