Targeting your audience is arguably one of the most important elements of a business. Not clearly understanding who your core audience is can often be an elementary but detrimental mistake to your company. In an article found in BusinessWeek, they simply argue the old saying, 'You can't be all things to all people.' However, all too often, people try to do just that in business. By trying to appeal to everyone you end up isolating and turning away your 'core' audience.

To establish who exactly your core audience is, BusinessWeek suggests doing a quick exercise: Take a minute and jot down three types of customers your company doesn't want. Oh, and this is important: You can't choose people like shoplifters or 'sale-hoppers' – the kind of customer that no business wants. If you find it difficult, especially in this current economy, to think about customers you don't want, try to describe your best customer in terms of some key demographics or attitudes. Next, take that profile and turn it inside out, revealing a customer type with the exact opposite characteristic. Odds are they are the kind of customer you do not want to chase.

This same concept should be applied to your website.
Everything from design to the content should specifically appeal to your target audience. If your main demographic is business men, ages 25-50, that are career minded, driven and informed citizens… a simple, strait-forward site will specifically appeal to them. This age group will want information quickly at their fingertips without having to search. However, if your target demographics are teenagers with a disposable income, who are technologically savvy… a funky, cutting-edge, bold website would be appropriate.

With this in mind, it is extremely important to consider details like font size, content, images and the use of other technology, like videos, audio, and social networking in terms of your target demographic. For example, a site targeting older adults, such as AARP will have text that is larger than normal, with a clean, probably white background. It will side with a more simplistic theme, making the hierarchy of information clear and concise. On the other side, a website like MTV whose target audience is teens, has a provocative, bold, changing background with a quickly rotating main image. One big element to consider or compare is content. AARP has much less content on the home page than MTV, and gives more information on the articles it features. These are small, but important details that can turn viewers or customers away from your website.

Another example of the importance in understanding your target audience is the difference in ESPN and E!Online. While it is probably very clear that ESPN targets males and E!Online targets females, it is important to note the differences in how content is displayed on both websites. ESPN has loads of information displayed in quick, short sentences, as men usually want the information quickly with only the main points. The visitor is hit with over 20 scores or stories in just the top of the site, where as E! Online is very image intensive; each story has a photo that enhances the story. Women tend to enjoy looking at photos, as well as reading every detail of a story.

Whether your core audience is technologically savvy men and women or children under ten years old, it is important to make sure your business, brand and website target them. Remember, by trying to appeal to everyone, you will separate the brand from your target audience.