How to Define Your Target Audience – A Critical Health Care Marketing Success Factor

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Groups of colorful 3D stick figures with the blue group standing on a red targetFocus and define with precision to produce the greatest results
with precious resources.

Medical marketing efforts that attempt to reach anyone, anywhere-are doomed to produce only a squandered budget. Carefully and precisely identifying the target audience is a critical success factor in brand strategy development. You know whom you want to reach, where they are located, what makes them tick…and how to speak directly to them.

The process of branding in healthcare marketing involves many moving parts. And for your brand to both sound and be effective, a fundamental step is to know who you want to talk to—who is it that you want to attract to your doorstep.

A clear and well-defined target audience is also fundamental to your advertising; what media to use and how to shape a compelling message that brings response.

Defining the target audience is a critical success factor in branding

Vividly picture your target audience as a person, someone who is or could be real to you. For any healthcare organization and practices of all types—hospitals, manufacturers, physicians and surgeons, dentists, pharmaceuticals or groups—the more specifically you define the target audience, the greater your ability to inspire a positive response.

The power of your brand relies on the ability to focus, and there are four primary criteria in defining your target audience so you know them inside and out.

Four ways to define your target audience

There are many ways to describe target markets. But it is likely that you’ll want to use all four of the following primary categories.

  • GEOGRAPHY — In short, where are they? What is the actual territory that you want to own? Most commonly, this is defined by ZIP codes, within a realistic distance between them and your location or locations. Keep psychological and physical barriers in mind as you define your geography.
  • DEMOGRAPHICS — What is the target audience’s age, gender, family composition/size, occupation, education and household income?
  • PSYCHOGRAPHICS — What is the general personality, behavior and lifestyle? What is their repetition of need? What loyalty characteristics are likely? Are they receptive to new ideas and innovative technology?
  • BEHAVIOR — What are the needs and wants of the patient? What is their level of knowledge, information sources, consumer patterns or response to the product or service?

Given these factors, your target audience might be initially defined as:

Male and Female married adults residing within (specific) ZIP codes; between the ages of 21 and 35; at least one child; owning a condo or home; education above high school; and earning a household (combined) income of $65,000 or higher. Psychographically, these are busy young couples who consider their time to be a valuable and limited resource. They are active physically and positive in their outlooks. Behaviorally, they are often leaders in making purchase decisions, and they will likely look first to the Internet to acquire information.

The more specific you can see your target customer, the more effectively you can build your brand…and you’ll reach them more efficiently.

Reality check: where to find audience information

There’s a wealth of information about the local population within easy reach…and a lot of it is free of charge. After all, it is unlikely that you will successfully build a brand for “young married couples” if the population base is dominated by people 50-plus. Similarly it would be extremely insightful to know that there have been significant shifts in residential patterns.

Census Bureau data is online and free at: Also from the Census Bureau, AMERICAN FACTFINDER helps with easy to find population, housing, economic, and geographic data at:, and QUICK FACTS with maps at: Statistics about people, households, personal income, labor force, and housing — organized by ZIP code — is available at:

Beyond these resources, we often guide clients using cluster-marketing models that group consumers into defined clusters based upon where they live. These models typically break down consumers into 50 to 70 cluster groups with descriptive names like “Executive Suites” or “God’s Country.” One of our favorite resources is

Of course, we can work with you to incorporate all this data into actionable marketing strategies and tactics.

Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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