Most designers know how to get around this problem.
A client contacts you and wants you to produce something for them. Maybe they fill out your questionnaire or you discuss with them what they need and why they need it. But the client states an all-familiar refrain: "This is for everyone. And I want to (sell, gain, influence, etc.) as much as possible to everybody."
This response is obviously unhelpful. The audience is too broad, the strategy is unfocused, and the message doesn’t appeal to anybody. Designers generally know they need more specifics to design a more effective strategic design. But the series of questions you have to ask can put some clients off.
Here are two questions that can help provide the framework for a more productive conversation. These questions are easy to remember and will cleverly get the client thinking without little annoyance. And the answers will propel your design work and infuse it with meaning.
1. Who’s most likely to respond to this design? (Your main target audience)
In other words, who would resonate with this the most? If your client is a car mechanic, their audience might be hyperlocal. Most people don’t want to travel very far for a good mechanic, and your client can’t compete for business in far away locales unless there is a compelling reason, like a very unique service offering. (More on that in the following question.)
Also, using the car mechanic example, your client’s service probably won’t interest people who don’t own a car. This includes kids, and probably very elderly folks (70+). Yeah, there are a few, but not very many. You’re probably going to attract those who have the money (have jobs), drive frequently, and aren’t mechanics themselves. That means they are probably between 27-60 years old, live locally, and probably have a family.
2. Why would they want to respond?
It’s not enough to identify the most likely candidates, but we need to know why the client thinks you can design something that will elicit the response they expect. The client might feel that their service offering is so unique and so valuable that the mere mention would attract the audience. That might be true. But how will this audience come in contact with this message: radio, web search, social media mention, etc?
Also, what stage of the relationship is your client’s audience? If you are designing something that is for an audience that doesn’t know your client, this requires a different approach than an audience familiar with the client. The message, how you convey the brand visually, and the call-to-action will depend on the audience’s familiarity with the client.
These two questions form the basis of a good conversation and an understanding of the problem. If all goes well, you will be empowered to prepare a dynamic creative brief, outlining what your client really needs and how you can get it done as a designer.