Traditionally, defining a target audience involves determining their age, sex, geographic locations, and especially their needs (aka pain points). Check out usability.gov’s description of personas and how to do task analysis & scenarios for more details, or better yet, read Vanessa Fox’s upcoming book about personas related to search and conversion.
I understand that some SEO agencies and departments are not built for the big SEO campaigns. Strategic work takes time, and speeding (or scaling) through the development stage will likely do more harm than good. It's like cramming for a test — you're going to miss information that's necessary for a good grade. It would be my pleasure if this post inspired some change in your departments.

Social media. The algorithms have truly changed since social media first emerged. Many content websites are community-oriented -- Digg began allowing users to vote which stories make the front page, and YouTube factors views and user ratings into their front page rankings. Therefore, e-commerce stores must establish a strong social media presence on sites like Facebook , Pinterest, Twitter, etc. These social media sites send search engines signals of influence and authority.

You mentioned: "many times clients have already done this work.  Ask them for copies of their market research reports when you start a project.  It will save you a ton of time and effort!"  We do this with most of our clients, like you said we have found that around 75% of the have some kind of Market research done, that saves you a lot of time and helps setting up the right SEO Strategy. 
Firstly, a disclaimer – don’t spam Reddit and other similar sites hoping to “hit the jackpot” of referral traffic, because it’s not going to happen. Members of communities like Reddit are extraordinarily savvy to spam disguised as legitimate links, but every now and again, it doesn’t hurt to submit links that these audiences will find genuinely useful. Choose a relevant subreddit, submit your content, then watch the traffic pour in.
Social media. The algorithms have truly changed since social media first emerged. Many content websites are community-oriented -- Digg began allowing users to vote which stories make the front page, and YouTube factors views and user ratings into their front page rankings. Therefore, e-commerce stores must establish a strong social media presence on sites like Facebook , Pinterest, Twitter, etc. These social media sites send search engines signals of influence and authority.
Whatever industry you’re in, chances are there are at least one or two major conventions and conferences that are relevant to your business. Attending these events is a good idea – speaking at them is even better. Even a halfway decent speaking engagement is an excellent way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and gain significant exposure for your site.
This post and the Skycraper technique changed my mind about how I approach SEO, I’m not a marketing expert and I haven’t ranked sites that monetize really well, I’m just a guy trying to get some projects moving on and I’m not even in the marketing business so I just wanted to say that the way you write makes the information accesible, even if you’re not a native english speaker as myself.
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