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How to Find your Target Market

August 15, 2013

“Target Market” or “Target Audience” is a concept that many business people don’t fully understand. Some years ago, I had a client who wanted to sell a self-help book. When I asked them who their target audience was, they said “everyone.” “Everyone can benefit from this book, so we don’t want to limit our sales.”

This is an all-too-common business mistake. Targeted marketing is about increasing sales, not limiting your reach. It’s about finding those who are most likely to buy and reaching them effectively and economically. Everyone does not buy everything. When was the last time you bought a skateboard? Knitting supplies? A handgun? A 10-port USB hub?

In the case of my publisher client, I was able to show them with a few basic statistics how to narrow down their target market. At that time, only 11% of Americans bought more than one book in a year. Right out of the gate that eliminated 89% of Americans who would not buy their book. Narrowing this further, only about 30% of those book buyers bought non-fiction, and of those, only a small percent bought self-improvement books.  So right out of the gate, we were able to narrow their target market to just a few percent of Americans. We were then able to do further research into that market and come up with an effective advertising strategy.

Example of how to narrow down a target market

Small businesses don’t usually have the budget for extensive market research, but there are a few simple things you can do to narrow down your target market:

  1. Common sense:  You already know something about your product and your customers. If you are selling sports equipment, you already know you are selling to people who are relatively young and active. If you are selling scrapbooking supplies, you already know your audience is primarily female. Take a moment and list out the attributes of someone who would be likely to buy your product. Ask yourself who are you trying to sell to? Who is your product intended for?
  2. Your customers: You know a lot about your customers. If you have a retail shop, you know the kind of people who come in. Your sales people know what kind of people are the best prospects. Gather and write down as much as you know about your existing customers.
  3. Your competitors: Check out your competition. What kind of people are coming in to their stores? Who do they seem to be trying to appeal to in their ads?
  4. Social Media: What kind of people are connecting with you on social media or “liking” your posts? Young? Old? Male? Female?
  5. Online forums and chat groups: You can learn a lot about your potential customers if you frequent online forums related to your business. If you sell model trains, for instance, join some forums and chat groups where they are talking about model trains. What do they discuss? What do they like and dislike? What kind of people are they?

Once you’ve done your research, put together a description of your average customer. Be as exact as you can as to specifics:  age, income level, education, marital status, professions, areas where they live, likes and dislikes.  Now you know exactly who you are trying to reach with your promotion.

The next step? Effectively reaching your target market – which will be the subject of an upcoming article. Also read our previous article on the 7 StartUp Business Pitfalls for further insight on the subject of narrowing your target market.

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