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MARKET RESEARCH

How to Define Your Target Market

To build a solid foundation for your business, you must first identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly.
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With the current state of the economy, having a well-defined target market is more important than ever. No one can afford to target everyone. Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche market.

Many businesses say they target "anyone interested in my services." Some may say they target small business owners, homeowners, or stay-at-home moms. All of these targets are too general.

Targeting a specific market does not mean that you have to exclude people that do not fit your criteria from buying from you. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.

For example, an interior design company could choose to market to homeowners between the ages of 35-65 with incomes of $150,000+ in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, market. To define the market even further, the company could choose to target only those interested in kitchen and bath remodeling and traditional styles. This market could be broken down into two niches: parents on the go and retiring baby boomers.

With a clearly defined target audience, it is much easier to determine where and how to market your company. Here are some tips to help you define your target market.

How to Define Your Target Market: Look at Your Current Customer Base

 Who are your current customers, and why do they buy from you? Look for common characteristics and interests. Which ones bring in the most business? It is very likely that other people like them could also benefit from your product/service.

Dig Deeper: Upselling: Dig Deeper Into Your Customer Base

How to Define Your Target Market: Check Out Your Competition

 Who are your competitors targeting? Who are their current customers? Don't go after the same market. You may find a niche market that they are overlooking.

Dig Deeper: In Praise of Niche Marketing

How to Define Your Target Market: Analyze Your Product/Service

Write out a list of each feature of your product or service. Next to each feature, list the benefits they provide (and the benefits of those benefits). For example, a graphic designer offers high quality design services. The resulting benefit is a professional company image. A professional image will attract more customers because they see the company as professional and trustworthy. So ultimately, the benefit of high quality design is to gain more customers and make more money.

Once you have your benefits listed, make a list of people who have a need that your benefit fulfills. For example, a graphic designer could choose to target businesses interested in increasing their client base. While this is still too general, you now have a base to start from.

Dig Deeper: How to Conduct Market Research

How to Define Your Target Market: Choose Specific Demographics to Target

Figure out not only who has a need for your product or service, but also who is most likely to buy it. Think about the following factors:

    • Age 
    • Location
    • Gender
    • Income level
    • Education level
    • Marital or family status
    • Occupation
    • Ethnic background

Dig Deeper: Why Demographics Are Crucial to Your Business

How to Define Your Target Market: Consider the Psychographics of Your Target

Psychographics are more personal characteristics of a person, including:

    • Personality
    • Attitudes
    • Values
    • Interests/hobbies
    • Lifestyles
    • Behavior

Determine how your product or service will fit into your target's lifestyle. How and when will they use the product? What features are most appealing to them? What media do they turn to for information? Do they read the newspaper, search online, or attend particular events?

Dig Deeper: Understanding How Your Customers Think

How to Define You Target Market: Evaluate Your Decision

Once you've decided on a target market, be sure to consider these questions:

    • Are there enough people that fit my criteria?
    • Will my target really benefit from my product/service? Will they see a need for it?
    • Do I understand what drives my target to make decisions?
    • Can they afford my product/service?
    • Can I reach them with my message? Are they easily accessible?

Don't break your target down too far! Remember, you can have more than one niche market. Consider if your marketing message should be different for each niche market. If you can reach both niches effectively with the same message, then maybe you have broken down your market too far. Also, if you find that there are only 50 people that fit all of your criteria, maybe you should reevaluate your target. The trick is to find that perfect balance.

You may be asking, "How do I find all this information?" Try searching online for research others have done on your target. Search for magazine articles and blogs that talk about your target market or that talk to your target market. Search for blogs and forums where people in your target market communicate their opinions. Look for survey results, or consider conducting a survey of your own. Ask your current customers for feedback.

Defining your target market is the hard part. Once you know who you are targeting, it is much easier to figure out which media you can use to reach them and what marketing messages will resonate with them. Instead of sending direct mail to everyone in your zipcode, you can send only to those who fit your criteria. Save money and get a better return on investment by defining your target audience.

Dig Deeper: How to Find New Customers and Increase Sales

How to Define Your Target Market: Additional Resources

Pew Internet publishes reports regarding internet use among various demographics.

Scarborough issues press releases with useful data and sometimes publishes free studies.

Also look for free studies by Arbitron. You may be surprised what you can find just by doing a search in Google.

Mandy Porta is the owner of Success Designs, a website design and marketing firm based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.




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