How to Identify Your Target Market

Target marketing is a strategy that  focuses your marketing on individuals and businesses who are most likely to buy from you. Here is how to identify your target market in 7 easy steps.

A target market is can be defined as a specific group of consumers or businesses at whom you focus your marketing efforts. They key to target marketing is identifying those audiences most likely to buy your products and services.

Understanding how to identify that target market correctly is an important part of the market research you do when you’re starting a business or launching new products and services. When you have a good handle on who your target audience is, you can not only create a product that better suits their needs, you can also craft better advertising and promotional copy to capture their interest and get them to buy. Additionally, you’ll get better results from advertising by targeting it at those people who are most likely to buy what you sell. 

But how do you do go about identifying that target market? How can you tell who’s most likely to buy?

Here are seven steps that will help you identify the audience most likely to buy what you sell.

1. Start with the problem

A good way to determine who is likely to become your customer is to clarify the problem that your product or service addresses. For example, you run a housecleaning service. The problem that you solve is doing cleaning for people who cannot or do not want to do these jobs themselves. Upper income families, families where both parents work, and older people who no longer have the ability to do their own housekeeping, are all target customers for your services.  

2. Define your customer’s characteristics

Listing out the characteristics of your typical customer is another good step towards identifying your target market. These characteristics need not be personal ones; they can pertain to lifestyle, income earned, disposable income, geographical location, hobbies, and many other things. For example, for a gardening service, one type of target customer is people who live in neighborhoods with well-manicured lawns, attractive plantings and colorful flowers around their homes. Another target for your marketing might be corporate clients who want their office surroundings landscaped. For a business that specializes in home security, the ideal customers may be in a residential areas that have a high crime rate or who live in high-income residential areas. Women living alone who worry about safety may be another potential target for sales. Listing out these characteristics allows you to zero in on your target audience accurately.

3. What is your primary market?

Many products and services address the needs of a variety of people but they still have a primary audience. These are the people who:

  • gain the most benefits
  • have the greatest need for these services/products
  • have the ability to pay for them
  • buy the biggest quantity of them on a regular basis
  • are located in a geographic area your business services

Knowing who makes up this primary audience should be your goal when you are trying to identify your target market. For example, for a bakery, the local consumer may be a recurring source of business, but the icing on the cake (forgive the pun) may be local restaurants who buy breads and desserts in quantity to serve to their customers. The more icing, the fatter the business’s bottom line.

4. Study your current customers

Assessing your current customers and identifying the common characteristics they share is a great way to learn who else could be a potential customer for you. Ask them what they like about your company, how they use your products, how they heard about you (if they are new) and what they prefer about buying from you. The more you know about your current customers’ buying preferences, the better you’ll be able to target your marketing to prospects with similar needs, preferences and characteristics. .  

RELATED: Marketing Plan Worksheet

5. Research Industry publications, statistics and special reports

Industry publications, statistical information and special reports can all provide clues as to the audience you should be targetting and sometimes how the market might be changing. Such reports may describe the typical customer age, sex, preferences for items, and other helpful information.  One way to find such reports is to search the web for terms like “size of the market for [industry or prouct name]”. 

6. Who does your competitor target?

Keeping track of what the competition is doing is a great idea in more ways than one and it can help you identify your target audience too.  If your competitor’s marketing campaign is aimed at a specific customer segment, there is a good chance he has spotted a marketing opportunity there and that he is exploiting this. Keep an eye on your closest competitors’ marketing campaigns, sales spiels, brochures, websites and social media outreaches to understand their target customer base. Your research may turn up industry segments or names of specific customers you should be targetting.

7. Who buys and why?

Surprisingly, knowing the kind of customer who needs your service may not be enough to win sales. For example, the elderly widow who lives by herself may need to have someone do the cleaning for her,  but can’t afford the service herself. The real customer in this case would be the widow’s 50-year old daughter who chooses and pays for the service.  Similarly, while there are many adults in the US who think they should go to a gym to work out, a lot don’t because they are worried about being embarrassed, or don’t want to spend a lot of money, and then not use the service.  Understanding those issues has been one of the keys to success of the popular Planet Fitness franchise.

RELATED: Why Should Customers Buy from You?

One final tip: remember “everyone” is not a target market. Even if everyone, or everyone in a particular industry should need what you sell, you won’t be able to reach “everyone” on a small business budget. To be successful, use the tips above to identify your target market and then structure your marketing materials to focus  on those ideal customers.

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