The word “define” is often thought of as putting boundaries or limitations on something. However, when we talk about defining target customers, we aren’t suggesting you cut customers that don’t fit into your target market mold out completely. Rather, we are simply saying that there are key benefits to listing out who your ideal customer(s) are, especially when creating marketing materials and developing new products and services.
Defining your target customer will help you:
- Determine if there is enough demand for your product or service
- Adapt business plans to meet the needs of qualified buyers
- Fine-tune your marketing efforts so that you reach the most qualified prospects
Defining your target market won’t place limitations on your business because you aren’t excluding consumers who could be potential buyers. Instead, you are focusing your money and efforts on a market that is more likely to buy from you. There’s a reason why Whole Foods doesn’t have a store in North Dakota yet — there isn’t a high enough demand for them to set up shop — and it would be a waste of money.
Defining your target market will not limit your business. However, understanding your target market will save you money, time, and effort because you’ll reach the right prospects for your business so that you can grow.
How To Define Your Target Market
Defining your target market boils down to identifying the specific characteristics of the people or businesses most likely to buy your product or service.
There are two different groups of criteria you should look at to begin getting an idea of your target market:
Demographic information refers to socioeconomic data.
- Family Status
Psychographic criteria let you go deeper into what motivates and drives your customers.
- Lifestyle Preferences
After you put together what you think is your ideal customer base, look at your current customers and what motivates them to do business with you. This practice can help fine-tune your target market even more (or show you why your sales are not as high as you expected). Try to align what you understand as your target market with the customer base you already have as much as possible. However, if there’s a glaring difference between the two, don’t ignore it!
Next, take a look at your products or services and write down how each corresponds to the motives of your target customers. List the benefits each provides, why it is attractive to your target market and why this product or service is beneficial to your business.
It might feel like this is a tedious process (particularly for retail stores). Still, as your business grows and you continue this practice, you’ll guarantee that any new products or services you introduce will be in-demand with your current market — or will allow you to expand your market.
Create A Specific Customer Profile
You now have a solid amount of information to create a customer profile. A customer profile describes the customers who have the need or desire for your product or service.
When creating a customer profile, you want to be as specific as possible. General descriptions, such as “new moms,” won’t help you focus your marketing enough because it covers too broad of an audience. After all, new moms could be anyone from a teenager to someone in their 40s or even adoptive grandparents. Don’t make the mistake of being too broad in hopes of taking a larger chunk of the audience. By going broad, all you are doing is making it harder for yourself to engage your true target market effectively—instead, factor in the criteria from your customer demographic, psychological profile, and current base.
For example, a local sports store in Braintree, MA, may focus on marathon or endurance athletes between the ages of 20 and 50, who make at least $50,000/year, regularly train and compete, and currently live within 10 miles of the store.
While this target market may seem limiting, it actually helps weed out all the people who won’t find the store’s products worth the money, don’t train enough to come back to the store for new products, aren’t of an age where they are interested in endurance sports and can easily get to the store in that 10-mile radius (reaching people in Boston, MA and surrounding suburbs on the South Shore.)
The more you know your customer, the more likely you are to achieve your business goals; by letting your customers dictate your business decisions, you guarantee that you will always have a product/service that they want.
Once you have a target market, you can break it down into market niches and focus on the different characteristics of each market.
Define A Marketing Niche
If you find you can narrow your market into something more specialized but doesn’t cover your entire target market, you have found your niche market!
Going back to the above example, the Braintree, MA sports store may find selling athletic endurance gear to marathon or ultra-marathon runners are their niche market. Especially since the store is located close to Boston, home of the renowned Boston Marathon hosted every Patriot’s Day.)
Defining a niche for your market will let you fine-tune your marketing message even further, so before you go down this path, make sure you will have large enough demand to stay profitable.
Take A Look At Your Competitors
While you may have a fairly fleshed-out idea of your target customer, you don’t want to call it quits now. Take a look at who your competition focuses on, and you’ll learn a lot about other qualified buyers you could potentially reach.
Ask yourself a series of questions:
- What type of customers purchases products and services from them?
- What are their prices, and how do they compare to your business’s prices?
- What is their social reputation?
- What are customers saying about them online?
- What do these highly engaged customers look like (write a profile of their demographic and psychological make-up)?
- How does your target market differ from theirs? Why would customers come to you instead of your competitors?
Once your competitive research is completed, you may confirm that you have found an open opportunity in the marketplace and taking advantage of it, or you may find that there are a lot of similarities increasing your direct competition. You may also discover gaps that neither you nor your competitors fill that you can act on quickly.
Conduct Your Own Primary Research
If you have the means and ability to conduct primary research for your target market, you can confirm what you think you already know about your target market by finding out directly from your customer. It can be expensive to conduct this kind of research, but it allows you to hear specifically from your customer, not from a series of educated guesses.
Some affordable ways to conduct research:
- Conduct interviews with valuable and loyal customers. They already love your business. Find out what brought them to your business in the first place — and what keeps them coming back.
- Distribute surveys to your existing email list. Email surveys are not as reliable as other primary research data, but it gives you a quick and easy way to contact many people without breaking the bank.
Reassess Your Findings
Lastly, you want to combine all the information you collected and look at the differences look at how it evolved with each step of the research process.
The practice of determining your target market is never over, though. If you want to continue to succeed and grow your business, you have to reassess your evaluation every year.
At every evaluation, you need to ask yourself:
- Are there enough customers in my target market to grow my business?
- Will my target market continue to benefit from my product or service?
- Is there a need for my product or service? Is that need growing or depleting?
To find the perfect balance of being innovative and sustainable, you’ll need to evaluate your business over time and through research and analysis.
If you ever find yourself hitting a wall with your research, try searching online for what others have done (in and out of your industry) to get your juices flowing. Check out articles, forums, and industry associations for ideas, best practices, and what others have learned.
Defining your target market is hard, but once you know who you’re targeting, your marketing strategy will almost fall into place for you (and so will other aspects of your business). Not only will creating a target market save you time and energy, but it will also save you money and effort by helping you reach only those consumers who are highly interested and engaged with your business.
If you need help determining your target audience and developing a robust digital marketing strategy, contact one of our Digital Marketing Experts today!