How to Identify Your Target Market

In our last post, Michael DiFrsco, "The Affordable Branding Guy" from How-to-Branding told us WHY targeting an audience was so important.  In today's post, he's going to show us HOW to find them and target them.  Whether you're selling products, services or surveys -- finding the right audience is always the first and most important step.

I once heard of bit of advice from a direct marketing guru that sticks with me to this day: Before deciding WHAT to sell, determine WHOM you’re going to sell it to. What he was suggesting was to first find an audience—the people who can and will buy your products or services—and then decide how to create or modify your offerings to fit that marketplace.

Having a target market is one of the best ways to focus your business. Ivana Taylor, of DIY Marketers, has targeted small businesses without marketing departments. Her offerings are not for every businessperson who can fog a mirror. That focus allows Ivana to craft her messages to a specific target, making her more relevant and making her own marketing efforts more efficient.

When United Air Lines was looking for growth in a hypercompetitive markeplace, they decided to focus on business travelers. People who travel for business are more willing to pay full fare. They’re easier to target than casual, pleasure travelers, who often have more options when selecting an airline. So United shifted a good chunk of marketing dollars to business travelers, and the result was that more pleasure flyers looked at United in a new way: If business travelers know which airline is best for their needs, surely United is good enough for me.

How about the super-crowded non-cola and energy drink space? There are drinks for gamers, athletes, college students, you name it. Now there’s a new wellness beverage called ZAZY; an upstart drink aimed at the aging female demographic, supplies calcium and vitamin D supplements to a female’s healthy diet. While available only in New England for now, what better way to cut through the clutter than to BE only for a specific target market?

How to Target YOUR Market

Here are four easy steps to targeting the ideal core market for your small business.

  1. Does your target market have a need that only you can fulfill? Are they willing and able to spend money for your product or service to solve their specific need? Does your background and experience point to this specific audience as being ideal for your offerings? A Conservative Café is a coffee shop for, wait for it, conservatives. The Indiana-based café claims that it’s “coffee served right.” Do conservatives NEED their own coffee shop? Who knows? But Conservative Café thinks so.

  1. Consider the size. Is your target market large enough to sustain your business? Don’t worry about precise numbers, because as in the United example above, your brand will also attract an aspirational audience; those who want to participate even if they’re not considered your target. Take Seventeen magazine. While the publication’s strategic target is young girls around 17 years of age, their actual market is young girls aged 13-15 who want to act like they’re 17.

  1. Is your target market, well, target-able? If you can’t find them, you can’t sell to them. What does your desired target audience read? Where do they hang out? Who else competes for their loyalty and devotion? Even an iconic brand like Harley-Davidson can reinvent itself by remaining true to its roots, but appealing to niche audiences through creative marketing and social media approaches. Once the domain of inner-rebel and CEOs, Harley is reaching out to younger demographics, women, and Hispanics—each on their own turf and in their own “language.” And these vertical audiences are find-able.

  1. Do you have a passion for this target audience? If your product or service is for accountants who work for nonprofit associations, you better make sure you LOVE accountants who work for nonprofit associations; that you can relate to them and that you can pour your energy into serving them and making their lives easier. The target audience for Freshpet (fresh, refrigerated dog and cat foods), is well-defined: empty nesters age 45 to 54 with household incomes of $100,000-plus. “These are people whose kids are now busy with high school or off at college or in jobs now, and who are now lavishing their affection and attention on their pets, which they basically view as their ‘children,’” says Freshpet VP, marketing Kathryn Winstanley.

The benefits of selecting a target market for your business are many. But before choosing a core audience, ask yourself these two critical questions: Is my product or service relevant to these people? Will these people care about what I have to offer?