Taking Aim: How to Identify Your Target Audience

targets What's your mark?

Your business – and every business – has a singular driving goal: capturing more customers and, ultimately, owning your market. Today, owning your market doesn’t require you to spend more on marketing and promoting your business than your competitors. However, it does require you to have a more efficient marketing and promotion engine in place that yields maximum return for every dollar and every hour you invest. The process of building this engine doesn’t begin with tactics; rather, it begins with identifying your target. No business – yours included – can afford to market to everyone. Of course, it’s tempting to try to reach as broad an audience as possible in the hopes that no potential customer will slip through your fingers. However, in actuality, this approach will cost you much more money and deliver far less satisfactory results because you’ll have greatly diluted your chances of reaching those whose needs you truly serve. It’s important to understand that your target audience does not encompass anyone who might possibly ever buy your products or services. Rather, your target audience is comprised of those who are most likely to buy and, therefore, become the primary focus of your marketing efforts. Identifying the right niche provides the foundation for success in all aspects of marketing and promoting your business:
  • It allows you to focus your efforts on those tactics and mediums that are most effective in reaching this particular group.
  • It allows you to tailor your sales message to focus on the needs and concerns that are of greatest relevancy and urgency.
  • Most importantly in today’s marketplace, it allows you to build a strong community around your brand comprised of people who love what you do and happily serve as your fans and evangelists.
  • And in real dollars and cents, it’s the difference between sending thousands and hundreds of thousands of postcards to achieve the same end result.
Here are the steps you should take to ensure that you’re targeting the right audience:

Segment your customer base.

Who are your customers? Of course, there are many different ways to answer this question. Often it’s easiest to begin by examining your sales data and segmenting your customers into groups based on demographic factors, including age, gender, income level, education level, marital and family status, industry and geographic location. In working though this process, you’ll likely find that a particular group or groups emerge as those who buy from you most often. This simple step can also help you identify how best to market the same product or service to different groups. Some market segments may be better reached at trade shows while others can be reached at home with a direct mail campaign.

Dig deeper.

Breaking your customer base down into groups based on basic common characteristics like gender and income is only step one. To reach and engage with these groups effectively, you’ll need to develop a deeper understanding of both their lifestyle and their motivations. Start with one of your products or services and evaluate it through the eyes of the customers that exist within each group you’ve identified. Make a list that includes every possible reason this type of customer might want this particular product or service. Maybe they are trying to solve a problem, maybe they just want to feel good about themselves or to satisfy a basic need. Going through this process will help you drill down to the specific benefits and outcomes that should be the core focus of all your future communication with this group. Secondly, think about the routines of their day-to-day lives and how this communication will be best received. Do they frequently read the paper? Do they spend a lot of time in the car listening to the radio? When searching for news and entertainment, do they turn on the television or pick up their iPad? Are they likely to be active on social media platforms and, if so, which ones? This type of analysis is essential to ensuring that you choose the right vehicles and mediums to capture their attention.

Keep digging.

At this point, you’ve established a solid foundation of knowledge about your target audience. But if you dig a little deeper, you might uncover additional information that will allow you to sharpen your approach even more. Now that you’ve segmented your market and gained an understanding of what drives your customers, see if you can identify which group or groups offer the most marketing bang for your buck. For example, of all those who are most likely to buy your products or services, which groups represent the most profitable? In the B2B world, these are usually the clients with the greatest longevity or those who utilize services with the greatest profit margin. Also, who are the customers or clients that send you the most referrals? These are your very best customers because they do the work of selling for you, so make sure you are not only reaching your existing customers who fall into this category but also others like them because they represent a group whose needs you are particularly good at serving. Finally, it would be a mistake not to examine who your competitors are targeting. This is not so that you can just copy their strategy and run with it. To the contrary, what you’re really looking for is any gaps in the market that they might be overlooking so you can swoop in and grab these underserved segments.

Put your target to the test.

Now that you’ve identified your audience, it’s time for the rubber of your marketing plan to hit the road of execution, right? Not so fast. You need to put your construct of your target audience to the test to ensure that it’s one that can sustain and grow your business. This process is often called a SWOTT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunity, threats and trends) analysis. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Are there enough people within the audience you’ve identified to support your business?
  • Can they afford your product?
  • Will they see a legitimate need for it?
  • Where do your prices fall in regard to their expectations? Too low? Too high?
  • Are there opportunities to upsell other related products or services to this group?
  • How much competition already exists in the marketplace for this group?
  • Are there any trends you can identify of which you should be taking advantage?
While the process of identifying your target audience may seem complex, these steps hold the keys to competing effectively in today’s marketplace. When you clearly understand who buys from you and why, only then can you find the channels they frequent and become one with your tribe. And wouldn’t you rather own your target market than merely shoot arrows into the dark, hoping one will land?