Identifying Target Markets and Understanding Your Audience
If you haven’t even thought about the identity of your target markets, you are failing to take advantage of a huge opportunity.
One of the biggest marketing mistakes you can make is disregarding your audience. It doesn’t matter how spectacular your product is if you are not able to reach a well-defined target audience. Without knowing who you are trying to reach and what those individuals personally value, need, or desire, your marketing efforts will inevitably fail.
Understand, though, that defining one target market doesn’t necessarily mean that all other potential customers are excluded from your marketing campaign. Often times a target market is comprised of smaller market segments. The trap that you want to avoid is the mentality that your marketing efforts should be focused on anyone and everyone who might have an interest in your product or service. To avoid this kind of thinking, use the following considerations to gain a clear understanding of your target market.
1. Know the Intimate Details of the Problem(s) that Your Product or Service Solves
First and foremost, you absolutely need to understand why people perceive value in your product or service. Businesses make money because they solve real-life problems. For example, entertainment businesses are the antidote to boredom and apathy. The food industry meets the basic needs of hungry and thirsty consumers. Weight-loss companies and gyms help people feel better about their bodies. Because these businesses have the solutions to people’s problems, consumers see value in their products and services. This is fundamental to the exchange of money, because the consumer perceives a fair trade of money in return for the solution to their problems. Begin by asking yourself, “What problem does my product or service solve?”
2. Identifying Groups of People that Need Your Solution
Next, you will want to ask yourself, “What types of people have the greatest need for my solution?” The whole goal of defining a detailed target market is to separate the wheat from the chaff so you don’t waste money, time, and energy sending a message to people who won’t benefit from your product. Take time to actually put pen to paper and list off every different type of person who needs your solution. Then begin to group them by location, income level, marital status, family size, organization type (e.g. they might all belong to a certain industry), role, hobbies, and age.
You will also want to account for current and past customers in this step and think about why they choose to do business with you. You may very well be able to identify patterns or draw conclusions about the types of people who have benefited from your product.
3. Discover What Motivates These People
This is a challenging step because you actually have to get inside peoples’ heads. Essentially, if you can determine what motivates a person, you can understand what they value and why they make certain choices. You need to understand how your product brings people one step closer to their goals.
For example, let’s pretend that your product is educational and training material to improve project management skills that targets the managers of residential housing construction projects in the New England area. The problem your product solves is a lack of knowledge about project management techniques. But why would a construction management professional want to improve their project management skills in the first place? Is this individual simply trying to meet qualifications to obtain a promotion? Has their construction firm fallen behind schedule and need an improved project manager just to keep their head above water? Does the individual want to become more efficient to create more time to spend with their family and loved ones?
Knowing the answers to these types of questions will give you an incredibly deep understanding of your market to improve your marketing efforts. Once you have the answers to these questions, you can (and should) then develop marketing personas that adapt to your customers’ motivators.
4. Understand the Unique Perspectives of Your Audience
Now that you know what problems your product solves, who has these problems, and why they are motivated to solve them by purchasing your product, you need to define a market segment’s worldview. This is essentially the way they perceive the world around them. What concepts and ideas do they hold near and dear to their daily lives? This can include concepts such as their religion, morals, nationality, beliefs, philosophies, and values. Remember that this is different than the demographic information used to group individuals in step 2.
5. Who is Trustworthy?
This step is far too often overlooked, but after you have a clear definition of your target market and you understand them on a deep level, you then need to consider where they put their trust. Ideally, the goal is to build trust with your audience, but perhaps you are a fledgling startup or simply haven’t yet reached (or defined) your target audience.
If you lack trust from your audience but understand who they do trust, you can use this to your advantage. By citing sources that your customers value, you can drastically improve how much a member of your audience trusts your message. The more interactions your business has with trusted and reputable sources, the more trust you will build with your target audience.
If you haven’t even thought about the identity of your target audience, you are failing to take advantage of a huge opportunity. Having an intimate understanding of your target audience will help you stand out from the crowd and differentiate your business. Too many businesses fail to understand their customers.