If you’ve just launched a startup, you’ve likely spent a lot of time planning and building your business. Part of that planning process involves—or should involve—deciding who will be on the receiving end of your marketing efforts. Your products might appeal to a large group of people, but it doesn’t make sense to try to market to everyone.
You obviously want as many people as possible to know about your business. But the more potential customers you want to reach, the more time and money it’s going to cost to do so. Defining a target audience might feel constraining to you, but just remember that you’re not excluding anyone; you’re choosing where to spend your time and money. Selecting a target audience will help save you resources. Focusing on a portion of the people who might be interested in your products will allow you to communicate and engage with that segment more deeply.
Here’s how to get started:
1.) Consult your business plan.
Look at the goals you’ve set for yourself and analyze the products and/or services you offer. Think about how your products or services fulfill a need or solve a problem for a potential customer. Also, think about how you differ from other companies in your industry—what makes you stand out? Broadly think about who might be interested and who may benefit from having access to what you offer. Figuring out your selling point is the first step in identifying your ideal target audience.
Next, think about what information you need to know and why. What do you need to know about your potential customers in order to reach them?
As you consult your business plan and decide who you want your audience to be, remember that it is ultimately about the customer. Don’t think about who you would like to sell to, think about who is looking for the products and services you offer.
2.) Begin researching.
Start with secondary research. There are a lot of existing sources that can help you pull together information about your industry, the market, your competition, and the broad potential customer you have already identified. The best part is that someone has already done the work and, in many cases, the information won’t cost you anything. The downside is that the information may not be focused in a manner that is 100% useful for your purposes. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to do some searching. You never know—the research you need may indeed exist.
If you’re unable to identify secondary data that is useful for you and you have the budget to do so, you may want to conduct primary research. This could involve surveys, interviews or even focus groups. Though primary research can be expensive, it could allow you to get answers to questions specific to your business.
3.) Develop a customer profile.
After performing research, you’ll want to create a customer profile. This is more than a brief statement; it’s an in-depth description of who your typical customer may be and includes demographic and psychographic information:
- Demographic information: This may include age, gender, location, ethnic background, marital status, income, and more.
- Psychographic information: This type of information goes beyond the “external” and identifies more about a customer’s psychology, interests, hobbies, values, attitudes behaviors, lifestyle, and more.
Both types of information are essential for developing your customer profile. Demographic information will help you identify the type of person who will potentially buy your products and services. Psychographic information goes one step further and nails down why that potential customer may buy.
4.) Find out where your audience is.
It’s not enough to just say who your target audience is. Find out which websites they visit and which social networks they most frequently check. Are they glued to their email? Are they addicted to apps? The information you put together for your customer profile, combined with knowing where your audience hangs out online or how they use technology, will facilitate the delivery of your message.
5.) Monitor and evolve.
The work doesn’t end after you’ve identified your target audience. It’s essential to continually perform research to stay current on market and industry trends and your competition. It’s also important to see if and how your current and potential customers evolve. Before you begin marketing to your potential customers, make sure you know how you are going to track sales, interactions, requests for information, and more. All of these touch points are important to record. This information will help you identify trends, patterns, and possible areas of improvement, which will continually help your marketing efforts as your business matures.