What is “Target Market”?
The definition of a target market is the group of people that a company wants to sell its products or services to or “ideal customers.”
It is essential to know who your ideal customers are – more specifically, create a customer persona (or buyer persona) to use as a tool to understand your best customers and subsequently attract more people just like them. Use it to develop messaging, positioning, and content to generate leads, convert them into clients, and ultimately systematically turn those into referrals. Knowing your audience is crucial to mapping out a winning marketing strategy that optimizes marketing efforts.
Target Market = Customer Personal = Client Avatar = Ideal Audience
A customer persona or avatar is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” The effort you invest in turning your understanding of your best prospecting into powerful messaging is sure to turn into more sales and higher revenues.
“There are no bad prospects, only bad prospecting.” Jason Swenk.
When you talk to everyone, you speak to no one.
When you stand up and introduce your business, and someone asks, “Who is your ideal client?” – what is your answer? If you reply, “Any adult in my area, we serve everyone willing to …. (fill in the blank),” a huge red flag goes up.
What Businesses Think Happens When “Everyone” is Their Audience
What Actually Happens When Your Messaging Doesn’t Focus on a Specific Avatar
The truth is if I walk in and ask you, “Who do you have in mind when creating your messaging?” and you don’t know or don’t have a good answer, then that is the number one thing we’ll discuss before anything else.
“In marketing, if you have no target, it’s not like the motivational speech of ‘Shoot for the moon if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.’ It just doesn’t work that way in business. You’ll be shooting into the black expanses of space–where no one exists.” ~ Michael H Kaleikini, Entrepreneur Magazine
Customer Persona and Your Business Plan
Your targeted customers fit right into your business plan.
What? You don’t have or don’t want to write a business plan?
I have had to talk my fair share of small business owners into writing a business plan. A written plan is like magic; as soon as you do it, you set your course and see progress.
If you know your course and it’s all in your head, that does no good unless your business can succeed without one other person (including customers). Goldman Sachs wrote in Huffington Post: “Running a small business without a plan is a lot like driving without directions. It’s difficult to see the road ahead and even harder to know where to turn next.”
A written business plan is essential, but identify your customer persona if you do nothing else. Who is exactly the person you are looking for as the “perfect client?” Thinking of 2 or 3 people in particular who are your existing clients can give you focus on targeting your marketing so that it will resonate with them.
Many will tell you that the first step in identifying your target market is to consult your business plan. However, I have never written a business plan without first identifying the company’s target audience.
It is a great idea to revisit this process periodically to make sure that you still agree that your client avatar remains the same and also to verify that your efforts do speak to that market.
7 Simple Steps to Define Your Target Market in Your Business Plan
a.k.a. Customer Persona a.k.a. Client Avatar a.k.a. Ideal Client
The only thing worse than having one more big assignment before opening your doors is having a complicated, drawn-out, or expensive step. Here is the excellent news: identifying your ideal customer is easy, straightforward, and doesn’t cost a penny.
1. The First Step in the Target Marketing Process is to Document It
As you take steps to determine your customer persona, documenting your findings will help you through the process. It will also serve as an excellent supporting document when you go back to review your client avatar in the future. Considering changing your target market down the road should be done with great care, and studying your previous thoughts saves time and frustration.
You can choose any word processing program like Word, Google docs, Evernote, or even notepad. The important thing is that you save your notes and refer to them periodically.
2. Not sure who will appreciate your benefits the most? Do some research. Google is a beautiful thing.
Using an example from above, let’s think about the specific group of people who would benefit most from office supply delivery. Business owners, yes. But specifically, those who work in an office, right? It is true that a small coffee shop owner would appreciate delivery and could end up a customer. However, they wouldn’t be your ideal customer.
Figure out what demographic profile fits your best prospects.
Right off hand, I found a report from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that identifies the demographic characteristics of a small business owner. The age range/gender data says that 15.6% of owners are under 35, 32.7% are 35-40, and 51.7 are over 40. If you were to go strictly from this report, the demographics of this group of consumers are that they are 35-88 years old, non-minority, are US Citizens who are homeowners, and live in a metro area.
A big thing to keep in mind is that it is best to define your target market based on your specialties, services/products, and even your interests.
Be sure to document the geographic location as well, if it’s relevant to your business.
3. Create Your Marketing Personas
Think of 2 People In Your Life You Picture Being Your “Perfect” Customer
This visualization is my favorite part. You have done good work defining your services, benefits to customers, and target demographics.
Now, think of someone that is a “perfect client” to buy your product or services. If you have been in business for any time, this is easy – think of your top two clients who are also people you love to work with and wish all of your customers could replicate.
If your business is new, think of two people that you think would enjoy the benefits of your business the most. Then describe each one of them using the demographics outlined above.
Write a Description of the People Who Fit Your Target Market
After that, take everything you have done and write out your best customers. Your demographics list and two “perfect clients” should have more than enough content. Now describe your ideal client in 4-7 sentences.
4. Identify the Unique BENEFITS Your Potential Customers Would Enjoy
The best approach to this step is to go through your list of things that set you apart and your list of services. Tabulate the list of those things that set you apart, features, and services. Then make a list of benefits.
Communicating the benefits of what you do and how it will improve your ideal client’s life will get their attention and bring you more sales.
Here is an example using a fictional real estate agent identifying the benefits of her listing packages:
I have great listing packages (set apart) to sell houses (services)
- first, so that sellers are more informed of the process (direct benefit) to give them more peace of mind knowing we’ve taken care of everything (ultimate benefit)
- second, so that the listing marketing is consistent (direct benefit) and sellers can move on sooner with more money in their pocket (ultimate benefit)
- third, with a well-laid plan, nothing falls through the cracks (direct benefit) to make the process smooth and more profitable
Understanding the difference between a “feature” and a “benefit” to your client or customer is an important step – and one that entrepreneurs often misunderstand. Embrace it, and you’ll be heads above your competitors.If you sell office supplies and offer delivery as something that sets your business apart – that is a service, not a benefit. The benefit to the customer is that your delivery service saves busy small business owners from having to pay someone to drive to the store to buy a pen.
Another example would be a real estate agent who offers a free price opinion. Again, that is a service. The benefit to the customer (well, at first, prospect) would be to discover how much he’ll pocket after his house sells, even how much the client can buy his next house for, whether he sells it himself or hires an agent.
Write down three to four benefits you offer your clients.
5. Identify the Pains and Dreams for Each Market Segment
Your business likely pitches to multiple market segments.
A pet supplies store might sell to retailers and directly to customers. Let’s break those two segments down even further. Customers could be retired baby boomers who spoil their pets. They could also be young families with little kids whose pets are part of their lively family.
Each segment has very different pain points that send them to a pet store to get them to their “dream.” As you create content for baby boomers, fashion the headlines to answer questions and pique interest around connecting with other pet owners, traveling with pets, and ways to train dogs with quiet lives to be ready to be sweet to the grandkids.
Headlines for young families could offer ways to incorporate kids into training your pet, which foods your toddler feeds your dog are poisonous, and solutions for keeping your pet entertained while at work.
6. Create Your Before and After Grid
Identifying the “Pain and Dreams” is best done with the Before and After Grid. We go through this process at length with our clients, but I’ll give you some quick tips on how you can do it yourself.
Write the title of your segment at the top of your paper and a name that personifies the element. When you focus your marketing on a specific person, I promise that you’ll get a better outcome. If you feel like you need help with this, feel free to see if it makes sense to set up a Free Marketing Consultation with our team.
Create a column on the left and list the pains this segment experiences when they come to you. What problems are you solving? Using our pet store example above, the “family” direct to consumer segment “pain” could be that they feel guilty when leaving their dog at home for travel. They are afraid their dog will die from food their toddler drops from his high chair. Their dog is tough to train with kids in the house, and taking him for a walk is painful since the dog seems to be the boss.
In the right column, list the “dreams” your Customer Persona has come to you to produce for them. Referring to our pet store example, the family consumer segment likely dreams of having a well-behaved, healthy, well-adjusted dog. They see their kids playing and growing up with their beloved family members. As the dog is happy and the kids mature, they have everything they need to move into that dream. Your business is just the place to deliver what is required to make that happen.
Can you see how this works?
Create one Before and After Grid for each segment.
This process works for absolutely every industry.
It’s become one of my favorite steps in our Breakthrough BluePrint because it combines the science of demographics the art of crafting the stories behind why people do what they do. Our clients have enjoyed it as well – believe it or not, analytical and feelings-driven business owners all like and appreciate it! Even the biggest skeptics became fans who found themselves using the wording that came out of the sessions.
Common Myths of Creating Customer Personas from a Target Market
Resist the urge to let any of these common myths hold you back from the kind of growth you’ll surely see by starting your marketing and sales strategy with a well-developed Customer Persona.
Fiction: If I pick an ideal client to target, I don’t want to alienate everyone else.
Fact: By speaking confidently to a hypothetical person, you attract a broader spectrum of people.
An article written for a retired couple about traveling with pets would also attract many adventurous pet owners – even if they’re single, young, old, or have ten kids. You will not alienate anyone by writing great content.
Fiction: I’m uncomfortable creating a buyer persona. Not everyone is exactly like that person.
Fact: When you give a name and description to a specific avatar, you can speak right to that person.
Anyone reading it is more attracted to content that speaks to a human person.
Your audience will have more confidence in you with robust, clear messaging. Additionally, crafting it as if speaking to a person is much more effective. For instance, if you identify your Customer Persona as a 35-year-old woman and create an ad targeting that person, who will feel alienated? I was thinking of a 35-year-old woman and came up with the headline, “[Checklist] Leftovers that Could Send Your Dog to the ER.” This example speaks to many readers but has the Customer Persona in mind. Does that make sense?
Fiction: Data doesn’t lie. I need a way to identify my target market that is more data-driven.
Fact: Data is a big part of a deep dive into developing a Customer Persona. Your Target Market has to do with your vision.
When you started your business, you knew the group of people who would benefit most from what you have to offer. If you skipped that step, I recommend you go to your local Small Business Resource Center and ask for help in working that out. They have excellent resources to build that data with you.
Attract Your Dream Clients
As your business grows, you have clients who dream of working with you, and you have the not-so-dreamy ones. In other words, your experience starts this process, and data takes it further. The data often validates what you already know while offering nuggets of valuable insight.
How to Use Your Findings
In conclusion, that exercise will take you further than many of your competitors who don’t plan at all! “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Can you relate?
7. Stand Out Ahead of Your Competitors with Messaging
You will use this target market description in your marketing decisions: buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads, determining where to market (because it will be where your ideal customers are), and as you write your blog posts. Everything will be written, placed, and advertised to those you identified.
If you are writing a blog post, be sure to ask yourself if your “perfect clients” would read it. Consistently write, advertise, and place marketing according to the interests and needs of your target market.
You don’t have to do this process alone. We have the tools and expertise to help you build a one-year marketing strategy that leverages what is already working and adds messaging and strategy to accelerate your growth and visibility.