How Do You Find and Target the Right Customers

We sponsor, and I present a session on marketing at, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Entrepreneurial Training Program; my session is on marketing. When I first spoke with the program’s director about the program he pointed out that one of the major missteps that he saw from participants was that they too broadly defined their target audiences. They generally felt that their products or services appealed to “everyone.” He was right. When we go through introductions I ask the group to share what their product or service entails and who their target audience is. Invariably, without exception, each person’s audience is extremely broad. We then go on to talk about the marketing process, including the importance of clearly–and narrowly–defining the target group.

At the outset, business owners need to clearly identify who their target market is. Small business owners, in particular, have a tendency to cast a net that is too wide–they think everybody is, or could potentially be, their customers. I don’t blame them; we all have the same tendencies. But, effective marketing involves segmenting the broader audience into smaller groups that share similar interests and needs. That sets the stage for being able to effectively select the right media and create the right messages to resonate with your audience.

For instance, consider a basic product like white rice and the different communication tools/messages you might use to communicate with some very specific audiences:
  • College athletes
  • Young parents on a tight budget
  • “Foodies”
Many small businesses feel uncomfortable about narrowing their audience focus because they’re concerned that they might be “missing opportunities.” While counter-intuitive, the opposite is true: the more general your message, the less likely you’ll be able to connect and compel audience members to some desired action.
Once businesses identify the specific target market segments they wish to market to they need to spend time researching these segments to determine how they access information (e.g. through which media), what issues and needs are important to them, etc.
These steps are foundational to effective marketing efforts but, unfortunately they are steps that are not often taken.
What about you? How have you defined your target audience? Could you be more specific?
Recommended Reading:

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

Marketing for Entrepreneurs


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