Why Marketers Often Fail to Sufficiently Narrow Their Target Audience

One of the most common missteps made by businesses large and small, in both the for-profit and not-for-profit arenas is a failure to clearly identify the desired target market. Why? In my experience, I see this happen for a variety of reasons:

1) Failure to understand the value of being specific

2) The fear of “missing opportunities” by not casting a wide net

3) Jumping to tactics before spending sufficient time in analysis

At the outset, companies need to carefully determine who they wish to serve based on demographics including geography, age, sex, income, industry, etc. and psychographics (e.g. interests and hobbies). Their goal should be to identify the potential market segments that may hold promise based on these attributes and then to prioritize the markets to focus on those with the most promise of achieving the best results with the least effort (time and money).

Even though a small company selling “widgets” online could conceivably define their market as global doesn’t mean that they should. Segmentation is all about prioritizing and maximizing resources. Importantly, the decisions you make today do not mean that you are “stuck with them” and cannot review and, potentially, expand your market at some point. In fact, you should undergo such a review at least annually.

A careful analysis of potential target market segments will allow you to identify the best communication tools to reach those segments and to create the most impactful messages to move those audiences toward some desired action (again, based on what you learn/know about these audiences).

Each semester I teach a session on marketing to a group of area entrepreneurs. Without exception, I find that these new or soon-to-be entrepreneurs fail to adequately define their target audience–they cast a net that is too wide and in their efforts to appeal to everybody they end up appealing to nobody.

The most successful organizations–small and large–do not attempt to be everything to everyone. They recognize the importance of segmenting and targeting specific market groups — and, ultimately, positioning their products/services against competitive offerings.


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