Finding out who Your Customers Really Are

Small businesses, micro-businesses and start-ups often try to target everyone. However, they can get better results by targeting those most likely to purchase. Here’s how to identify a target audience for your product or service.

White duck standing out from the crowd

Who should your micro-business be targeting?

If I were to ask you who the main customers for your product were, would your answer start with the words; “anyone who…”? If so, you may benefit from defining your target audience more closely.

Knowing precisely who to target makes your advertising messages more effective as they can be geared towards what people actually want and you can place your adverts where they are most likely to be seen by the right people. If you go for a wide audience you might be lucky and get some customers, but your marketing may also be weak and not sufficiently strong enough to appeal to prospective customers.

If you try to be all things to all people, you can easily end up meaning nothing to anyone. It’s about using your resources most effectively to create the greatest effect from the activities you do.

Defining your audience starts off with a simple question; do you have existing customers or not?

Existing customers

Look at who has bought from you in the past, ideally by analysing your database and trying to spot trends. What to look for depends on whether you sell to businesses or consumers.

If you sell to other businesses, for example, you might look at the size of the companies in terms of number of employees or turnover, or perhaps they are in a particular market. For individual consumers it could be where they live, or age or gender.

The patterns you’ll start to see represent a picture of a ‘typical’ member of your target audience.

The next thing to consider is whether these typical customers are actually who you want or not. If they are, that’s great. Focus your marketing activities on trying to attract more of them. If they aren’t, what you’ve been doing so far is attracting the wrong type of customer for you.

Doing these steps successfully requires an up-to-date database, which you can read more about in Does a Micro-businesses Need a Database?.

Start-ups without Existing Customers

It’s clearly more difficult for new companies to identify a specific target audience. The new micro-business owner may ask their friends what they think of the idea and whether they would buy or not, but the answer is often “yes” so it’s not always helpful research.

Ultimately you’ll have to try selling the product or service and see who responds, but as a starting point try these two approaches:

  •  Are you setting up a micro-business in a field you know well because you can see a gap that isn’t currently filled? If so, this is your initial target audience.
  • Who do existing companies seem to be trying to attract by their advertising? Are they all targeting the same type of people or can you see a gap they’re not filling? This gap might be in the audience they serve or the needs they’re trying to meet. Perhaps their approach tries to appeal to everyone, in which case there will be an opening in targeting a specific audience with a particular message.

If this doesn’t generate any ideas then try a small launch, e.g. an advert in the local newspaper, a small website with some pay-per-click advertising or a direct mailing and build it up from there.

A more sophisticated version of this approach, providing potentially greater benefits, is given in Segmenting Your Customer Base. You may also need to use research techniques to find out more about your customers, which you can read more about in Market Research and the Micro-business.