So often I see entrepreneurs get stuck at the same point early on when starting a business. Most of them seem to struggle with finding their target audience, and, in fact, I struggled with this exercise for quite some time myself in the beginning. Why is that? I’ve come up with a few reasons that I think contribute to the difficulty. In the first place, I’m not sure there is always a solid understanding of how important identifying a target market really is. I also think that it’s sort of an ethereal process, and along with that same line, I think the amount of research required is often underestimated. The reality is that zeroing in on a target audience is one of the most important steps in planning your new business, and even though it is a research-intensive process, the ethereal quality of it provides an opportunity to get creative and have some fun with it. So, let’s simplify the process a bit, shall we?
Why is a target audience important?
Focus equals efficiency. Imagine you’re running. In one scenario, you’ve decided to go for a run along an unknown route. You have no idea where it ends or what the path looks like along the way. You have no way to plan for this run. You have no idea what you’re looking for or how long it will take you to get there, and you most likely will get lost along the way and come out overly exhausted in the end.
Now imagine you’re running an identified and familiar route. You know where your target is and what the shortest route to get there is. In this case, you’re prepared. You know they know the path of least resistance.
This is the importance of targeting your ideal audience or market. You want to find the path of least resistance to those consumers. This will save you time, effort, and expense in your marketing plan. You’ll be able to tailor your messaging and focus only on those consumers who are looking for what you have to offer. The bonus is that if you’re still trying to nail down a specific niche for your brand, identifying your target audience will help with that too.
So, what are some steps you can take to figure out who and where your target audience is without pulling all of your hair out?
Research competitor customer bases.
This is the absolute first place I recommend looking because not only will it give you an idea of the demographics for your ideal audience, but you can also get an idea of some of their pain points and holes that you can fill in your niche at the same time. So, start with finding businesses that are similar to yours and check the reviews and comments on their websites or on review sites. Once there, see what information you can garner about their consumers.
First, collect any age and location information that may be available. Look for commonalities. From this data, you can begin to form a profile of the age range and the types of places that your target audience lives.
Next look for any social media profiles that may be listed. This information gives you two opportunities. First, you’ll get an idea of the social media channels that your target audience uses which will help you decide where to concentrate your marketing efforts online. Second, if you are able to view any of the profiles, you can check out some of the pages that they like and follow to get an idea of the types of products, services, and marketing styles that they respond to. You can also consider joining some of the groups that they’re in if they are groups that could help you further with your market research meaning that they are groups that are made up of consumers in your niche.
Do you have a current client base?
Even if it’s small if you have any client base already built up or customers that you’ve worked with in the past? Maybe you already have some subscribers on your email list. You can use those resources. If you have current or past clients that you can learn from, consider conducting a survey or reviewing any testimonials you may have received. You want to find out what services or products they found most useful and how they helped them. A good way to conduct a survey if you’ve already built up a subscriber list is by using a tool like Survey Monkey. A survey provides a simple way for your subscribers to answer your questions. You might also want to know things like what, if any, similar services or products they use. That information can be used to revisit the previous step with a more accurate direction.
Use social media.
Social media channels are a great tool. Join Facebook groups where your potential demographic hangs out, but also join groups of like-minded entrepreneurs. The demographic groups will give you a platform to pose some of your research questions. Just make sure you do it in an organic, helpful way. The groups containing fellow business people will give you a place to learn even more creative ways of profiling your target audience. So, try to join a good mix of both.
Follow influencers in your niche on Twitter. Not only will this be helpful after you’ve officially launched your business, but it will give you a chance to look at the types of valuable content they post for their audiences as well as an opportunity to take a peek at their followers and what types of accounts they follow and what hashtags they use. If the influencers are in your niche, chances are they’ll have some followers that fit your target demographic.
Pinterest is such an incredible resource for businesses. When it comes to targeting your audience, I have a couple of suggestions. First check out the members who are following you or maybe, more importantly, members who are re-pinning posts from your account that are related to your niche or business type. What other types of pins do these members re-pin? Do they follow any accounts that are similar to yours? This gives you two pieces of information that you can work with. In the first place, if they’re following accounts similar to you, these people have a good chance of being in your target audience. Secondly, viewing the types of pins that the re-pin will give you an idea of some of the likes, dislikes, personality traits, and pain points of people in your target audience.
So, what do you do with the information you’ve collected?
Hopefully, you’ve been making notes throughout your research. Now the goal is to organize those notes into a digestible profile.
(Download my free Dream Biz Planner. It’s a great way to organize and create your profile, and there are specific questions included to guide you through your research.)
The types of information you’ll want to include in your profile are:
- Income level
- Pain points
Specific criteria are covered in my free Dream Biz Planner.