How to really get to know your target market

Posted In: Personnas, Target Markets

target market


Katherine*was a coaching client I had last year who really needed my help. She was really struggling to get sales on her e-commerce site where she sold planters (beautiful planters, I might add).  She defined her target market as being women 25-65.

Then she ran PPC ads and set up accounts on every major social media platform. She sold a few, but waited for the big rush of sales.

And waited.

After realizing she was losing money every day with her ads, she emailed me for help.

What went wrong? One of her mistakes was trying to sell to everyone. And as the saying goes, when you try to sell to everybody, you sell to nobody.

Why identifying your target market is so important

One of the first rules of marketing is identifying your target customer, (or target market). It’s foundational. The reason this is so important is that it will affect the trajectory of your entire business. If you are marketing to your correct customer, you’ll get business. If it’s off, all your marketing will fall on the deaf ears of people who are not interested in buying your product.

In Katherine’s case, she had not narrowed down her target customer nearly enough for fear of leaving a potential customer out.

I get it. We want to make sure our products are shown to everyone because we really don’t know who is going to buy it and we don’t want to exclude a potential customer. But what happens is we spend a lot of time and a ton of money marketing our product to the wrong person.

Sorry, you repel some people by nature

Truthfully, as amazing as your product is, not every customer is going to want it. By very nature, you’re going to attract some people and repel others.

Here’s the truth: in our online world, where we have almost unlimited options, if something does not speak directly to us, we’ll walk away.

Think about it. I’m a big fan of Pottery Barn. I love their furniture, their dishes, accessories…pretty much everything in their store.  They have an old-world, comfortable look that makes me feel like crawling onto one of their sofas and taking a nap. Or hosting a dinner party at their table–right there in the store. Pottery Barn speaks to my soul and they know what look for in the home I aspire to have. They’ve tapped into my emotions.

But my twenty-something daughter has a different vision for her home. She loves Crate and Barrel, which has a sleek, contemporary and urban look.

Two different stores. Two different markets. Both sell the same types of home products. If Pottery Barn added the kind of merchandise found in Crate and Barrel, I would not enjoy the trip to the store. And I’d probably find another place to shop.

So think a moment about the message and the products your offering and how you’re connecting with your target market.

But what if your product does appeal to everyone?

Let’s say you have an ice cream shop. Who doesn’t like ice cream, right? Why not market to everyone in that situation?

Consider two ice cream shops in the U.S.: Dairy Queen and Coldstone. Dairy Queen is part of small town America. It’s the place you bring the kids after a baseball game or a dance recital.

Coldstone, however, is gourmet ice cream. It’s priced higher and appeals to a different segment of the marketplace.

Both sell ice cream, both are marketed very differently. Each has a different target customer.

What is the best way to find your target market?

Ask a lot of small business owners who their target customer is and they’ll probably tell you something like “moms, age 25-40” or “small business owners in the USA”.  

Unfortunately, that doesn’t go nearly deep enough. What you really want to do is step into the shoes of your target customer and really understand their frustrations, fears and motivations. We need to take the time to understand the struggles of our target customer.What are their deepest desires? What would make them reach out to you? What are they Googling in despair when they can’t figure out how to solve the problem that you can help them with?

People buy primarily on emotion. Reach into the emotions of why they’d buy from you, then you can start to identify and connect with them.  If you only know that much, you’re ahead of most of your competition (way to go!).

Developing a Persona

To do this, start with looking at your customer’s demographics. Then narrow it way down. Instead of defining your target customer between the age 25 and 45, pick an age of the one who would be your best, ideal dream customer. Ask yourself:

  • Which one is the better customer?
  • Who would spend the most money with you and be the best to work with?
  • Which one of those does your product fit the best with?
  • Then take a look at what their life is like. What does your target market do? What do they read? Where do they shop?
  • What are their values?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What technology do they use?

target market worksheet download

Not sure about the answers to these questions? Reach out to your existing customers and ask them.

How to find your target customer if you’ve got a new business

Don’t have any customers yet? A way to figure out who it might be is to read forums, Facebook and LinkedIn groups that have a similar target audience. Read the comments they leave. Pay attention to the questions they ask. Look at your Facebook Audience Insights and in the Interests search bar, type in your closest competitor’s page and look at their demographics. I’ve included more information on how to do that in my free target customer guide

Now, take all of this information–the demographics and psychographics– and roll it into a fictional person–your target customer persona. You want your target customer so to say “that’s me!”.

Let’s say you have an online discount travel business, and your persona will read something like this:

“My persona is Elizabeth. She’s 26 years old and single. She makes $45k per year and has a degree in biology. She drives a Honda Civic and shops at Trader Joes and Target. She loves to read in her spare time and she uses SnapChat and Instagram. She longs to travel but doesn’t have a lot of disposable income, so she loves looking for travel deals.   She’s afraid of not having the chance to travel when she’s young and she wants to be able to see the world before she settles down and has children. She dreams of seeing Egypt and South America.”

Now you have a window into your target customer’s mind! You know what search terms to use, what to blog about and what social media to use and run ads. You even know what sort of images to use in your promotions. You can tailor the product and services exactly for this customer and use the language they use.  In short, you know how to write the copy that will motivate her to buy. You can show before and afters of what can you do on your website and in your marketing so your customer so they can say “that product is for me!”

That is why the persona is so important. Although it’s not an easy task, it’s crucial. When you can get so specific and target your customers wants and needs, you business will grow.

What about you? Do you find it difficult to define your target customer? Leave a comment below.

target market worksheet download


      *Not her real name…I always respect the privacy of my clients. 🙂