You’re in the process of setting up your business and suddenly the question of how to identify your target market and create a customer profile looms — like a mysterious marketing cloud.
The first instinct is to make up a person — Bob aged 25 who works in technology! He’s one of my customers! But the truth is it takes time to gather the right research and put together your target market.
If that already sounds daunting – fear not, we’ll guide you through each step of this marketing road. We’ve spoken to marketing experts, and with our help, you’ll craft your target market and prepare customer profiles in no time.
To put it simply, the market is the group of people that will be buying your product or service because it fills a need that they have. A target market is the group of individuals your product or service is created for and marketed to.
Not as simply put, businesses need to scope out their target market’s demographics and other data to get an idea of ROI (return on investment). It also serves as a tool for marketing, which is how your customers discover your product or service — think ads, social media, websites, branding, etc.
For example, let’s look at the shoe and clothing brand Nike. Its target market is not five-year-old girls who love candyfloss and panda bears, but men and women aged between 11 and 55 (an abnormally wide age range for a brand) who have a love of athletics and innovative streetwear.
The latest 10-minute Nike 50th Anniversary video ad campaign is directly aimed at this target market. It stars Spike Lee and Indigo Hubbard-Salk sweeping across US streets playing chess and talking about how Nike has been there for every major sporting event. Two people from two different generations, discussing amazing sporting heroes and heroines.
We’d say that’s the value of knowing your target market.
If you’re thinking, “my product/service is incredible! Everyone will want a piece of it, why narrow down my market when anyone can buy it?” Unfortunately, in order to create a product in the first place, you’ll need to think of your specific buyers and ask yourself some questions:
- Why are you creating this product or selling this service?
- Who is it serving?
- What makes it different from competitors?
- What benefits does it create for users?
- How does what you’re selling solve the problems your customers face?
- What are the barriers for your customers?
You’ll also need to ask yourself what your intention is with your business. “To sell and become a millionaire,” you might say. While we appreciate the ambition, business is also about understanding your consumers and using research to reduce your risks.
These questions might feel a bit interrogating, but they’re the beginning of identifying your market — the beginning steps to shaping a customer profile.
This question often gets lumped together with financial markets, but there are three main types of markets:
- Consumer — when individuals buy things for personal use, i.e., food, drinks, clothes.
- Industrial — when individuals or businesses buy materials to help them create products that they intend to sell, i.e., woodwork, steel, glass.
- Reseller — the reseller market mostly consists of retail outlets as they buy products wholesale and sell them on.
So, you might be wondering what are some actionable steps for identifying a target market? Below we’ll take you through each step so you can learn how to identify a target market:
Step 1. Outline Customer Benefits
Before delving into researching your target market, it might be helpful to look at your product or service and outline the customer benefits.
For example, if you have a shower gel that has a new exfoliating ingredient, that is not the benefit!
The customer benefit would be that “it gives you smoother skin and unclogs pores.”
You could start by creating a big table and writing out all of the features and benefits of what you sell. This is formally called a values proposition, and it’s the perfect first step for any business. Here’s a look at an example of that below:
|Product/ Service Features||Customer Benefits|
|1. A bike with a new wheels that grip more||1. A bike you can ride in all weather|
|2. A hairbrush with innovative technology||2. Defrizz your hair as you brush it|
|3. Toothpaste that uses bleaching agents||3. Have a pearly white smile|
You can use your features (new exfoliating ingredient) as a way to strengthen your marketing, but always lead with the benefits. Look at what you want to sell through the eyes of the buyer — what are they getting?
Not only will this help you identify your target market but it will also help you form a marketing strategy.
Step 2. The Data Collection Stage
Become familiar with what research you’ll be doing to shape your target market. We spoke to our in-house expert Natasha Willett, who offered us these key ways to begin learning about your target market’s identity:
- Eyes on the marketplace — research the market, collect statistics, trends, and begin to outline the competition.
- Needs assessment — put together focus groups, mystery shoppers, online analytics or tracking to gather more data on customers and buying habits and needs.
- Trends and forecasting — use market data and user habits to predict what buyers will do.
- Attitude research — create surveys that target questions towards how products or services make them feel, think, and behave.
- A closer peek at competitors — what are the target markets for similar companies? What are the pain points they have and how might your product or service solve that?
- Target population — the group of people you’ve narrowed down as your target consumer, which we will explain in step three.
- SWOT analysis — stands for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats analysis. Let’s take a look at what a SWOT might look like for your business.
| - Good reputation |
- Better customer benefits
- Good financial backing
| - Outdated processes or technology |
- Planning failures
- No reputation (or bad one)
- Poor management
| - New or emerging markets |
- Few competitors
- Press & media coverage
- Marketing campaigns
| - High competition |
- Negative press & media
- Campaigns gone wrong
- Economic crisis
Step 3. Putting Together a Customer Profile
A customer profile or customer avatar is a framework consisting of your ideal customers’ demographics, geographics, psychographics, wants, and pain points.
- Marital/family status
- Job & job title
- Cultural components
- Climate and time of year
- Population type and density
- Personality traits
- Hobbies and interests
- Opinions, attitudes, and beliefs
Wants & Pain Points
It’s important to get a good understanding of your ideal customer, going over all of these points and creating a mock profile for them. It might be helpful to get some stock images of people and write out these points along with any quotes you’ve gotten from focus groups.
What Is a Marketing Strategy?
A marketing strategy is a plan you put together based on the benefits your business provides the target customer profile. There are many different tried-and-tested strategies alongside people still crafting their own marketing strategies.
There’s no 100% guarantee with any strategy, as our in-house expert Ross Darragh said it:
Advice from the Experts
Strategies are trial and error, you should always be revisiting your strategy, goals, and targets. Ideally, the improvement never stops!
Think of the strategy as not just the finish line, but an ongoing learning process. Once you’ve collected information and created customer profiles, then you can get strategizing. What marketing channels will you use? Are your customers on Facebook, LinkedIn, or TikTok? What campaigns do they usually receive? What behaviors do they display, and what are they likely to be interested in?
Shaping your strategy depends on your budget, customers, and your business itself. The best place to start is trying to understand what your competitors’ strategies are. Then using that as inspiration, discover what they do effectively and what you could improve upon.
- New to marketing? Find the best online marketing courses to get up to speed.
Segmenting your target market means understanding what divides and categorizes your customers and particular product lines.
Before beginning to do market segmentation, you’ll need to have enough data on your customers and knowledge of your business. Whether you collect it all yourself or get help from a marketing organization to collect it for you depends on your budget.
Our expert Natasha Willett’s tip for beginning your target market segmentation is:
Advice from the Experts
One way to start a simple analysis is to go through the product/service range and list each type of customer and what they buy. Then focus on the benefits sought in different parts of the market (ie the need or problem) whether this is met by physical product differences or via non-product attributes.
For example, Nike has segmented its target market along with each unique product. Notice how each of these kinds of products feels like a whole brand of its own; Nike Basketball, Nike Running, Jordan’s, Football (Soccer) — and also different segments of its target market (sports and streetwear enthusiasts).
They’re all linked together by athletics and have sport-specific marketing strategies, but if you were to see all these different items, you would still know they were Nike thanks to the recognizable branding.
You can begin to segment your target market by looking at your customer data and understanding their particular interests, habits, wants, and needs. Then look at your products or services and see what new categories you can create.
There are so many ways to find valuable data other than just your website or social media cookies — there are government, academic, and industry resources available to you. Below are just a few to get you started:
- US census
- The annual abstract of statistics
- Open access publishing
- Google Scholar
- US Pew Research Center
- Market research agency papers
Although not everybody will fit your target market customer profile, it helps you get specific about your business marketing. Discovering how to identify a target market is the first step to launching your business into the marketplace. We’ve gone over how to:
- Ask the right questions
- Identify the three main types of markets
- Outline the benefits your customers get from your business
- Gather the data and information you need
- Create a customer avatar or profile
- Begin a marketing strategy
- Start segmenting markets (with examples!)
- Find extra tools and resources
Now that you know all about identifying your target market, you can put together customer profiles and take your marketing to the next level! We wish you the very best in your research and look forward to seeing your marketing plans come to life.
- Apple — Apple products are marketed to technology and user experience fans who are on a middle to upper income.
- Tesla — More of a male target market, who are into forward thinking tech.
Nike — The target market is ages of 11 – 55, both men and women. The customer has to have a love of athletics and innovative streetwear too.