Will the real target market please stand up?


Will the real target market please stand upHow do you really determine who your target market is?  I mean your REAL target market – not the one you made up when you were writing a business plan.  Who are the people who will purchase your products or services ?

The best way to identify your target market is to use data and trends of the 1,000s of customers who have purchased from you.  What are their FAQs?  What are their aches and pains?


But what do you do when you haven’t had 1,000 people buy your product or service?  Or  for that matter, even 100 people.  How do you determine who your market is and more importantly where you should be spending your time and dollars marketing?

I’ve asked this question a hundred times.  I’ve tossed it out at workshops where participants are identifying their company’s unique selling proposition.  I drilled students in my business plan courses.  Don’t just give me the surface answers – what is your real market? Often I get the easy answer like “educated men with 150k+ income”.  No, that’s who you wish would buy.  The minute you start explaining what you are selling, I can find 100 reasons why this demographic would not be your target market.

Please stop lying to yourself that everyone is your target client

My personal favorite response: “I serve everyone”.  No you don’t.  Even universal food brands realize that they don’t serve everyone  – and we all need to eat.  Think I’m wrong?  Survey the owners of all of the national health food stores who are slowly changing the way the major supermarket chains operate.  I never used to see organic or vegetarian foods in the major chains.  Now they have their own aisle.

When you really start to dig at this question, it’s challenging.  And often hard to answer.  Yet it’s the foundation of any solid marketing strategy – who do you serve?

It’s one of the big questions I am grappling with now.  Who do I really serve?  And how do I demonstrate the value that I offer?

My story of how I got more clear around my target client

My business model has changed in the past few years.  When I first started, I worked with other businesses – associations, organizations, nonprofits and for profits –  who were seeking a trainer to deliver workshops on entrepreneurship education.   I had a blast doing this work because I could network with several clients and offer conference programs and workshops for hundreds of people.  It was a total win-win.  I got access to audiences and my clients got rock solid trainings.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that my work was based on a model that didn’t allow me room to scale up and create opportunities to work with hundreds of clients at one time.  And there wasn’t technology that could support that vision.

So I’m taking a real hard look at my target market in my new business model.  It’s a process to literally “unlearn” many of the ideas that I had previously about my business.  But I’m game to do the heavy lifting and continue asking, questioning, and probing until I nail my it.

I know there is something I can offer in particular to “old school” small business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to realize their business dreams in our new economy.  Those who are unfamiliar with how to mix up the new trends in personal branding, social media, setting up systems and how technology (for non techies) can support in their business.  Plus there are some other factors that people keep asking like, “How do I eliminate the fear factor/uncertainty of starting”?

One of the best ways to start determining who is your target client

So it’s back to the drawing board and I’m grateful for the Lean Startup methodologies to guide this conversation.  One of the tenets of Eric Ries’ work is that you need to test, test, and test the minimal viable product you create.  While I’m not a techie I do believe there is something valuable to gain from testing and viewing the trends.  However, what Eric doesn’t talk about is how vulnerable and uncomfortable this can be for business owners.  Eeek – you have to put a minimally completed product out in the market and just see who shows up?  And keep tweaking it while they watch what are you doing?

I’m wiling to be a guinea pig here and share my insights. .

In the interim, anyone game to share with me who their target market is and why?  I’m happy to share some free consulting to the folks reading this blog.  Go for it and I’ll be kind in my response!! lol.


8 thoughts on “Will the real target market please stand up?

  1. malla says:

    Definitely too broad! But you are asking the right question – Do I need to tighten in? You will know you have the exact market when you can see a clear plan of where you would sell your product/service and you know the exact communities to target online.

    Feel free to keep sharing – for ex: I’m curious what functionwriting is all about. That right there tells me that you have a tight target market in the making…

  2. Kelvin says:

    Great post Malla!
    My target market is businesses who need help getting their message out there.
    Is that too broad? Even though I write a lot about target markets and focusing on your niche, I could always use another perspective on just how much to focus.

  3. Pingback: My Top 10 BizSugar Contributors: What They’ve Shared, What I’ve Learned, and Why They Got My Vote |

  4. malla says:

    Nice! So now what makes your in person customers REALLY attracted to you? What do you offer them that no one else does? Have you surveyed them or spoken to them about why they made the decision to purchase? Often when you start doing this research you’ll figure out ideas for how to reach even more customers and also figure out how to penetrate that illusive online market.

  5. malla says:

    You know I can relate! Have you gotten any rough ideas about who you serve?

  6. Martin Lindeskog says:

    Malla Haridat,

    I can resonate with your statement:

    “It’s one of the big questions I am grappling with now. Who do I really serve? And how do I demonstrate the value that I offer?”

    I have been struggling with this for some time. I have to become better to package the different services that I can offer. It is easy as a social media evangelist to start talking meta stuff, without first listening to that the potential clients really want.

  7. Steve says:

    I am a landscape photographer & have been in business for seven years. I sell my work through craft shows, internet site and through some regional retail partners. Face to face at a show, it is fairly easy to identify the demographics of the majority of buyers. They tend to be female, age 30-60, married, and based upon credit card sales, they appear to be homeowners. I tend to think females older than about 60 are either considering or may be in the process of downsizing. I cannot readily identify those who purchase on the internet or through retail partners. Therefore, based upon the information I have it appears that is my target market.

Comments are closed.

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.
Skip to content