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Updated Oct 20, 2023

For Successful Marketing, Your Customer Can’t Be ‘Everyone’

Who should you really be marketing to?

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

Table of Contents

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Every business needs a marketing strategy. At its core, marketing is about promoting your business; it is how you talk about your products and services to get people to buy them. And to talk about your products in a manner that results in sales, you must first determine who, exactly, you are talking to. A good marketing strategy can’t address everyone; rather, you must identify a specific niche and speak to these people directly.

What is a target market?

A target market is a specific segment of customers that you believe want or need your product and service. Identifying the people who constitute your target market, analyzing their behaviors and preferences, and then deploying tailor-made marketing messages on the channels where they are active are the keys to driving sales.

Think about the sneaker business, for example. It’s a pretty wide market. Practically everyone needs a pair of sneakers, right? But the most successful sneaker companies know better; they focus on very specific targets.

For example, Nike’s website is all about fitness, sports and winning. Converse’s branding, on the other hand, is about style and making a personal identity statement. Even if nearly everyone needs sneakers, these companies help us know exactly which sneaker fits our personal needs, whether we are super-competitive or ultra-fashionable.

How to identify your target market

No matter what product you sell or what service you deliver, more targeted marketing gives you a better return. Targeting a specific audience gets you in front of potential customers more often, with messages that touch them emotionally. If you try to be everything to everyone, your message becomes vague and less impactful. 

But how can you know who is in your target market? And what if your customers aren’t who you thought they were?

Demographic data is invaluable to the process of refining your target market. It is important to identify the demographics of your target market, such as age, gender, marital status, education and household income. This data can be gleaned from numerous sources, including social media analytics, online forms users fill out and your CRM software that salespeople and marketing team members update after each point of contact.

In addition to knowing the demographics of your target audience, you should use psychographics to identify your target audience’s attitudes, beliefs, preferences and behaviors to help you address potential customers more effectively.

Once you have identified your target market, formulate a marketing plan. If this seems daunting, start by following the three C's of effective marketing, which outline the basic components of every good marketing strategy.

How to reach your target market

One of the keys to learning how to target your customers is determining who they are. Figure out your niche; you cannot be everything to everyone. Once you have determined your target market, you can employ strategies to attract these people’s attention and convert them to customers.

Determine optimal marketing channels

You can use social media and other marketing channels more effectively when you know which outlets attract your specific customer base. Use research and analytics to determine this information. Each social media platform captures its own analytics, so use that information to your advantage. You can also use this data to learn about and target your customers based on characteristics such as location, language and interests.

Different platforms require distinct marketing approaches. Be sure your strategy is tailored to the platform you are using, such as Instagram, Facebook or email.

To learn more specifics about digital marketing and to get more tips and strategies, check out our guide to email marketing or our guide on how to target older demographics on social media.

It is important to know your competition; find out what your competitors are doing and what they are offering. You may be able to offer something better. If you can, find out as much about their customers as possible.

Also, make sure your business has its own values, and stick to those ideals. Be clear about the value your company and products can provide to your customers. Whatever you claim, make sure you adhere to it.

Mapping your customer journey

Here are two methods for identifying your target market:

  1. Create a fictional buyer. In the past 10 years, it has been trendy to create “buyer personas,” characters who represent your target customers or clients. Creating a fictional person named Suzie or Sammy, for example, with specific wants, needs and desires makes it easier to design marketing campaigns that these ideal customers will respond to. They’re typically created using a great deal of research and data about current customers. Some companies find this process valuable, but it is costly and time-consuming and thus may not be feasible.
  2. Think about your best clients, most profitable customers or most reliable donors. Who are they, and what are they like? Could you consider conducting a business survey or hosting a focus group to find out what they like and dislike about your products, services and marketing messaging? Getting real feedback from your existing customers is the best way to understand how to reach others like them.
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Creating a customer journey map can help you understand not only who your customers are but how they become aware of and engage with your brand. This exercise can provide valuable insight that will assist you in identifying your target customers.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Who has bought before and returned to buy again?
  • Which clients have been the most profitable or referred their friends?
  • Which donors have given when you really needed them to and brought others to the table?

Now, figure out who these people are so you can find more customers like them. For example, consider the following questions:

  • What is their gender? How old are they? Are they married or single?
  • What level of education do they have? What do they do for a living?
  • What’s their outlook on life? Are they optimistic? Realistic?
  • Where do they get their news? What do they do for fun? What do they care about?
  • Why do they do business with you? How would they describe your company?

Jocelyn Pollock and Janet Kyle Altman contributed to the writing and research in this article.

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
Adam Uzialko, senior editor of Business News Daily, is not just a professional writer and editor — he’s also an entrepreneur who knows firsthand what it’s like building a business from scratch. His experience as co-founder and managing editor of a digital marketing company imbues his work at Business News Daily with a perspective grounded in the realities of running a small business. Since 2015, Adam has reviewed hundreds of small business products and services, including contact center solutions, email marketing software and text message marketing software. Adam uses the products, interviews users and talks directly to the companies that make the products and services he covers. He specializes in digital marketing topics, with a focus on content marketing, editorial strategy and managing a team.
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