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3 Ways to Define Your Target Market

How to determine who the people are behind your sales

Sometimes we’re so busy putting together our products and maintaining our stores that we forget the most important part of our business: the customer.

When you take the time to learn about the people behind the sales, you can better understand how you were able to make those sales in the first place. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. So, in this case, having the knowledge to be able to define your market will give power to your sales.

What we’re talking about here is your target market, which is “the group of people to whom your product is being marketed,” says Cindy Schulson, a niche marketing consultant.

“In order to market yourself, you have to know who you want to attract, what solution [your business] provides and why people should work with you,” she says.

Once you can more clearly conceptualize your target market, you are able to more efficiently focus your marketing efforts. Below are a few tips to help you define your target market. Ideally, you will have this defined before you set up a store, but if you already have a product and need to better know your market, these tips are just as useful.

1. What problem is your target customer trying to solve?

A successful entrepreneur sees a need and fills it. Since our communities are full of problems that are looking for solutions, this should be easy for entrepreneurs.

If you’re searching for a starting place and don’t have a particular product in mind, begin by finding a basic, broad market

For example, Annette Giacomazzi founded CastCoverZ after her daughter broke her arm. The covers come in different styles to add fashion and practical benefits to casts. In Giacomazzi’s words, “casts are ugly and boring, and 10-year-olds are not.”

A similar idea was spawned by another mother whose daughter had diabetes. She created to add color and fun to insulin pump carriers.

If you’re searching for a starting place in the entrepreneurial world and don’t have a particular product in mind, begin by finding a basic, broad market. Greg Habstritt, founder of, identifies four top markets that encompass most of what consumes our time: health, wealth, relationships and hobbies. You might also consider markets that are underserved. Communities such as Latin, deaf and baby boomers are practically begging to buy from you if you will provide them with what they need, Habstritt notes.

Already selling a product? Analyze its features and the benefits those features provide. Then ask yourself, what sort of people need those particular benefits? How does your product solve your market’s problem?

By understanding a problem and its remedy, you are already well on your way to finding the customer segment that wants what you have. As Schulson says, people don’t buy a service or a product, they buy a solution.

2. What do you know about your target customers?

Now let’s get down to nitty-gritty profiling. There’s nothing quite like demographic data to zip your target market into a nice little package.

Demographic data includes things like age, gender, income and occupation. By determining as much of this information as you can, you can understand the type of customer who would buy your product.

Why should you know that your target market includes architects and soccer moms? With a well-defined description of your ideal customer, you know exactly who to sell to, what they need and how to convince them they should buy from you.

This isn’t to say you should go out and ask your customers a bunch of personal questions. However, a casual survey could prove helpful. You can ask your customers questions like, “How did you hear about us?” or “What are your plans for the [marvelous product] you just purchased?” You’ll be amazed at how many customers love talking about themselves, especially when they are a big fan of your product.

The following is a list of some things to consider when defining your target market’s demographic profile. Use this list to help yourself envision and understand your market. If you already have a customer base, try identifying some of the characteristics they share, such as:

  • AgeWith a well-defined description of your ideal customer, you know exactly who to sell to, what they need and how to convince them they should buy from you
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Education
  • Family status
  • Occupation
  • Ethnic background
  • Personality
  • Attitude
  • Values
  • Interests
  • Lifestyles
  • Behaviors

By having a compilation of such data, you’ve pretty much found the person who needs your product, wants your product and will buy your product. It keeps you focused on who you’re serving.

3. Is there competition in your target market?

First, you want competition. A good dose of competition is healthy for you and indicates a viable market, so long as there’s not too much competition. If the market you’re considering is saturated, try to find an adjacent segment that has plenty of room for new players.

Research who your competition is. Find out who competitors are advertising to and how. The more successful competitors in a market are worth studying because they’re attracting the specific market that will put money down for your product. But also consider if there is a niche they’re overlooking.

It’s not about you

Don’t forget to be honest about your product and the people who buy it. In other words, don’t define your target market by who you want to sell to, but rather by who wants to buy from you.

It could be that you think you’re selling jewelry or clutches to middle-aged mothers, when in fact it’s single college women who love your wares, or perhaps you expect young men to seek out your high-tech gadgets, but the research shows it’s the family man who spends the most dollars on these toys.

By identifying your target market, you can start to think like them, and find the most efficient way to access them.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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