Entrepreneurs

4 Questions to Figure Out Your True Target Market and Client Base

How did you decide on your primary client base? The answer to this may be key to success for your business– or the cause of its downfall.

As a business coach for over 20 years, I am in the unique position of working with thousands of business owners each and every year. Every business is challenging and unique in its own way, but there are a lot of similarities across industries. When I meet with a new business owner, I always ask them to give me their best “Elevator Pitch” and to walk me through their company avatar so I can get a feel for their business.

Clients will tell me their product or service, and that their client base is made up of a certain demographic. It varies of course, but most business owners at least know the general demographic that their client base encompasses. Maybe it’s predominantly male, ages 40 to 60, the upper-to-middle class with a love for golf. Maybe it’s students ages 18 to 25 who are looking for help with college. It could be just about anything.

Now, depending on their industry and answers, I ask some follow-up questions. How did you determine your target audience? Was this based on market research or is this a gut feeling? Are you, the business owner in the target demographic and going off of their own internal biases and feelings?

That said, if you answered with the latter, you may not know your customer base as well as you think.

You see, a lot of businesses are born out of a need. An entrepreneur saw a need for a product or service, oftentimes in their own day-to-day life, and brought it to market. Since they had a desire for the product, they naturally assume that people that share the same traits as them would also like this product. They then form a marketing campaign around what would resonate with them as an owner (and in extension their “target” audience”) and run with it– and they see varying levels of success.

When it comes time to scale, many founders often feel like reaching new customers is an impossible hurdle. They are really popular in their target market, but how do they 10X, 20X, 30X their business? The answer is that they leverage other niches and audiences. And they pay attention to what their competition is doing.

So whether you are a new business or an established one, here are a few things you should consider when looking at your target market.

Who is buying my product?

Is it really men in their 40-60’s or are their spouses the ones that are doing the purchases? Is your target market really college-aged students, or is it their parents? How do you know? How could you know? Look to sales data to help you answer this question accurately. 

Who is my messaging geared towards?

Does your marketing and content exclude other target markets? Are you truly getting an accurate picture of your audience, or do you have biases that are only allowing your message to resonate with those in your perceived target?

Who is my competition targeting?

Does your competition have a different-looking client base? Look into their messaging, their creative content, and website to see what you could be doing differently to broaden your client base. 

How I can test this?

Let’s say that after a little research you realize that your target demographic of men ages 40-60 who like golf, actually ended up being women in their 40-50’s who are buying gifts for their spouses. How can you test out new messaging to reach that audience? Would a split test help you gain information about your audience? Could you target ads to that demographic and see the response? 

The more you know about your customers and the more objectively you look at your marketing strategy the more successful you will be in the long run.
 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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