Identifying your small business target audience is crucial. Poor audience targeting can be fatal for a new business. For established businesses, failure to identify the right target audience will result in wasted marketing spend and slow growth.

To identify your target audience the first step is to carefully think through:

  • What you offer.
  • What need does that satisfy?
  • Who needs does your offer satisfy?

Only when you have clearly defined target customers can you attempt to move them from audience to prospect.

Your Offer And Audience Needs

Define what you deliver to the marketplace. This may seem trivial, but you need to define it with as much detail as you can. You might have this information already if you have prepared a small business plan

What can you do (or not) and what are your capabilities? Is there something (however small) that makes your offer different? What sets you apart (if anything)? 

Next, what fundamental need does your product or service satisfy? Again, this might be a trivial question. 

Your Target Audience – Who Needs You?

With the above in place, you can define your small business target audience. Start at the top level and work on down.

So is it business or consumer, or both? In what geographical area do they reside? Then you can look at demographics. If the target is a business, this is the buyer demographics.

Demographics analysis can start simply with male or female, but you can go into much more granular detail from there. Some demographics might be relevant and some not. They include age, make-up of household, income bands, social classification, occupation and nationality. Define your target audience in as much detail as you can.

If the target is businesses, there are many classifications including status (Limited, partnership, plc etc.), turnover and staff numbers. You might want to know their structure, for example, are they part of a group. What is their buying process? Who does the purchasing and do they outsource?

Often it will become clear you have several potential target audiences. These are market segments and you might need a different marketing and sales approach for each one.

With a basic audience analysis in place, it is worth evaluating if you have missed anything. Your product or service might meet a need you had not thought of. Are your competitors servicing segments you are not? Does your offer fit with those segments and are they worth pursuing?

Your Audience Are Not Prospects

You have a target audience out there, but you should understand they are not prospects. They need a trigger first and you have no control over when (or if) that trigger occurs.

An example can illustrate the point. Let’s assume you run an electrical services business operating in a defined geographical area.

There are potentially many thousands of households that might need electrical services.

Bob is considering building a home office in his garden as a DIY project (the trigger). He researches how he will get power, from the house to the office.

After an old-style cartridge fuse blows in his house, Bill realises one of his downstairs sockets is wired into the lighting circuit. After a near nasty accident (the trigger), he needs an urgent quote to fix the problem and possibly a quote to replace his old-style fuse board.

Brenda has moved into her new home. The property is old and from the survey report, she knows it needs a full rewire (triggered). Bob, Bill and Brenda are all prospects, as events have triggered them to seek a solution. You can read lots more on this subject in this detailed guide to service business marketing.

You need an intimate understanding of your small business target audience. It is tempting to try to be everything to everyone but this wastes time and money. Better to focus on a smaller audience or niche and fully service their needs.

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