Target market – What is it? How To Find It For Your Business

Target market’ is a bit of a dull-sounding marketing term that even those with no marketing experience will have heard. But we’re here to tell you it’s one of the most fun and exciting parts of developing your business strategy. Here are three reasons why:

This is where your customers start to become ‘real’. It’s your first glimpse of what the people buying your product or service are actually going to look like.

It’s super personable. You get to explore all the things that make your customers tick – taking a dive into their lifestyles, their habits, and their psychology.

When you find it, your target market can be full of surprises. This is an opportunity not just to drill down into the target audiences you have in mind, but to potentially identify new markets you may not have considered appealing to. 

For a brief overview of all things target market, check out the beginning of our basic guide to researching your business idea. Here, we’re going to take a deeper dive, looking at the exacting methods, philosophies, and ideas behind establishing the holy grail of your target market.

What is a target market?

In plain English, your target market is the people that will want your product or service, and be likely and able to buy it. 

 The make up of this group of people will be based upon key demographics including: age, location, income, and (to a lesser and lesser degree) gender.

In the words of the influential management consultant Peter Drucker, the goal is to ‘know and understand the customer so well, the product or service fits him and sells itself’.

Why is defining a target market so important?

Establishing a solid target market definition saves you from the purgatory of ‘catering to everyone’. This is a categorically impossible feat that no brand has ever achieved – with  McDonald’s perhaps getting the closest, due to the fact they are able to constantly, subtly adapt and reposition across global markets (and it’s delicious).

The simple reason it’s so important to define your target market is that different groups require different marketing strategies. For example, generally speaking, the Boomer generation is prepared for a hard sell, Millennials respond better to softer, more personalised approaches, and Gen Z are almost anti-sell, creating the need for a whole new approach.

Like how your furniture points at your TV, all of your marketing efforts, advertising campaigns, and brand positioning will be focused around your core target market.

Target Market McDonalds
Catering to the target market of "people who like french fries" isn't exactly tough mind

How to find your target market

Start by asking yourself these two questions:

  • What problem does my product solve? From here, you can look at who is most likely to encounter this problem. Think creatively. If you sell at-home gym equipment, your exercise ball doesn’t just solve problems for locked-down gym goers. It might help otherwise inactive desk-sitters with their back problems. It might be great for low-impact exercise groups for older people. You might choose to go after one, two, or all of these groups (this is called multi-segment marketing – see Vans multiple Instagram accounts for a good example, which cover tons of segments including @vansgirls, @vansskate, and @vanssurf). Which you choose will depend on your product’s unique features and price point. 

 

  • Is someone else already solving this problem? It’s rare to enter the marketplace with a totally new and revolutionary product. Chances are, someone’s already selling what you’re selling. But you think you’ve found a way to do it better. This is a great opportunity to analyse the marketing and customer feedback of competing brands to see who they’re attracting, who’s engaging with them, and who they might be missing out on.

With these insights in mind, you can move onto specific exercises to further develop your target market profile: 

  • Create buyer personas 

We’ve referenced this before in our Brand Strategy 101 post, but because it’s great, here it is again: HubSpot’s Buyer Persona tool. It uses research, data and insights to create a detailed profile of your ideal buyer.

“Understand why you are different and how you help, recognise your target market, and give them something they might not even realise they are missing.”

  • Survey, survey, survey

The idea of surveying is to speak to a broad range of people, making sure you can identify them by asking for their age, location, income, and gender as above, and then seeing how each type responds to your more specific industry questions. Once you’ve established who they are, you might ask things like: how often they use products like yours, where they buy them, why they buy them, what they feel could be improved, and if they’d consider alternatives. Whether or not you choose to use SurveyMonkey for this part, the site has excellent free resources on exactly how to use surveys for establishing your target market.

  • Use Google Analytics 

If you’re already up and running, Google Analytics can give you valuable insights into who’s visiting your website. The ‘Demographics’ and ‘Audience’ sections will show you the age, gender, geographical location, language, and interests of your visitors, as well as whether they’re browsing on desktop or mobile.

  • Use social media

Facebook Ads Manager is another incredible tool for showing you the size and potential of your target market. If you want to appeal to male professionals under 30 living in London, Ads Manager will tell you how many of them there exist. This can be vital information, as if the number comes up smaller than you thought, you may need to expand your offering. If it’s too large, it’s a sign you may need to drill down into more of a niche. Remember – this only applies to people who have Facebook profiles. 

Use Instagram to follow your competitors, monitor the hashtags they’re using, and build a picture of their followers and the ways in which they’re engaging. The Command tool can provide further insights on competitors, collaborators, and your own performance when you get started.

Target Market Pumpkin
Pictured - instagram spying on the competition in October

Your DMU (Decision Making Unit): a crucial part of target market planning

Your target market might not always be one person. It may need to factor in several ‘targets’:

  • The Buyer
  • The Decision Maker
  • The Gate Keeper
  • The User
  • The Initiator
  • The Influencer

 

These terms are set out in a marketing 101 essential, the DMU, or Decision Making Unit. This is a basic model, but it’s endlessly useful in calibrating your marketing to reach the right people.

Let’s take a look at the DMU that Hot Wheels’ marketing manager might be dealing with. The ‘target’ for the Hot Wheels® Car Culture Circuit Legends™ toy car set (real product) isn’t just the 10-year-old kid that desperately wants it for Christmas. 

  • The child is the User, and likely the Initiator. He or she will play with it, and probably saw it first, initiating the discussion. 
  • The child’s parents are the Decision Makers. They are also likely to be either the Buyers or the Gate Keepers, making their approval of the product arguably the most crucial.
  • The child’s school friends or siblings are likely to act as Influencers, playing a key role in the desirability and social credibility of the brand and product. 

Our Instagram-nourished brains are likely to think of celebs and social media when we hear the term ‘influencer’, but the DMU looks exclusively at direct interactions in the consumer’s life. The strategy is to understand and recruit the people who play a role in purchasing decisions, so they can base their social media and marketing efforts around them. In other words, we’re looking specifically at the influences that already exist before any marketing or advertising has begun. 

Naturally, a large portion of our marketing efforts will be directed at Users. Our goal with Users is to create the raw emotional desire or need in them to get their paws on our product. Our approach with Influencers is similar, and revolves around getting them to talk about and endorse it. When we think about Buyers, Gate Keepers, and Decision Makers, we have to keep our price points in check, reassure them of the advantages, and convert them on their doubts (going back to the Hot Wheels example, the brand manager might do this by cultivating a reputation of safety or ‘no-small-parts’ guarantees to assure the Gate Keepers in the decision). 

If you’re a B2B organisation, the DMU is even more important. In this scenario, you’ll have a team of people in more crystallized roles. Accountants often act as Gate Keepers, C-suite staff as Decision Makers, and the actual end Users are often employees who have little say in the purchase. Naturally, who you’re primarily addressing will heavily influence your marketing strategy.

A final note on target markets

Your target market is a fluid animal. It will need to be constantly monitored (consider Autopilot for keeping in touch with your customers’ values and desires), evaluated, and in some cases, recalibrated (see Old Spice for a great example).

Benjamin Angus
Benjamin Angus
Hi! I'm co-founder of gotiggo.com. I used to work in a job that I liked, but still looked forward to 'clocking out' every day. When it dawned upon me that that wasn't how I wanted to spend most of my life, me and a friend started this website to help out everyone else in the same boat.
Benjamin Angus
Benjamin Angus
Hi! I'm co-founder of gotiggo.com. I used to work in a job that I liked, but still looked forward to 'clocking out' every day. When it dawned upon me that that wasn't how I wanted to spend most of my life, me and a friend started this website to help out everyone else in the same boat.

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