When I lead workshops on developing marketing messages, small businesses owners often struggle to define their target audience. “Why can’t my business be for everyone?” they ask.
There are a few good reasons. First of all, we can’t afford to market to everyone. Think about that. It’s overwhelming.
Second, your marketing becomes most effective when it’s focused on a specific type of person or group. Third, over time your focused marketing defines your business in the marketplace which helps those ideal prospects find you.
How do you know who your target audience should be? Your best clients are a good place to start: What makes them great to work with? Why do you want more like them? Notice what qualities they have in common, and you have begun to identify your audience of prospects.
Does having a target audience mean that you can’t do a project for someone who doesn’t fit into your intended group? Of course not.
It’s often fun to do a project for a friend, but defining who you want to work with will help you gauge whether or not the project is a good fit in the first place (bonus reason). That’s a big improvement over scattershot marketing, waiting for the phone to ring, or counting on our neighbor’s project to stay busy.
When we have a defined group of people that we proactively communicate with to find new business, it’s like aiming for the bull’s eye in the middle of the target. We still benefit from our contacts outside the center, but we focus our resources on becoming known to the audience represented by the center (reason #2).
If we don’t know who our target clients are, we don’t know who we are talking to, nor will we know what to say to influence them.
To get the most return on our marketing efforts, we need to study our ideal clients. We can use what we learn to develop potent marketing messages that speak clearly to our desired customers. We attract business when we make our offer about them, and when our message clarifies why they would want to work with you (or me) instead of someone else (reason #3).
All businesses have some natural attrition of clients, so ongoing proactive marketing activities are essential for a viable business. Now that we know who we are talking to and what they are concerned about, we can invite them into a conversation that has the promise of becoming a business relationship.
Getting to know your target audience pays off.
Identifying your target audience is the first step towards developing your marketing message: if you don’t know who you are talking to, how will you connect with them or know what will influence them to act?
As you define your target group, be specific: Who are they? Where to they spend time? Why are they your focus?
Knowing who you are talking to gives you a guide for what to say, how to say it, when to say it, where to say it, and whom to say it to.
It seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often we forget this in our excitement to talk about ourselves or our project.
Next you need to learn about your target audience, and find out what they want and need. For starters, I like online research (start Googling and see what you find) and reading your target group’s publications, especially for an overview. Asking questions of your clients or people who could be your clients often produces more nuanced information and insights.
Marketing at its best is a conversation. Learning about who you are talking to makes it more interesting, more connected, and more effective.
As you digest all that exploratory research, you’ll begin to hatch a solution that really fits your target group. It demonstrates ‘What’s in it for me?’ to prospective clients and customers. They begin to like it, and to like you. They see how you have something that really fits their needs (because you made it all about them). And when they are ready, they buy!