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Target Your Market

by Keith Thirgood

Your market is not everybody, as so many small businesses assume. It is the people/organizations who need, want, have the money--and the willingness--to pay for what you are offering. Identifying them can be complicated and expensive, or it can be relatively painless and cheap.

How much do you need to know about them? Enough to have all the clues on how to reach them, and what to say, when you do. Finding your target is vital, so whatever method you choose, do it properly and test your assumptions.


The best place to start is with what you already know. What does your company know about its clients? Do you already have a perfect client--the one you wish you had more of? Examine their demographics. Who are they, where are they, what are they spending, what are they earning, how many employees do they have? And any other information that may help you build a clear picture.

Now, identify what need your product or service is fulfilling. Who needs your product or service the most? What industry are they in? Where are they located and how can you reach them?

Further Research

Once you have exhausted your internal research, go further. Interview potential prospects. Ask questions that deal with the benefits you bring: Is there a need? Is there awareness of your type of offering? Try to identify any unfulfilled needs: price, service or other benefits. See if there are any weaknesses in the competition. If all those you survey are happy with their present supplier, you should ask yourself if is this the right target.

If you are targeting specific industries, read their trade magazines and investigate their associations. Associations often publish directories with statistics concerning their members. These can be found in your local library. Boards of trade put out listings of their members, divided into services provided.

Business directories are invaluable. They list businesses geographically and according to industry sector. They also give you the products offered, the number of employees, sales figures and the principles involved.

Armed with this information, you can survey a number of these potential targets to confirm they are in need of your benefits. Remember, these are not sales calls. Ask for 5 minutes of their time, and ask only non-sales questions. Simply gather data and thank them for their time. Resist pitching yourself.

You now have an idea of who your target is and where they are, but what are they thinking? How much do they know and what do they need to know? This brings you to the world of Psychographics.

Psychographics don’t come from Jo Jo the Psychic reading your target’s mind (although, it would be nice). They relate to how your target thinks about certain issues, and the way they do business. Much of this information comes from studying your potential targets. Put yourself in their shoes. Talk their language, think their thoughts, feel their emotions, respond to their cues. To catch a fish you have to think like a fish.

If this all sounds daunting, you may want to hire a research company. This can be expensive, but if you don’t have the skills, time or the inclination to do it yourself, it’s perfect. Any research company worth its salt can identify your target down to the colour of their underwear (if they wear any).

The tighter your focus, the more effective your materials can be.

All your prospects have different levels of awareness of your type of product/ service. Using Capstone’s Awareness Scale™, divide your potential prospects into three groups:

1. Those who are unaware of the existence or the benefits of your type of product/service. This is the Educational Target.

2. Those who are aware but unsure or unconvinced. This is the Doubter Target.

3. Those who are convinced and buying. This is the Differentiation Target.

Once you define your ideal prospect, you’re set. This perfect buyer falls in the middle of a bell curve of prospects with similar wants and needs. The positioning and communication strategies and tactics you develop to sell this prospect will apply to most of your prospects.

Target Your Market is taken from Keith’s booklet:
A Seriously Small Book on Marketing.
Available for $10. To order, send a cheque for $10.00 to made out to Capstone Communications, 15 Wilson Street, Markham, Ontario, Canada, L3P 1M9

Keith is Creative Director of Capstone Communications Group, a marketing and design firm. He can be reached at (905) 472-2330 or e-mail him at .

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