You may want as many people as possible to know about your business, but the more people you want to reach, the more time and money it is going to cost. Instead of wasting your energy with an overly-broad audience, focus on the right audience with target marketing. A target market allows you to focus your marketing budget and message on a specific group of people that is likely to buy from you. This is a much more efficient, effective, and affordable marketing strategy, especially for small businesses with limited marketing budgets. Follow these steps to find your target market.

1.   Define Your Business

Finding a target audience starts with self-examination. What does your business do? What are your business goals? Look at the goals you have set for your business and analyze the products or services you offer. Think about how your unique products and/or services can solve a customer’s problem or how they can fulfill their needs. Think about who might be interested and who may benefit from your business. Determine what makes you stand out from your competition. Figuring out your selling point is the first step in identifying your target audience.

2.   Create a Persona

Creating a persona is the concept of creating your very own ideal customer, a fictional character with specific characteristics and traits. A persona is an in-depth description of who your ideal customer may be, and includes demographic and psychographic information. Demographic information may include age, gender, location, ethnicity, marital status, and income. Psychographic information identifies aspects of a person’s psychology, interests, hobbies, values, attitudes, behaviors, lifestyle, and more. Both types of information are essential for developing your customer persona. Demographic information will help you identify the type of person who will potentially buy your products and services. Psychographic information goes one step further and identifies why that potential customer may buy.

One common pitfall when creating your first persona is focusing on who you wish would buy your products, rather than who is actually buying your products. You may want to expand your target market at a later time, but right now, stay focused on your current customers. You can create multiple personas to represent the different types of potential customers you want to attract. Not everyone is the same; by having different personas, you have options on how and what to market towards different kinds of prospects. If you are stuck figuring out who your target it, take a peek at a competitor that performs well. Review their content and strategy to look for clues to see who their target customer could be.

3.   Find Your Audience

Luckily for you, there are a lot of free resources available that can help you pull together information for your target market. The U.S. Census Bureau has a plethora of demographic information by location, age, business, and much more. You can also look for magazine articles and forums that talk about your interests and your target audience. These are good ways to estimate how big your target market may be. If the numbers are lower than you were expecting, you may need to broaden your criteria slightly. The downside to using research conducted by others, rather than yourself is that the information may not be 100% focused on your needs, so these should only be used as very general guides. The most accurate way to get targeted information is to conduct your own research (surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.) or work with a data company like US Data Corporation who can provide you with precisely targeted marketing lists according to whatever demographic and/or psychographic information you need.

Armed with better information and specific personas, you can make smarter marketing decisions. Defining your target market is the hardest part of the process. Once you have that figured out, you can decide which medium to use to reach them and what marketing messages will resonate with them. Instead of sending direct mail to everyone in your city, you can send direct mail to those who fit your customer persona. By doing so, you can save a lot of money and get a better ROI on your direct marketing campaigns.