One of the first steps in starting a business is determining your target market. This step alone can be the basis for what products you create, how you brand your business and ultimately who you market to.
With that in mind, you’ll need to develop assets that resonate with your target market. Start by creating a business website that represents your business and uses language and visuals relatable to your audience. Consider what niche you can fit into and what separates your business from the competition. From there you can create messaging, branding and advertising designed for your target market and convert more leads into customers.
Keep reading to learn more about defining your target market and gain expert tips on how to implement this targeting throughout your business strategy.
What is a target market?
Your target market is your product’s primary consumer. Once you know who this is, you can tailor your branding and marketing efforts toward them.
A target market can be composed of a broad group, such as married men over 40 in the US, or it can be quite narrow, such as urban, health-conscious, vegetarian women in Texas. Your market will depend on the particular consumer needs your product addresses.
The three key aspects of a target market include:
Demographics: Age, gender, income, education or employment status.
Geographics: Primary location of your market.
Personality traits: What they like and dislike, as well as where they shop and their favorite brands.
To pinpoint your target market, you’ll need to analyze data about your product niche, your customers and your competitors. You'll also need to understand more about the specific types of target markets in more detail.
Types of target markets
In general there are several ways business owners can categorize target markets. For the most part target markets are divided into the following four main types: demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral.
This type of target market is defined by a number of demographic variables such as age, gender, income, education, and family size. Companies might target specific demographic groups based on their buying habits and purchasing power.
Geographic target markets are defined, as the name suggests, by geographic variables such as region, state, city and population density.
Psychographic variables such as lifestyle, values, personality, and social class make up the definition of this target market.
This type of target market is defined by consumer behavior, such as the benefits sought, usage rate, and customer loyalty.
It's important to note that a business may choose to target one or multiple types of target markets, depending on their specific business objectives and marketing strategies.
Importance of understanding your target market
Understanding your target market is a crucial aspect of developing a successful business. Below we explore the main reasons why understanding your target market is so important in order to ensure a profitable business.
Better customer segmentation: Understanding your target market allows you to segment your customers more effectively, which in turn helps you tailor your marketing messages and products to meet their specific needs and preferences.
Increased focus and efficiency: Focusing on a specific target market, allows you to be more efficient with marketing resources while avoiding wasting time and money on efforts that are not likely to reach or resonate with your target audience.
Improved brand reputation: Understanding your target market can help you establish and maintain a positive brand reputation by allowing you to align your brand with the values and interests of your market.
Increased customer loyalty: By understanding your target market and delivering products and services that meet their needs and expectations, you will foster a loyal customer base that is more likely to recommend your brand to others.
Better decision making: Understanding your target market provides valuable insights that can inform important business decisions, such as product development, pricing strategies, and distribution channels for marketing efforts.
Target market vs. target audience
Often used interchangeably, target market and target audience are not the same thing. Your target market is the end consumer while your target audience is to whom your company advertises. While your target market might fall into your target audience, who you advertise to may not, in the end, be the one who consumes the product.
To clarify, let’s look at an example: Kids toys, for example, have a very clear target market: children. In addition, toys are often marketed toward children who identify with a specific gender category. Nevertheless, kids don’t purchase their toys, their parents do. So toy companies must focus their advertising strategies on parents (the target audience) to sell toys for their kids (the target market).
For example, Generation Alpha, kids born between 2010 and 2025 with millennial parents, play with much different toys than their parents did because millennials have different consumer preferences than their Baby Boomer parents. Rather than shopping in big-box stores for brightly-colored toy packages, millennial parents are more likely to purchase clean, minimalistic, and gender-inclusive toys from Instagram ads or Amazon. Therefore, toy companies are using Millennial preferences (the target audience) to sell toys to their Generation Alpha kids (the target market).
How to determine your target market
01. Gather consumer data
The first step in defining your target market is to learn more about your customers. Even if you’ve just started an online store and don’t have many customers yet, these practices will come in handy further down the line.
Start by gathering information about current and past buyers and try to identify characteristics that they have in common. This data will help you market your product to people with similar interests. If you are still in the early stages of your business and haven’t started selling your product, look at competitor markets and use that information to determine your target market.
Using website analytics tools, social media and email marketing analytics platforms, here are some data points you’ll want to consider:
Age: Do your customers share a common decade or generation? Are they millennials, older adults, or something in between?
Location: Where in the world do most of your customers live? Consider the different cities, countries, and regions.
Language: Which languages do your customers speak? Remember that your customers’ language isn’t necessarily the dominant language of their country.
Spending power: Consider socioeconomic factors that may be affecting your customers. How much money are they willing or able to spend?
Hobbies and career: What do your customers enjoy doing? What are their professions, and what do they do in their spare time?
Stage of life: Where are your customers in life? Are they college students? New parents? Retirees?
Business size: Are the businesses that buy from you small, medium, or large?
Location: Where are these businesses physically located?
Vertical: Which industries are most of these businesses in?
Budget: How have these businesses raised money? Consider how much they’d be willing or able to spend on products like yours.
Be sure to track this information in an orderly manner so that you can keep your findings organized and easily identify trends. Analyzing these trends will allow you to identify shared characteristics within your customer base. These characteristics will inform your inbound marketing efforts and steer your strategy toward your target audience.
02. Know your product benefits
The next step is to understand your consumers’ motivation behind purchasing your product, rather than a competitor. You can learn this information by speaking to your customers directly, asking for testimonials, and by doing in depth competitor research to understand the difference between your product and theirs.
Get to know the benefits—and not just the features—of your product or service. The features are your product’s characteristics. For example, if your business sells suitcases, you might describe your product as being small, compact and having multiple compartments. Your product’s benefits, on the other hand, are the advantages it brings to your customers. Think about how your product makes someone’s life better or easier. The compact, multi-compartment suitcase offers the benefits of being easy to carry and pack as a carry-on.
It’s vital to understanding how your product fulfills its target market’s specific needs. For the suitcase company discussed above, for instance, the target market would be people who benefit from a lightweight, carry-on suitcase—such as business travelers who take short, frequent trips.
03. Investigate your competitors
Hone in on your target market even further by taking a look at which your competitors are targeting. Of course you won't have access to their customer analytics data, but you can understand their customers with a SWOT analysis.
Take a deep dive into competitor websites, blogs and social channels. Consider who their target market is based on their website content, content marketing strategy, and social media branding. You’ll likely be able to infer details about their audience based on their brand language and tone. You can also check for comments on their social media pages to see which types of people are engaging with their posts.
Take an especially close look at their most successful social media and blog posts. Do these pieces of content have anything in common in terms of their offering or branding? Which interests or needs do they address? Use this information to consider what kinds of qualities or advantages appeal most to consumers within your industry.
04. Segment your audience
At this point, you’ve gathered some information about the characteristics and interests of your target audience. Now, it’s time to use that information to clearly define your customer types. This is going to form the basis of your target market.
The best way to do this is through market segmentation. This involves dividing your customers into different groups, or segments, based on their shared qualities.
You can divide your customers based on:
Geography: Physical location, whether it’s your own city or a different part of the world. Note that if your customers are located around the world, you may need to create a multilingual website, as well as localized ads and marketing materials.
Demographics: Characteristics such as age, gender, race or ethnicity, income level, or marital status.
Psychographics: Inner qualities such as personality, lifestyle, or personal values. These are often a product of geographic and demographic factors such as location, generation, or stage of life.
Behavior: Perceived qualities based on online behavior, such as buyer readiness or frequency of use.
If you’re a B2B company, use similar characteristics but apply them to business. Consider firm demographics—known as firmographics—such as industry, location, customer size, business structure, and performance.
To gain a deeper understanding of your segments, you can also create buyer personas. Also called user personas, buyer personas are imaginary characters with traits and behaviors similar to those of typical customers. Ultimately, these fictional characters represent your target market, helping you gain insights into the needs, desires, and lifestyles of your actual customers.
05. Write a target market statement
Now that you’ve determined the defining features of your audience, it’s time to put your findings on paper. Write a target market statement that focuses on the most important audience characteristics you’ve identified in your research. Your statement should include:
Demographic information about your target market, such as gender and age.
Geographic location of your target market.
Key interests of your target market.
Then, sum it up in a single sentence. For example:
“Our target market is women in their 30s and 40s who live in the United States and enjoy casual, comfortable fashion.”
Doing this will keep your brand identity and marketing efforts consistent. It will also come in useful as you adapt your company’s mission statement to be as relevant as possible for your audience.
06. Refine your research
Defining your target market is based on thorough research, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect the first time around. Even after you identify your market, you’ll still need to continually test and experiment to get an increasingly precise picture of your customers. Staying on top of your market research can also help you keep up with the times, as consumer interests change over the years with technological developments, generational attitudes and passing trends.
To narrow in on your audience, you’ll need to assess your business success and test your targeting efforts. Take a look at who is actually buying from you and which specific products or services they are purchasing. Try to understand how you can adapt future product development or modify your branding or marketing efforts to better fit your customer base.
Utilize A/B testing with your marketing efforts to test the same ad on different audiences and see which version performs better. Alternatively, you can develop two different creatives, each with their own look and language and compare your audience’s responses. Based on the results, you might need to either adjust your business strategy or revise your target market statement. The bottom line is to build a brand that resonates strongly with your audience. Remember, the more targeted your content, the more effective your lead generation strategies—and the more customers you’ll bring to your brand.
Target market examples
These website examples clearly cater to their target markets. Take note of the phrases and visuals these websites use.
01. Amanda Darby
Let’s take a look at how nutritionist Amanda Darby appeals to her target market. She aims to address people looking to make healthier food and dieting choices. To do this, she’s created a website that fosters a sense of joy and personal empowerment around food. The light and airy background, coupled with the cheerful images of cooking and eating, instantly makes it clear that she targets people looking for a healthy lifestyle.
She also hones in on her audience even further, using phrases that directly appeal to middle-aged women. In the section of her homepage that discusses her nutrition coaching: “You will be the mom who loves food, her body, and knows life isn't perfect, but is perfectly happy living the life she has vs. waiting for the life she will have when she reaches her goal weight.” By directly addressing the concerns of her target market, Amanda helps her audience feel heard and understood. This strengthens their trust in her brand and persuades them that she is the right coach for their needs.
From the very first image that appears across the top of this website, it’s clear that Curtinsmith Guitars is crafting something unique. By displaying photographs of their workshop and describing their guitars as “custom” and “handmade,” they directly single out a target market of those looking for unique, one-of-a-kind guitars. This target market is likely musical, appreciative of craftsmanship and not afraid to spend their money on their passions.
The About Us section of the site confirms this targeting. The owner, Paul, writes, “I find it quite profound to create something which, in itself, will continue to create. It is an absolute joy crafting these instruments and it is my prayer that they continue to be a joy for those who play them and listen to them, for many generations.”
In this statement, the brand makes it clear that it targets musicians who value the creative process. They also allude to the quality of their product, portraying them as long-lasting heirlooms with sentimental value.
03. Lima Cakes
Sona Karapetyan uses her artistic vision to create showstopping celebratory cakes. The About section on her website says that Sona “was always experimenting with graphic art & design” and, “When Sona decided to embark on the cake art journey, she experimented with different textures, shapes and architectural elements to create a unique design language.” It also states that she never creates the same cake twice so each cake is unique to each client.
Her neutral-colored web design and sophisticated copy narrow her target market down to mature individuals who appreciate art. Her website also features images of her cakes, clearly displaying her skills to her potential customers. The prices of her custom-made cakes will reflect the effort that goes into each one. These details show that she likely targets an educated, older, affluent crowd with an appreciation for modern art and design.