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How to identify, develop, sell and market to your target market and audience personas.
Table of Contents
Section 1 — Finding Your “Why” To Help Connect with Your Audience
Section 2 — Why to Get Clear on Your Market
Section 3- Finding a Niche and Audience That Fits YOU
Section 4 — Creating an Audience Profile
Section 5 — Getting to Know Your Current Audience Better
Section 6 — Using This Information to Make More Sales
Have you heard marketers mention phrases like “target market” or “niche market” and wondered exactly what they were talking about?
If you want to be successful creating and selling virtually anything, you need to understand exactly what these phrases mean. The same is true if you expect to launch and maintain a successful social media platform, or online brand.
Imagine you have come up with the most delicious tasting hamburger recipe of all time. Even your vegan and vegetarian friends you convinced to take a bite admitted it was the tastiest food they ever put into their mouths.
Dreams of overnight success and a million-dollar bank account fill your mind, and you purchase a food cart.
You prepare and cook a bunch of best-ever hamburgers and take to the streets. You have a very simple sign that says “Best Hamburger Ever”, and you travel up and down every street in your city offering your product. You can’t believe it, but something strange happens.
You make a few sales, and those customers rave about your hamburger, but you don’t do anywhere near as well as imagined. After a few days of this, you can’t afford to stay in business, and your best-ever burger recipe is relegated to your home kitchen.
The problem was that you offered a very specific product, a beef-based hamburger, to anyone and everyone. You never took the time to understand the niche market for your product that would perform extremely well.
You also didn’t focus your efforts on a specific target audience. Without knowing it, you were following a formula that dooms many online and brick-and-mortar small business owners and new entrepreneurs.
To keep similar business failure from happening to your own business you need to start off on the right foot by understanding…
…the Difference Between a Niche & a Target Audience
Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Their levels of success vary, as do the products and services they offer, and what they would qualify as “success” in their businesses. There are also lots of different advertising mediums, methods to drive traffic, and other virtual and real world tactics and strategies to build a business.
Regardless how you are attempting to grow your company’s visibility, or increase the success of your business, there is one thing you definitely have to know — the difference between a target audience and niche market.
Though they are frequently used interchangeably, these phrases are not the same, not by a long stretch. They are both crucial to building a successful online presence, and are definitely related in some ways. It is fruitless to try to target any group of people until you have established the special niche you will be working in. Accordingly, you cannot be successful in any niche market without targeting your marketing to a very specific, laser-focused audience.
Here is what you need to know.
A target market is the group of people you think will buy your information product or benefit from your service.
This is the area of the ocean in which you decide to swim. It is the market you are targeting, thus the name. In the best-ever hamburger example above, you would be well served to do plenty of research before ever attempting to sell your first burger.
Your target market is the WHO part of your marketing equation.
Figure out who exactly wants to buy your hamburger. This will probably not be people trying to lose weight, someone on a very strict dietary approach that limits or totally forbids meat consumption, and those concerned with cruel labor and animal practices in the meat processing industry.
Your research may show you that men prefer eating hamburgers over women, with more men than women consuming hamburgers regularly by a large margin. You could also discover that men between the ages of 18 and 35 eat more hamburgers than other men. What you’re doing here is called creating an “audience profile” (more on this important marketing step in a later section). In this imaginary example, your target audience would be men between the ages of 18 and 35.
Okay, you are getting closer to selling your hamburgers.
However, you are not done with your preparations yet. If you simply go out and approach every man between the age of 18 and 35, you are going to do better than you did previously, trying to sell your hamburger to anyone and everyone. Still, you will not reach the level of success you can when you define your niche.
If your target audience is the WHO of your marketing efforts, your niche is the WHAT.
What is your unique story? What does your brand look like? What experience are you selling? What problem or solution are you offering to your target audience? There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of restaurants and diners around the globe that claim to offer the best tasting hamburger in the world.
Those burger sellers should identify their niche, as well as the uniqueness of the product they are offering.
They need to outline their particular brand, what it looks and feels like, and their specific approach to solving a problem or answering a big question for their target audience.
Until they develop a niche within their target market, these business owners will never realize the maximum potential of their marketing efforts.
Here are a couple more examples of niches and target audiences.
- You have a fitness blog.
◦ Target audience — Women over 50
◦ Niche — Women over 50 who want to go from couch potato to marathon runner in less than 1 year
- You are an information product developer.
◦ Target audience — People who want to make money online
◦ Niche — Online business beginners that want to sell physical products on Amazon
Remember, identify your target audience first. This is “who” you will be marketing to.
Then separate your business from the competition by identifying a specific problem or need you are solving or fulfilling. Create your brand around that niche, the “what” that makes you unique when compared to the competition in your market.
Section 1 — Finding Your “Why” To Help Connect with Your Audience
Part of defining your target markets stems from your “Why”. Something we didn’t touch on yet.
Why are you in business? If you are just working to make a lot of money, you may find it difficult to reach your goal. You should definitely be marketing to a smaller, niche target, rather than a huge field. It is much easier to connect with a smaller, very specific group of individuals than the entire marketplace.
This will be much easier to define if you understand your why.
Ask yourself this question. What is the reason you are running your business?
Your first answer is going to be very general. You may respond that your business will hopefully make you wealthy.
You might also answer that question by saying you hate your boss, and despise working for someone else, so you want to start your own thing.
Your first response to the above question needs to be narrowed in focus.
Go 5 ‘why’s’ deep.
If your immediate response is, “Because I want to be rich,” ask yourself “why” you want to be rich, and then ask 4 more times.
Piling up wealth upon wealth is fine, but what do you want from the money that you hope to make? Ask yourself why lots of money is important to you. It may be because you were raised dirt poor by very hard working parents, and you want enough money to free your parents from having to work in their retirement years.
Your desire for wealth may be because of your deep-down need for people to look up to you. Perhaps you would like to be able to donate large amounts of money to charitable organizations so that you can help others.
In each one of these cases, you have found the root cause for your surface goal of making lots of money.
Why Your “Why” Is So Important
People identify with passion.
When you keep your “Big Why” at the forefront of your mind, it drives every one of your marketing efforts. It becomes transparent to your prospects and target audience. People that have that same focus, those that hold your important ideals in high esteem, will be happy to become your customers and clients.
That is because they think like you do. It is easy for you to connect with them, mentally and emotionally. This is why digging down to your base reason for everything that you do is so important in business.
There is another reason why discovering your ‘Big Why’ is so important to your business success.
Entrepreneurship can be tough at times.
Just like any other business, you will have highs and lows, good times and bad.
If you are not 100% committed to a laser targeted vision that you hold above all other ideas, there are going to be times when you may think about throwing in the towel. If you have expressly identified, embraced and written down your ‘Big Why’, working through any type of setbacks and business difficulties will be no problem at all.
Now that you’ve figured out your why, let’s go back to your target market.
Section 2 — Why to Get Clear on Your Market
The story of the Domino’s pizza illustrates just exactly why developing a unique approach in your target market is important for extreme success.
Domino’s began as an American pizza franchise way back in the 1960s. Brothers Tom and James Monaghan purchased a small pizza retail store called DomiNick’s in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The location was very close to the Eastern Michigan University campus, and the brothers figured they could make a lot of money selling pizza, a popular college food choice, to students at the university.
When Tom Monahan brought his brother out and opened two more locations in the same county, he wanted all of those stores to have the same branding. Since he was forbidden from using the former DomiNick’s name, an employee suggested Domino’s instead. The company grew rapidly, going international in 1983.
The rapid growth of the company was no doubt in a large part due to the marketing of a “30 minutes or free” delivery guarantee. On the promise of delivering a hot pizza within 30 minutes, or the customer had to pay nothing, what started out as a single pizza location became the largest and most successful pizza franchise in the world.
That amazing story illustrates the important reason for understanding your market. Domino’s was just another local pizza chain until they realized the unique need that was not being fulfilled in their marketplace. Not everyone wanted to pile into their car and head over to one of their physical pizza stores to enjoy their pizza.
Not only that, but if a delivery took longer than 30 minutes, the pizza was likely going to be cold, and the customer upset. This would lead to fewer instead of more customers, and they would be just like every other pizza delivery store. Their unique slant, delivering hot, fresh pizza to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free, made Tom Monaghan a billionaire.
By the way, Domino’s never claimed back in the beginning to offer the best tasting pizza. They didn’t claim, like competitor Papa John’s does now, to have the freshest ingredients. They didn’t say that their pizza was the most affordable or the healthiest, either.
Actually, in the 1970s and 1980s, Domino’s pizzas were not regarded as especially tasty or remarkable in any way. However, their 30 minutes or free guarantee set them apart from their competitors, and gave them a unique story and appeal to their target audience (people who wanted pizza delivered, and wanted it hot).
You may not care about becoming a billionaire, like Tom Monaghan, but no matter what the goals of your business are, it is absolutely crucial to be crystal clear on what your market is looking for.
You probably know your market very well. What is not being provided right now? What are the problems that people in your market, your target audience, are having? You may think that your startup could never be a global success.
However, when you develop a unique story, a unique slant, a different approach or “out-of-the-box” way of approaching your marketplace (your niche), your business and brand can experience massive growth in a very short period of time.
The Domino’s 30-or-free guarantee ended in 1993. However, though that promise expired more than 22 years ago, many customers believe the offer is still in effect.
This is how powerful building a unique brand in your market is. Domino’s has expanded to 73 countries, and more than 5,700 cities worldwide. Much of the credit belongs to a powerfully unique marketing message that can teach you a lot about understanding your target market intimately, and approaching the market uniquely.
Section 3- Finding a Niche and Audience That Fits YOU
Tom Monaghan knew the demographics of the pizza business in his area. When his company first began delivering 30-or-free pizzas, he knew he was going to have to give away some of this product. However, he had done his research. Monaghan crunched the numbers, and knew the financial and time-related aspects of getting hot pizzas to the customers in his delivery zones.
He probably didn’t care how many free pizzas he had to give away at first, since he knew that he could literally corner the pizza delivery market anywhere he opened a store.
He found a niche approach that his audience responded exceptionally well to.
He also made sure that this niche positioning inside his larger target market appealed to him. He has said in many interviews over the years that the challenge to take an order, make the pizza, cook the pizza and get it to his customers in 30 minutes or less was something he personally enjoyed.
This is why you need to think long and hard about the niche you are going to carve out in your marketplace.
Certainly, you should solve a big problem or fill a big need. That goes without saying. However, you should also make sure your efforts in creating that niche involves something you’re passionate about. You can tell a personal story, or approach the same old tired, worn-out marketing methods with your own unique style and personality.
In other words, weave “you” into your niche development.
A lot of entrepreneurs choose their target market because of some major problem they solved in their own life. Everyone can relate to personal struggles. If you can show how your business can solve similar problems, while relating how you overcame yours, those members of your audience that can identify with your struggle will connect with you.
When you find that “sweet spot” between niche creation and some personal interest or story, you create an unforgettable brand.
You appeal to your audience in a very unique way that sets you apart from your competition. It also makes marketing more authentic, since your personal interests, stories, experiences and personality are a vital part of your business.
Share with your audience the “why” that you do what you do. Your one-of-a-kind, personal story and approach will help you appeal to an audience that you enjoy dealing with, and those people will reward you with loyalty, business & evangelism.
Why You Are Better Off Appealing to A Small Section of People Than Trying to Please Everyone
There are a lot of reasons niche marketing is so successful. You may have heard of Internet marketing gurus talking about going after a particular niche, or subset, of a larger marketplace. Most of the wealthiest and most successful Internet marketers do exactly that. They focus their every effort on a smaller, targeted group rather than the group’s much larger target market.
You may think this is backwards.
If you want to be successful, shouldn’t you market to the largest group of people possible?
In your attempt to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one and if you’re trying to take a product to market or identify a new set of customers to sell to, you’ll end up spreading yourself thin.
It’s always easier to understand the intimate needs, desires and problems of a small group of people, than it is if you are trying to please everyone you come into contact with.
Another benefit of “marketing down” to a small, laser targeted audience has to do with notoriety. It is much quicker and easier to become an expert in a small field than a large one. You also have more time to spend with the individuals in your audience, communicating through emails, web, chat and on social media.
This can give you quick, targeted feedback on whatever product or service you’re taking to market.
Section 4 — Creating an Audience Profile
After you’ve identified your target market or niche market, you must now make an audience profile that will be the group of people you’re going to sell your product to.
Earlier, we discussed the importance of knowing your target audience. This helps you create a unique approach in that larger marketplace, so you can discover your niche.
To understand how to create an audience profile, we’re going to break sales into two groups inbound and outbound sales
Inbound sales begin when a lead comes from a potential customer reaching out to your organization. These leads are inquiring about a product or service and can come through social media, email, web forms and a variety of other methods.
Outbound sales are the result of a company prospecting and reaching out to a customer who has not expressed interest in the product or service that you’re selling.
When building an inbound/outbound audience profile, you are essentially taking all the individuals who have reached out to your business and creating an audience profile or persona that is an accurate representation of the average person who has subscribed to your “list”, submitted their email, requested information or purchased a product from your company in the past.
The goal of creating an inbound audience persona is to take all the data points that you’ve collected and to understand who your ideal customer is and re-market back to similar individuals.
In a B2B (business to business) environment, there is an extra step you should take into consideration when creating an audience profile, on top of identifying the individual who would purchase your product, you would also identify the type of company that would purchase your product (size, industry, headcount, etc.)
The Money is in the List
You’ve probably heard that “the money is in the list”. This refers to the fact that when you build a list of email subscribers, marketing to that list can be extremely profitable.
However, that saying really should be “There is a lot of money to be made when you market to the individuals on your email list, and you do so by communicating to a single person”.
When you read any form of marketing material, don’t you prefer a personal approach? When you feel like someone is talking to you as a single person, in a one on one conversation, your interest is engaged.
This is because no matter how many people are in your target market, each one is an individual. You may reach 10,000 people each month through your blog. Those 10,000 people are not reading your blog together, so why should you address them as a group?
This explains the importance of developing an Audience Profile.
Think about what your “perfect prospect / buyer persona / avatar” looks like. What is she thinking, as relates to your market? What are her needs, what problems does she have which are currently not being taken care of? Aside from feelings and needs, you should also know demographics like how old she is, where she lives, how much money she makes, her level of education and other important personal metrics.
Notice that you are focusing on one person, not a group.
Understanding the hobbies, personality, desires, problems and needs of this perfect prospect means you’re getting a very clear picture of your audience profile. When you can clearly describe this individual, you have created the avatar you will be marketing to. The word avatar is defined as “the embodiment of a person or idea.” The avatar you have discovered when you are creating your audience profile is the embodiment of the person that can best benefit from what you have to offer.
Companies will go as far as to create a physical picture of their audience profile. They print out copies of this avatar’s picture and share it with everyone in the company. This picture is accompanied by a list of the attributes, personality and needs and desires of that “perfect prospect”. This should illustrate the importance of creating an audience profile avatar, and marketing to this one individual, rather than with a group approach.
Section 5 — Getting to Know Your Current Audience Better
Now you know your target audience, and you have developed a unique approach/proposition/product/story that you believe will be well received.
You understand the importance of marketing to an individual, and not a group. When you created your audience profile, this led to an understanding of what the “face” of your audience looks like.
Now it is time to build relationships.
Every relationship worth having requires work. The most successful marriages and partnerships are those that clear a lot of hurdles along the way. Personal relationships require an investment of your time and energy, and business relationships are no different. Building and maintaining relationships through your blog or selling information products means working through the medium that is the Internet.
You can reach the billions of people around the world that have an Internet connection, no matter how large or small your business is.
Doing so costs very little money, and sometimes requires nothing more than your time. This means you have absolutely no excuse for not strengthening the relationship you have with your audience.
Build a Facebook page. Host live webinars, Google Hangouts and Zoom sessions, comment, engage and interact with your audience on social media.
Don’t Forget Your Email List
You can also improve the relationship you have with your followers through your email list. The people on your list have already expressed a desire to learn more about you and your products. Ask them exactly what they want from you.
What needs are you not fulfilling? What product or service have they been looking for, but haven’t been able to find in your marketplace? Would they be willing to complete a short survey, in return for a free product, discount or Q&A conference call? These are some simple ways to tell your audience that you truly do care about them, and to build the relationship you have with your followers and prospects.
Section 6 — Using This Information to Make More Sales
What do you do with all of the information you receive from your market, when you engage on social media? How can you use the knowledge gained from your email surveys and questions to improve your bottom line? There are multiple answers to those questions.
5 Ways to Better Understand Your Audience
Apple “gets” their target market. They totally understand the individuals who buy their products.
They cater their product development, and their marketing messages, to the needs, desires, and unique characteristics of the people they hope to turn from prospects to happy customers.
You can build the same type of passionate, lifelong customer base when you practice the following 5 ways to better understand your audience.
1 — Target an Interest You Know a Lot About
Understanding your audience is easy when you are a member. If you love peanut butter and jelly, and I mean really “love” peanut butter and jelly, then you understand other people who also have an obsession in that area. Marketing a business, online or off, in an area of interest that you are extremely familiar with and passionate about is a simple way to automatically understand what your audience is looking for.
2 — Run Surveys
Survey Monkey is one of many survey management firms you can find online. They offer free and paid versions of their software, which allows you to survey your audience and ask them exactly what it is you can do for them.
3 — Ask for Comments on Your Blog Posts
You should not be trying to make a sale on each of your blog posts. Every 3 or 4 out of 5 pieces of content should be information only, answering questions and solving problems. At the end of any piece of content you create, you should have a call to action. A smart call to action is to ask your readers to communicate their needs, desires and problems in the comments section of your blog.
4 — Start Studying Your Stats
WP Statistics and Google Analytics can provide incredible insight to your target market. Both of those tools are free, but even so, they still deliver a lot of valuable information about the mindset of the people you are trying to reach. You should be studying your statistics on a monthly basis at least, and more frequently if possible.
5 — Hold a Free Questions and Answers Webinar
A lot of Internet marketers use webinars to make sales. Webinars usually work very well to sell your products and services, but there is another way to use them. When you host a free questions and answers webinar, you find out exactly what your prospects want you to give them. Another benefit of this information seeking tactic is that you can use the answers to the questions you receive to develop an information product that you know will immediately be well received.
Whether you are selling products, services or information, you eventually want to monetize your business.
Perhaps at the beginning it would be wise to build an audience, and then improve the relationship you have with the people in that audience.
Eventually though, you will want to sell something.
Here are a few ways to use your target marketing efforts, and what you know about your audience profile, to make more sales and grow your business.
1 — Segment Your List
All of the top mailing services allow you to do this. You can break down your overall email list into previous purchasers, those who have not purchased yet, people who have purchased multiple products, or those who have responded to a survey you sent out.
When you segment your list, the people you send emails to only get communications custom tailored to their unique segmentation.
This improves the relationship you have with the people who have joined your email list, and also makes your marketing more efficient and productive.
2 — Use Customer Input to Come up with New Product Ideas
Look at the comments section of your web/blog or social media accounts. Study the most frequently asked questions you receive through email.
This data is a gold mine. Your audience is telling you exactly what they want, the questions and problems that they need answered and fixed in their lives.
Use this information to create new products, marketing collateral, web copy, social copy and sales pitches.
Section 7 — Should You Ever Change Your Target Market?
Sometimes you need to change the focus or target of your business.
You have spent a lot of time and money that don’t seem to be returning the results you’re looking for.
This is not only OK, it’s normal.
This could mean simply taking a long hard look at why your marketing is not successful.
Perhaps your target market prefers being approached by emails, and ignores off-line advertisements. They may be very responsive to webinars and live streams, and hate being approached on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Whatever the reason, there could be multiple things that are broken, the way you market, the pitch you use, the platform your marketing on, the product, the person your marketing to, or the story you tell.
When Your Target Market Is Wrong
Sometimes though, regardless of tons of research, you end up marketing to the wrong group of people in the wrong way.
You may have done research and found that the term “betta fish care” gets a lot of monthly searches online. You dig deeper, and find out there is very little competition for that search term. You build a website, pay to have content created, write a betta fish care course, and pay for traffic.
You continue to market to the low competition target you have identified, those people interested in how to take care of their betta fish. However, even though you see you are getting a lot of traffic to your articles, sales page and other marketing pieces, you don’t make many sales.
This is when you need to take a longer look at the market you have targeted.
Someone searching for the term “betta fish care” may just be looking for free, online tips. They may not be willing to invest money in purchasing a course.
If you have knowledge in the area of tropical fish, perhaps you should target a term like “where can I buy betta fish online”, or another such phrase which identifies a target market further along in the buying cycle.
These people have expressed a serious interest in spending money.
Therefore, they will be easier to market to, delivering a better return on investment than someone who is just browsing the web looking for free information. Sometimes your target market is just fine, and you simply need to change your approach and marketing methods. At other times, if you are not achieving the success you are looking for after a substantial amount of time and effort, it may be your target market that needs changing, and not your marketing itself.
The point is, iterating and pivoting is key to being successful. It’s ok to fail at some point, as most entrepreneurs have failed multiple times.
However the one thing that will guarantee failure long term, is trying the same thing, after it’s proven not to work, refusing to try new things, a/b test and iterate or refusing to learn from past lessons and failures, which would lead to better practices, segmentation, marketing, sales strategy or messaging in the future.
The key to finding your target market is research. You either have to have in depth industry knowledge, from past experience or you’re going to have to start reading. A lot.
You must know the ins and outs, the nuances and drivers as to why people buy, what people care about.
This means taking the time to create an audience profile, which leads to an avatar, a clear picture that is the embodiment of your perfect prospect.
After you’ve done your homework, ideated on your customer profiles and avatars crafted a personalized marketing message, meet your customers where they want to communicate with you a strong marketing campaign and iterate and test.
Be ok failing, learning and improving all aspects of your profiles, personas, marketing and sales strategies.
Test and improve, test and improve, test and improve.
This is the secret to building any business, scaling in any industry, with any product.
Here are links to a few resources that will help:
Identifying A Target Audience: A Quick Guide
Developing a clear understanding of your social media target audience may be the most important thing you do as a…blog.hootsuite.com