What is target marketing?

This cartoon is the property of Tom Fishbourne* and is used
under license rights for blogs

Most businesses don’t spend enough time thinking about their target market. Oftentimes, when I ask people who they are trying to reach they describe everyone in broad terms without any clarity or real specificity. They may say woman aged 30-59 who buy hats or men 18-34 who download sports apps or households with income above $50K.

It is too broad, to general and will get you nowhere. Your target can not be everyone with a heart beat. This begs the question...

What is target marketing? 

I like to personalize my target as specifically as I can. In fact, I prefer to start with a name and to put as much detail into the profile as possible. One way to do this is to think about an actual customer and to try and describe their world in vivid detail. 

In many ways, identifying your target is a lot like Googling information. The more specific you are, the better chance you will have to find what you are seeking. Do you Google the word restaurants? Or do you Google the word Authentic Indian Restaurant Raleigh NC 27614? 

Some examples may help. 

Recently I have been working on this exercise for my blog trying to identify who is my target audience. Who exactly am I writing this for? How do I describe the specific target audience I am searching to reach with my ideas, comments and observations on marketing? I know that my audience is made up of a few segments of readers so it isn't just one group. 

Since I am not selling anything but offering free advice and sharing experiences, it is still a relevant activity since I want to reach as many people as possible who fit my own target. Below are three samples describing who I am trying to reach. Keep in mind that you may end up with several profiles of customers (targets) who have slightly different needs.

Meet Ken in Financial Services
Ken is in my target audience for my momentslater blog.  He is a small business owner who offers financial services to clients in need of accounting help, advice on managing inventory or how to plan cash flow. His background is working for 15 years in corporate jobs in accounting and finance but about 3 years ago went off on his own to start his own business. 

He is not confident or very knowledgeable about marketing but assumes it has to do with advertising – which sounds expensive to him. He hasn’t thought much about marketing his business since so far he has a few clients keeping him busy. But he isn’t growing and doesn’t know where to start to build his client base. He networks a little but mostly with people from his past companies. 

He reads business publications in print like Inc Magazine and some accounting journals online that offer some tips on marketing. He realizes that what he needs is a coach to guide him through the basics and to lead him in the right direction. He wants to share some of his knowledge for free but is afraid that it will limit his income potential. 

Ultimately, what Ken needs is a marketing sounding board.

Meet Kelly in Graphic Design

Kelly is also in my target audience for momentslater. She runs a graphic design firm specializing in creating logos, brand identity and brochures. Most of her work is with clients who she has met through networking and word of mouth recommendations. 

Like the cobbler’s kid who has no shoes, she isn’t really clear how to market herself and her business to others. She thinks that she has some of the basics right but is often too busy working in the business to actually manage the growth of her business. She has tried a few things to get the word out but hasn’t found a clear path to success.

Kelly needs someone to give her ideas that she can try to help her expand her base of well-paying clients who value her services and understand what makes her work special. 

Meet Alex who works at a software start up

Alex is Director of Marketing for a small software start up. He is also in my target audience. He is an entrepreneur with a small software company and is charged with growing awareness, lead generation and promoting the company's brand. 

He has had some modest success growing the user base but has reached a plateau and needs to take the business to a new level. His past marketing jobs with very large companies didn't prepare him for this job so he needs to find low-cost solutions and some new inspiring ideas. 

He has strong online knowledge of social media and is very tech savvy but isn’t sure where and what to focus his time and energy to market the company's software. Alex reads a lot of advice columns on marketing but feels like he needs someone in his face- like a personal trainer regularly to guide his efforts particularly someone who has experience growing a small business. 

Alex's greatest need is marketing inspiration that can help spark his own creative juices. 

Sounding Board, Coach and Inspiration
So extracting out from these three people are a need for a marketing sounding board, a marketing coach and an idea inspiration. This information is helpful to me as it reminds me what my blogs should be about and encourages me to participate in online forums where these topics are being discussed. (Linkedin Groups for Small Business for example).  I can reach more people like Ken, Kelly and Alex by being a sounding board, a coach and an idea inspiration to people like these three targets. 

Name your target
Personalize your target. Make them a living and breathing human being. You might even go so far as to take a picture of that person and keep it hanging up in your office to remind you who you are focused on reaching. 

Your marketing efforts will improve as you personalize who you are trying to reach. Some of this information about your target can come from looking at who your current client base is and who would be similar to them. If you are in a business to business marketplace, think about their level of knowledge and sophistication about your area of expertise. How should you speak to them? Are they experts in accounting, graphic design or software? Maybe by thinking about the Ken, Kelly and Alex's in your world, you will realize that you haven't really been providing the right kind of message to your target. 

Can you identify a real benefit that you are uniquely qualified to give to them?  

If you work in a business to consumer market, the same approach works. Engage with several clients to get to know as much as you can about them. What are their likes and dislikes? What TV or movies do they see, where do they go to eat, where do they shop, what is their favorite book they read last year, how do they get news and information (print, web, TV) and on and on. 

What job does your product or service do for them? For example, You may say sell spa services, but your clients might describe what you do is provide them with mini-vacations. You may offer financial services but what they really want is someone to hold their hand and provide them with comfort. You may sell pesticides to help them get a weed-free lawn but what they really want is the ability to roll around in the grass with their children. 

Listen carefully for clues about how you are valued to help you understand how to find more clients who have similar needs. The more you can fill in the blanks, the clearer it will be how you can reach people who share common needs.

Your target audience is made up of individuals. Get to know them just like I am getting to know Ken, Kelly and Alex. 

*Do you know Tom Fishbourne the Marketoonist? He draws a clever marketing cartoon each week and blogs about it on his website. I urge you to check out his work at http://tomfishburne.com/

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