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How to Define a Target Market: A Step-by-Step Guide

You’ve heard it a ton of times.

“Know your audience.”

“Marketing to everyone is marketing to no one.”

“Speak directly to your target market.”

The only problem?

You don’t know who your target market is.

And if you think this is a big problem, you’re right.

In fact:

  • 51% of consumers feel overwhelmed with irrelevant content from brands…
  • …and 56% of consumers think brands need to understand their needs better.

The good news is you don’t always have to be throwing darts blindfolded and hoping they hit the target. There’s a proven way to know exactly who your target market is and what they want to hear from you.

In this guide, I’ll show you how.

how to define a target market

What’s a Target Market?

A target market is a specific group of people who are most likely to buy your products or services. Usually, they’re united by common characteristics like buying behavior, demographics, and interests.

If you’re a newbie at marketing, you might be asking, “Why not market to everyone? Won’t this give me more chances to make sales?”

The quick answer: no.

People don’t buy products or services that don’t fit them. Marketing to them will just waste your time, resources, and energy.  

For example, let’s say you’re selling a health drink that boosts the immune system and gets rid of free radicals.

Not knowing your target market will result in a generic, watered-down message. “Get healthier. Have an amazing life.”

Who wants that?

Hint: no one.

This spells trouble for you because 74% of customers say they are annoyed by ads that are irrelevant to their needs and interests.  

But let’s say you KNOW your target market is people in their early thirties who want better health without having to research recipes and prepare daily balanced-diet meals.

And let’s go further and say you KNOW they don’t take oral supplements because they’re afraid of the side effects on their liver and kidney.

All this information tells you how to speak to them. “Get the 13 vitamins and 16 minerals you need each day without the hassle of preparing complex meals. 100% soluble, 0 side effects.”

This will turn their heads in your direction.

What’s more, knowing your target market means you know where they hang out so you don’t waste energy and money marketing on the wrong channels.

Make sense?

Now, here’s how to define a target market.

3 Steps to (Accurately) Define a Target Market

There’s a ton of weak advice out there on how to define a target market. They tell you what to do but not how to do it. 

Follow this guide for real results.

1. Dive into the True Value of Your Brand

Confused about exactly who to market your product or service to?

The (surprising) answer is the first place to go isn’t social media or analytics or surveys.

It’s right in front of you: your brand.

I know, this sounds obvious. If you’re a content marketing coach, your target marketing is people who want to get into content marketing. Right?

Well, yes. But that’s only the first step. To get real success, you need to dive in deeper.

For instance,

  • What does your brand offer that other brands don’t?
  • What specific problem do you exist to solve?
  • Which segment of the market will your product or service help?

Look at this example from Successful Blogging.

Successful Blogging

This personal coaching program offers:

  • Your first $1,000 (instead of “a six-figure income”)
  • A proven formula for growing your income with blogging
  • 1:1 coaching

By diving deep into what the brand promises, you know it’ll be an excellent choice for:

  • Beginner bloggers
  • People who aren’t looking for a get-rich-fast scheme…
  • …but want to start a sustainable side hustle
  • People who feel intimidated by the online writing world
  • People who long for the personalization and accountability of learning with a coach

Get the picture? By now, you have a clearer idea of the kind of people who will buy from this brand. That’s Successful Blogging’s target market.   

How to dive into the true value of your brand:

Set aside time to sit down and list all the features of your product or service. Let’s say your product is “Wonder Bread,” an amazing bread that has everything the human body needs for a balanced diet. Examples of Wonder Bread’s features:

  • 100% organic ingredients
  • Packed with the 13 vitamins and 16 minerals the human body needs (and in the right amounts for daily consumption)
  • Delicious, filling, and satisfying

Now, translate these into benefits:

  • You’ll be healthier, fight off sickness better, and live a longer life.
  • You’ll enjoy convenience – no need to prepare different dishes to enjoy a balanced diet.
  • You’ll lose weight because you won’t crave ice cream, chocolate, or other fattening foods.

See how much your product can help people? You’ll help them create a healthy lifestyle eating delicious food, plus save time and energy.

By now, your target market should be taking shape in your head.

  • They’re health conscious
  • They want to lose weight but don’t want to suffer through rigorous diets
  • They’re busy and value convenience and time hacks

Go on until you’ve exhausted all your ideas. Remember, when you KNOW how your product or service can serve people, it’ll be easier to find the consumers to buy from you.

Pro tip: When narrowing your target market down by looking at your product or service, think of the benefits instead of the features of your product.

2. Dig into Data from Your Current Customers

Your customer data is a gold mine you can dig up to understand your target market.

Here are four data points to consider:

  • Age: You don’t have to be ultra-specific about age at first. Instead, find out which generation is buying from you. For example, if you’re selling Wonder Bread you might notice that most of your customers are between ages 23-38. That’s because millennials are the most health-conscious generation to date.
  • Life stage: Based on your customers’ ages, figure out where they are in life. Are they college students? Young working professionals? Parents of younger kids or teens? Retirees?
  • Location: Find out where your customers live and what language they speak. 
  • Spending power: Based on what your customers have bought from you, come up with patterns on their spending habits. Which products do they buy? Do they go for your smaller or premium products?
how to define a target market
how to define a target market

The next step is to dig deeper and know your customers on a more personal level. Find out:

  • Their goals and dreams. What did they hope to accomplish when they bought your product or service? Were they satisfied with the result?
  • Their fears and frustrations. What keeps them up at night? How did they think your product would help them overcome problems in their life?

How to dig into data from your current customers:

1. Interact with Your Customers

Send an email to your customers asking them why they bought your product. Remember, don’t be dry and boring. Make interacting with you fun and personal.

Here’s an example from Courtney Foster-Donahue.

interact with customers Courtney Foster Donahue

And this from Ramit Sethi.

Ramit Sethi email

Do people respond when you ask them questions?

Of course!

Here’s the number of comments Ramit Sethi got on his birthday post.

comments for Ramit Sethi

Source: iwillteachyoutoberich.com

People love to interact and share their stories. Use this love of storytelling to find out more about your target market.

how to define a target market

Also, who knows? You might even discover customers you never thought to target.

Deb comment for Ramit Sethi

Source: iwillteachyoutoberich.com

2. Create Surveys with Incentives

Running a survey is a great way to gain detailed, direct information from your customers.

Of course, no one has time to fill in a 10-page survey. To increase the rate of survey takers:

3. Use Google Analytics to Discover What Your Audience Loves

With Google Analytics, you can discover which parts of your website your audience loves and which parts they run from.

For instance, a page with high engagement and low bounce rate shows your audience’s interest in that page. Analyze it. What made your audience stick around? What interested them and caught their attention?

On the other hand, a page that’s ignored and has a high bounce rate shows you have content your audience dislikes or feels confused by.

This data gives you insights into what your audience is like, what they’re interested in, and what doesn’t work to engage them.

Profitable Content Marketer Skills Cheat Sheet

3. Check Out Your Competitors

Your competitors are already in the game of targeting a specific market. By spending time with them on social media or on their websites, you can get a good idea of who they’re targeting and if it works.

For example, let’s say you’re a life coach. You have a general idea you’re going to help people achieve their dreams, but you don’t know EXACTLY who you’re helping.

In this case, checking out your competition will give you a clearer idea.

Here’s your #1 competitor, Tony Robbins.

Tony Robbins life coach target market

From this information, you know your competition targets people who:

  • Feel lost when it comes to their goals and vision for success
  • Crave financial independence
  • Feel stressed out working too hard
  • Have trouble with communication
  • Want to get a promotion
  • Desire a healthy, fit body
  • Dream about starting a business

Remember, you don’t have to target everyone your competitors are targeting. Start with a small niche target market, and grow from there.

How to check out your competition:

1. Search Targeted Keywords on Google

Type your keyword into Google’s search bar.

Google search life coach

When you click enter, you’ll get the top SERP results. These are your main competitors.

life coach SERP result

2. Check Competitor Success

Click on the top SERP results and find out how well your competitors’ sites are doing.

You can use a tool like BuzzSumo for this. (You don’t need the paid version to do a quick scan of your competitors.)

To get started, type your competitor’s URL into BuzzSumo’s search bar.

check competitors on BuzzSumo

Check out the results.

Look: Tony Robbin’s top-shared post got 19,800 engagements! #2, #3, and #4 aren’t doing too badly either.

BuzzSumo competitor search results

Source: buzzsumo.com

Of course, that’s just engagements with Tony Robbin’s content. You can’t KNOW how many of these sharers hire his coaching services.

But what you do know is that Tony Robbins targets the right market and knows how to speak to them.

If you have a coaching service, that’s your market too.

3. Use Your Keywords on Social

Type your keyword into Facebook or Twitter to find out the top groups or pages.

competitor and target market search on Facebook

Source: facebook.com

Your competitors’ groups and pages are a gold mine of information on your target market. When you explore them, you’ll find out:

  • Who’s engaging with your competitors
  • What they’re looking for
  • What questions they’re asking
  • Their dreams, desires, and fears

How to Define a Target Market Even If You’re Just Starting Out

Defining your target market isn’t rocket science.

Still, it can get confusing if you’re just starting out. And if you’ve never had a single customer, it can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

But I can guarantee you this: It’s worthwhile.

When you define your target market, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on ads. If you know how to reach your market, they’ll come to you because they feel in their gut that your product or service was MADE for them. 

In other words, your brand will sell itself.

And you don’t need to have a huge brand and tons of experience to follow the simple steps above on how to define your target market.

Simply take the steps, pour in serious work ethic and determination, and you’ll get there.

Want a simpler, faster way to define your target market? I teach this in Module 2 of the Content Strategy and Marketing Course. In this module I show you:

  • How to create audience personas for ANY target audience
  • How to build surveys guaranteed to get you high response rates
  • How to use Facebook Audience Insights to come up with audience data
  • And more

(Students are saying this module alone is worth the price of the entire course! 💪)

Sign up for the course now.

how to define a target market

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