Defining Your Target Market

Mary Gormandy White
Reach Your Target Market
Define your market for effective advertising.

How do you define target market? This is an important question for anyone involved in marketing a product or service to answer before deciding what types of promotional techniques to use.

Importance of Target Market Definitions

If you are responsible for figuring out how to increase your company's sales of products or services, the first thing to decide is who you need to reach with your marketing messages. After all, you have to know who your target customers are before you can figure out how to sell to them.

Some business owners and inexperienced marketers make the mistake of thinking that it is acceptable to simply state that "everyone" is in their target audience. While it might be nice if every single person on the planet was likely to buy from you, this is simply not the case in most situations. Even if this were accurate, you couldn't market to a group that broad using the same messages and channels.

It is, however, possible that there are multiple target markets for the products and services you need to promote. If there truly are several distinct groups of individuals who represent significant potential consumer groups for your company, then you'll need to clearly define each one and develop marketing messages and strategies specific to each group.

How to Define Target Market

Target markets should be defined in terms of characteristics of the people who are most likely to benefit from and have a need for the type of product and service that you are responsible for marketing. In order to do this, it's a good idea to start out by asking questions that can help you narrow down just who it is that you need to reach.

Answering these questions should be based on more than your beliefs and intuition. Conduct a comprehensive customer analysis. Look at what your competitors are doing, evaluate previous sales data for your company, review relevant secondary research, and conduct primary research of your own when trying to define target markets for your promotional efforts.

The questions that you will need to ask depend on whether or not you are marketing to a consumer population or to a business-to-business market.

Example Consumer Market Segmentation Questions

  • What age group represents the largest consumer group for what you are marketing?
  • Is your product or service more likely to appeal to women or men?
  • Are the best prospects located in a certain geographic region?
  • Are your primary customers married or single?
  • Do your ideal customers have children or not?
  • Does individual or household income need to be considered?
  • What relevant lifestyle characteristics are shared by prospective customers? (Example: Do they travel frequently? What are their political beliefs? Are they caring for elderly parents?)

Business to Business Target Market Definition Questions

  • What types or categories of business have a need for my product or service?
  • Will certain industries benefit from what you are marketing more than others?
  • Does the product or service best meet the needs small, medium-sized, or large businesses?
  • What job titles are held by decision makers for these types of purchases?

Stating Defined Target Markets

When you are ready to define the target audience(s) for your marketing efforts you will need to develop a specific statement describing exactly what group(s) you are trying to reach. Examples of target market definition statements include:

  • Adults 25-54 living in the southeast United States with annual household incomes ranging room $25,000 to $65,000
  • Single custodial parents with one or more children under the age of 12 in the Midwest
  • Persons 18 -24 who participate in online multiplayer gaming activities three or more times per week
  • Small business owners operating service companies with ten or fewer employees in the United States
  • Purchasing managers at chemical manufacturing facilities throughout North America
  • Chief Financial Officers at Fortune 500 companies

Once you have clearly defined relevant characteristics of who you need to reach, you will be prepared to move on to selecting the appropriate promotional strategies to accomplish your sales and marketing goals and objectives.

Defining Your Target Market