Building your business: identifying your target audience

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How much do you know about your customers?

Many small business owners  avoid defining their target market because they don’t want to exclude potential customers.We understand, and we know it’s not an easy task. But knowing your audience is a crucial element of branding, writing and communication, and it’s equally important for business development.

Identifying your target market means that you can get insight into your customer base and choose the right channels to reach them, whilst still staying true to your business values.

This was one of the first challenges we tackled when we began research for Five. Going through the process tightened up our offer and ultimately helped our customers find their personality too. If you don’t have the budget for market research, fear not: a simple brainstorm is a great way to start identifying your target market.

Whether you have a local or specialised audience, you can get a good picture of your customers by asking yourself a few questions.


Defining your audience: a brainstorm in 6 questions.

What do you offer?

This is probably the easiest question to answer, be as specific as possible. If you own a salon, your answer would be ‘we provide hair cuts and beauty services for men and women’. Pretty straightforward.

What are your business values?

Values are the cornerstone of your business identity - essentially, they provide an overarching philosophy under which your business operates. Define between three and five core values that you live by and want your business to be known for. Examples could include:

  • Creativity
  • Trendsetting
  • Sustainability
  • Passion

What types of people are likely to have service needs and values aligned to those of your business?

This brings us to the crux of the target audience question.  Think about target demographics as widely as possible, from age and gender to geographic location and language.

What are their aspirations?

Understanding aspirations helps you get a sense of the bigger picture reasons someone may have for being interested in your product or service.

For our salon example, it could be showing their individuality by having a great haircut, knowing that their salon is on the cutting edge of new trends or knowing that the salon makes an effort to be sustainable by not using products that use harmful chemicals.

What are their fears?

Getting a sense of their fears gives perspective on what motivates your target audience and helps you recognise how you can help them. Using our hair salon example, it may as simple as being afraid of having a bad haircut.

What are they motivated by?

Motivations are similar to aspirations, but are more tangible. Think about this question as specifically as possible. A motivation might include success, money, convenience, or influence. Taking a demographic and focusing on what motivates and speaks to them allows you to write copy and develop visual communications that make them take notice.


Define and refine your audience goals

Once you’ve finished your brainstorm, think if anything is missing. This is really useful for established businesses when you feel like you need a bit of direction.

Think about the audience persona you have developed and see if you’re missing any key groups that you really want to reach, or if your business values could be aligned with markets you hadn’t thought of.

Just keep it focused: you can’t always be everything to everyone. It’s important to be as specific as you can when you define your audience, but don’t lose sight of the big picture. This way, you can speak to your whole audience objectively, rather than focusing too much on what you think you need.

It’s not always about widening your target audience; it’s about understanding their needs better. Then you can build winning communications that take your customers on the right journey for them – and for you.