Identifying Target Markets
For Your Brand

Identifying target markets for your brand is critical because your customers are the future success and growth of your business. But who are your customers and how will find more like them?

In their book on leveraging creativity, Juicing the Orange, Pat Fallon and Fred Senn discuss the strategy of one of their clients, United Airlines, as it struggled to find a way to differentiate itself among the other legacy air carriers and the start-up, no-frills airlines that were chipping away at its market share.

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They decided to focus on the core market of frequent business travelers. These folks made up only 9 percent of United’s travelers, but they represented 46 percent of United’s revenue.

Their thought was that if they could appeal to the frequent business travelers, leisure travelers would follow. (“If these seasoned road warriors know which airline to fly, surely I can do no worse than flying with the same carrier.”) This philosophy is similar to the secret of finding the best roadside diner: go where the truckers eat.

So focusing on your target audience may not be about finding the biggest group of people who can and will patronize your business, rather, it’s about finding the best group of people. For United, focusing on the core market of frequent business travelers was their chosen strategy.

Finding Your Core Market
Your target audience is made up of the people who love of your business and what it offers. They are not everyone who will come in contact with your business.

In order to find your target market, start by refining your target audiences. Just take a look at the customers you have now.

  • Who are your best customers?
  • Which target segment makes up the bulk of your customers, supporters, or members?
  • What do all these segments or individuals have in common?
  • Can you find others like them?

Recognizing what your customers have in common can help you craft a marketing strategy to draw in more of the same people, thus building your target audience into a successful business.

How much do you know about your best customers or supporters?

  • What is their typical age?
  • Are they primarily male or female?
  • What level of education have they received?
  • Do they have any special interests or hobbies?
  • How much is their household income?

By combining demographic and psychographic information (see exercise, below), you can begin building a mental profile of your core market. One business may find that men over 55 living in the Pacific Northwest and are interested in pro sports are their best prospects. Another business might discover that highly educated, empty nester women with lots of disposable income are their most valuable targets.

The only way to develop marketing communications that resonate with your target audience is to become knowledgeable about their wants, needs, and motivations. So ask them. Set up a continuous feedback and communication loops between your customers and the company. Make two-way communications a part of your corporate culture. You might also consider designing a short a survey and sending it to your current and prospective customers and see what kinds of offerings, messages, and services your business should be providing.

While most businesses have multiple target audiences, they should only have one core market in order to provide as much focus as possible.

Sometimes, discovering your core market is about deciding whom it is that you’re NOT going to serve. Take, Voce, for example, a premium wireless provider that isn’t looking to sell mobile phones to the whole world (like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and the rest). Voce targets only upscale users with the finest-quality handsets, a simple, albeit pricy, flat-rate plan, and an exclusive concierge service—24 /7 live customer support. Every call to Voce is answered by a real, live human being—with no annoying phone trees.

Because of their conscious decision of who not to target, Voce is able to align its offerings (high-end handsets), its service (Voce Personal Assistance) and its retail locations (boutiques in Beverly Hills, California, and at Neiman Marcus) with its preferred audience. You will not find Voce phones or plans at WalMart or even Target.

This targeting is what keeps Voce from simply becoming another wireless face in the crowd and from wasting marketing dollars on reaching people who can’t and won’t become customers.

Now it’s your turn…

When you see the How-to-Branding.com Toolbox, it designates that the following content is a tool, exercise, or technique you can use to help develop your affordable brand strategy.

Target Market Descriptions
You’ll be better able to identify your ideal target market--and picture them--by following this exercise. First, fill in the blanks to create customer descriptions.

Demographically, our best customers are [age] and live [geographic location] and are typically [gender] while their spending habits would indicate [household income]. Many of them share a common type of occupation [occupation] and generally they have [number] of children at home. [Add anything else relevant about your customers.]

Psychographically, our best customers are interested in [interests] and their lifestyles and values suggest that they prefer [other attributes your customers share like low prices, high quality, exceptional service, reliability, exclusivity, etc.] [Add anything else relevant about your customers.]

Then, while referencing these descriptions, flip through some magazines that your target market reads and clip out photos of the things they like; what they might look like (demographically); the kinds of colors and textures that they would find pleasing; the kinds of things they typically buy; the destinations of their vacations; and anything else that will help you picture your best customers.

This you’re your target market style board.

When you’re crafting marketing messages, refining your brand positioning, or developing new products or services, refer to this style board and keep your target market in mind.

More on this topic at Target Your Core Market

When your competition seems overwhelming, pick a target