Identify your target customer

Identify target customer

Whether you’re selling plastic garbage bags or designer handbags, you must understand your target customer if you want to maximise your sales. Sounds easy, right … wrong! Stan Gordon explains.

It might appear straightforward, but many business managers delay the task of identifying who their target customers really are. It can be quite a time consuming and costly exercise, requiring a degree of trial, error and analysis. Yet, understanding who buys your products or employs you for your services and why they do it is a fundamental part of managing a business. Only then does it become possible to hone and refine marketing efforts, work out the language to communicate in, thereby allowing you to bring maximise your results (and sales!).

So where to begin? Read some of my pointers on how to find your customers, and most importantly, how to keep them coming back for more!

When you already have customers

If you already sell a particular product or service and it has been relatively successful for a while, defining your ideal customer is a matter of collecting enough data about them to determine the ones worth the most to you. Here the idea of Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is useful. These are the loyal customers that spend bucks and stick by you – and for many businesses they’re the ones to look out for and look after. Once you identify them, do everything in your power to keep them happy! Rewards, incentives, personalised programs that speak to individuals… keeping them excited about your offering is crucial for driving repeat purchases. When you are completely familiar with an “audience”, marketing to this particular segment becomes easier and easier the more you find out about them.

And if you’re starting from scratch…

There’s generally a lot more involved. It can be far more difficult when you’re launching a new business or product line to know which people are going to be your customers, then the most valuable and finally the most loyal. There are many assumptions made in the development of a new venture, which determines what your brand stands for, and in effect, how to promote it!

The development of personas is one key way brand experts can approach the difficult task of isolating valuable audiences and devise appropriate marketing strategies. Gone are the days of blanket approaches that beat mass audiences over the head with TV ads – unless you have an endless budget, you can forget it. Clever and targeted digital marketing now allows us to reach very niche audiences with personalised messages that speak directly to a brand’s particular and segmented potential customers.

Marketing personas

Brand personas are used to guide the development of a brand, but a similar approach should be used to define audiences for marketing purposes. Marketing personas aim to outline the key “personality attributes” of a target customer group or segment, allowing one to set the tone and better communicate with their various audiences. This is where you can really hone in on the things your desired customers spend time on, tailoring your messages to their wants and needs.

Curious to know how many marketing personas a brand can have? Well, it depends on the breadth of your offering! For example, a toilet paper brand has many personas. It’s a staple product that all people use! A key persona would be the ‘household decision maker’ that’s out there hunting and gathering the groceries. But also there is a decision influencer, say the breadwinner who is looking for a bargain. What about a user who has piles and needs a softer touch on their tush? Or the boat owner who needs a biodegradable toilet paper?

The difference between target market and target audience

Believe it or not, there is a difference! An important distinction to make when designing your marketing personas is to differentiate those groups that are (a) potential buyers of your product from (b) those that are key influencers in the purchasing process.

Though your product might, for example, be something only young men would consume, this does not mean your marketing efforts should necessarily be directed only at them. It might be the case that their girlfriend, wife or mother is the main influencer in their purchasing decisions.

What this means is that, while girlfriends, mothers, or significant others might not be in your email database or your perceived market, they could be an important word-of-mouth influencer behind the scenes. So, it’s important to explore these influencer relationships by looking at your research and speaking with your customers about what brought them to you.

Conducting regular surveys of your customers (formally or informally) can certainly help to uncover a range of interesting and important insights that can help guide marketing decisions. If you are lucky enough to have an already solid customer base, you can conduct a customer survey to discover key info and insights. If not, free online resources like online polling service SurveyMonkey is a good place to start. By collecting data from current and lapsed customers, you will not only be able to gauge satisfaction, but it can also help define who your customers are not, which can be just as important.

You found them! Now what?

In many ways what comes next is the easy part. Once you have defined who your most valuable customers are, and you have collected information on their values and behaviours relevant to your product (e.g. age, gender, where they live or vacation, key influencers, etc.), allocating your marketing budget should fall into place!

For example, if your key customers are 15-22 year old males who live in urban areas, then it would make sense to target them where and when they ‘hang out’ – both online and offline.

It’s no good to try communicate to them via TV advertising or radio sponsorship in the morning or even on a weekend early morning…. They are either not awake or busy with other things. To reach these customers, you might invest in Instagram and Snapchat, which have a smaller but a more active and engaged concentration of Millennials, potentially allowing you to run a more successful campaign than if you were to invest in larger-reaching (but less engaged) Facebook.

Likewise, if you were to try and sell health supplements to a target market that you found look up to male body builders and boxing champions, you wouldn’t engage an older female yoga guru to promote your products. Your messaging would be falling on deaf ears, and definitely not reaching body builders! In this example, offline, you might target your audience by sponsoring local sports leagues and boxing gyms, rather than a television advert at 10am on a Saturday when your key audience is playing sport.

Up-to-date and exhaustive information on what channels are best for what audience, and where your audiences are playing is not always easy to find, particularly when it’s changing significantly not only year on year but even month on month (especially in the social and digital spaces). So, when you are considering marketing ideas, it’s critical to do enough digging around to be informed about your key people to ensure you’re choosing the best method of reaching, engaging and “talking” with those who count. Lucky for me, everyone loves ice cream!


The Franchised Food Company was founded by Stan Gordon and is 100% Australian owned. Stan was chosen as the Ernst & Young Business Personality of the Year in 1990.

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