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Your Guide to Defining Your Target Market (Part 2)

marketing small business marketing
how to define your target market

Gathering Data: If You Already Have an Audience

This part 2 in our guide on defining your target market! 

In part 1, we answered the question, how do you define your target market if you don't have an audience yet?

This part is about what to do when you already have an audience, but you need to know who to focus on in your marketing (because you can't market to everyone). 

So, you’ve got an audience. How do you find out what you need to know about them?

You take a survey.

People don’t typically like taking surveys in the traditional sense. But you don’t have to call this a survey or even “feedback” when you speak to your audience. You’re just asking a few questions.

What you need are some basic facts, and we’ll want to ask differently depending on the medium. In this post, we’ll cover email and social media since you can reach a certain portion of your audience very quickly (and repeatedly) through those channels.

But first, let’s cover what you could ask. Based on what your product is, you may need to know some pieces of information more than others. Take a look at this list and choose three to five things that would be most helpful for you to know about your audience. 

Valuable Demographic Data

  • Age
  • Income level
  • Marital status
  • Number of children / age of children
  • Education level
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • #1 challenge related to [the problem]
  • Other websites they visit
  • Other books, blogs, or magazines they read
  • TV shows they watch
  • Where they shop the most
  • Professional aspirations
  • Personal goals
  • Greatest fear related to [the problem]

You’re only picking three to five pieces of information for these reasons:

  1. If you get tons of data back, you won’t know how to assess what’s most important.
  2. The more questions you ask, the fewer responses you’ll get.

We want to make this survey easy to take and easy to interpret. You can always ask a few more questions later — we just need one important data set right now.

How to Ask for Feedback from Your Audience

As an example, I’ve created a fictional business called North Star Bike Shop. They have an email list of about 1,000 people and a social media following of about 3,000 people. They have a new line of crossover bikes coming in soon, and they want to know how to market them in the best possible way.

Here’s what we’ll choose for their survey:

  • Age
  • Income level
  • Gender
  • Other interests (besides biking)
  • Other places where they shop the most

Why? Age and gender will give North Star context for positioning. If North Star’s audience is mainly men in their 40s-50s, they would speak differently to that group than they would if their audience were mainly women in their 20s-30s, because their goals, habits, and reasons for biking may be different. 

If their audience were fairly split between men and women, or even wide across age groups, they would be able to use more general language and rely on the other data points for tailoring their messaging.

Income level gives North Star an idea of what people may be willing to spend on the new crossover bikes. Other interests and other places where people shop helps them know where to advertise or which other organizations they might be able to partner with to sell the bikes.

Now it’s time to pick a survey application. I would suggest using Google Forms or SurveyMonkey because both are free and relatively easy to use. However, you can use whatever tool you would like.

Most of your questions should be multiple choice, with the options like age and income level in useful ranges (10 year intervals for age, for instance, and $25k intervals for income). You can leave questions like other interests and other places you shop open-ended. 

(Keep in mind that several open-ended questions may reduce your completion rate and make the data harder to assess on a collective scale.)

Asking for Feedback: An Email Example

Returning to our example, North Star Bike Shop will want to send different messages based on the medium they’re using.

Let’s cover email first. To their 1,000 email subscribers, North Star could send out an email message that looks something like this:

Subject line: Will you please help us with this? 

Hi [First Name],

This is R.J. from North Star Bike Shop. We love being able to provide the best possible biking gear for you and the rest of our community, but today we need your help!

Will you answer a few quick questions for us?

>> Click here to answer.

We will be using this information to help serve you better, and we have new products coming in soon that we can’t wait to tell you about!

Thank you!

R.J., Owner of North Star Bike Shop

Asking for Feedback: A Social Media Post Example

Now let’s cover social media. To their 3,000 social media followers, North Star could post something like this on their feed or profile:

[Interesting image with text overlay: “Please take a minute to help us today!” ]

[Caption text:] If you like North Star, will you answer a few quick questions for us? We’ll be using this information to help serve you better, and we have new products coming in soon that we can’t wait to tell you about! [ Click here to answer / Link in profile ].

Wait two to seven days for answers, and don’t be afraid to email a follow-up request or post again to ask for more responses. Some people may intend to answer but need the reminder.

Insights on Your Target Market from the Responses You Get 

Once you have some data to review, you’ll have a preliminary picture of your target market. Let’s say North Star got the following information from their audience:

  • Age: 30s-40s (68%)
  • Income Level: $75,000 - $100,000 annually (62%)
  • Gender: Men and Women (55% to 45%)
  • Other interests: Hiking, running, kayaking, camping
  • Other places they shop: REI, Trader Joe’s, Lululemon

This is a target market, and there are a few insights we can gather immediately. This is a mixed group of men and women who are young, active, and able to spend a decent amount on their exercise and recreational gear. It is likely that they care about having quality equipment, eating well, looking good, and getting outdoors on a regular basis.

If you had to write an ad for this target market, no matter the product, you’d have a fairly good idea of where to start, including what kind of tone and imagery to use.

This information will help North Star focus their marketing efforts, and they can continue to add on to it (and gain more insights) if they run surveys periodically. They’ll have plenty of buyers outside of this group, but knowing primarily who to talk to will give them the ability to confidently tailor future campaigns for the best possible returns.

So what about you? Think about what you would put into a survey, and get started on it! If you’ve never had data like this, I recommend sending out a survey as soon as possible to see what kind of data comes back. It might even surprise you — but either way, it’s sure to illuminate your marketing efforts.

Remember that while personal context like gender and age is important, you also want to know your audience’s pain points. In the list of Valuable Demographic Data, you’ll see “#1 challenge related to [the problem]” as an option. Ask your audience about what their biggest issue is related to your business topic (make it open-ended). 

Where are they stuck? What is it that they simply can’t stand? Are you solving the right problem? Are you able to connect with your audience on their pain points?

Exercise: Take a Survey of Your Audience!

Follow the steps outlined above and take a survey of your audience.

When you have survey responses, focus on the problem or pain points that seem to hurt the most. This information will be very important to keep handy as you craft specific brand and marketing messages to customers.


This is an edited excerpt from my book Mission, Market, Message: The Actionable Guide to Marketing for Small Business Owners, which you can purchase on Amazon.


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