12 ways to pinpoint your target audience

A dozen entrepreneurs share their insights on identifying a consumer base that snugly fits with a particular business.


Do you ever feel like you’re playing Hide-and-Seek with customers?

Finding a product/market fit is one of the toughest challenges that entrepreneurs will face. If you’re ready to take the guesswork out of targeting your audience, read these 12 proven tips.

1. Pick an audience you can relate to.

“Find a crowd you’ll want to be a part of, and whose goals and intentions resonate with [yours].

Then look for their gaps, needs, and pain points, and tailor your product or service to them. That way, you set yourself up for client interactions that will keep fueling your motivation and enthusiasm for your work.”

-Andrea Bailey, founder of Lightbox Communications, @LightboxPDX

2. Look at your customers’ long-term potential.

“It’s easy to get consumed early on with one parameter: customers that will pay. That’s a great start, but it can take you in a number of different directions, and as a startup [you] need to be really efficient with how [you] invest resources. I always try to think one level deeper and a bit longer term. Who are customers that will pay or adopt early, but of those, which ones will share their experience with others? That’s your target audience.”

-Fred Yu, co-founder of Repair Jungle, @RepairJungle

3. Specify your target audience.

“People under 35 is not a ‘target’ audience; it’s a broad audience. The more narrowly, and precisely, you can identify your target audience, the better you will be able to identify appropriate communication vehicles and create compelling messages to move them toward some desired action.”

-Linda Pophal, owner and consultant at Strategic Communications, @StratCommun

4. Imagine your ideal customers.

“In order to initially identify a target market, I advise my clients to draw them or imagine them and ask the following questions: What do they wear? Where do they go? What do they do with their time? And what do they read? By answering these questions, you can determine your target market based on the statistics they provide including age, demographic, income range, etc.”

-Shannon Etnyre, founder and CEO of True North: Creative Business Planning, @followtruenorth

5. Conduct keyword research.

“Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to determine how many people are searching for keyword terms related to your product or service. Startups should utilize [this tool] to determine what their potential customers actually want, based on what they are searching for on Google.”

-Adam Hoeksema, co-founder and CEO of ProjectionHub, @ProjectionHub

6. Work one on one with potential customers.

“When I was working one on one with people, I quickly got a feel for who my target audience was and my ideal client. Every interaction I have with a client helps me further understand my target and helps me gain even greater clarity on my ideal client as well.”

-Amber McCue, CEO of Nice Ops, @AmberMcCue

7. Do your homework.

“I researched who I knew in high-level positions and segmented them by industry and profession. I also asked for insight from my peers. This included my centers of influence from networking events, professional connections, and all social media platforms that I am active on. Once my list was compiled, I found my target audience.”

-Amber Dixon, president and CEO of Amber Gold Marketing, LLC., @amldixon

8. Consider whom you want to help.

“I’ve found that there is one thing that will stand out more than anything else. [Ask yourself,] ‘Who do you want to be a hero to? Who do you want to be a shining knight for [sic]?’ Ask those questions, and you’ll get a lot further a lot faster and a lot easier!”

-Ely Delaney, co-founder of Your Marketing University, @elydelaney

9. Gather relevant customer data.

“We thought about our target customer in the same way we thought about ourselves. We took a deep look at who we were as people and what we liked and didn’t like. On top of that, we did a lot of analysis on who bought our shoes. Data doesn’t lie, and the people who raised their hand, signed up for our newsletter, and bought our shoes told us a lot about our target audience.”

-Raaja Nemani, co-founder and CEO of BucketFeet, @BucketFeet

10. Look no further than your own sphere of influence.

“It’s easiest to create something you personally would use. I created [our product] because, as a Zumba instructor, I knew my students needed them and that I could sell them in my own Zumba classes. Because I was part of the market I was trying to sell to, I knew where they gathered and who they listened to. That helped to establish my target audience.”

-Katie Hughes, CEO of Slip-On Dancers, @katiehughes

11. Stop guessing; let customers guide you.

“You can guess all day, but you don’t know until your product makes first contact with the market. We designed Loop with hotels and restaurants in mind, then thought why not open it up so any business can use it and see what happens. We were pulled by customers from unexpected categories.”

-Rajit Marwah, co-founder and CEO of Loop, @LoopSurvey

12. Communicate your message clearly.

“In order to identify your target audience, you need to be able to articulate who you are, what you care about, and how what you do matters to others. Our focus is helping business and non-profits tell their own story through video. Being able to articulate who we are makes it easy for us to attract our target audience.”

-Ryan Koral, owner of Tell, @ryankoral

Erica Nicole is the founder and CEO of YFS Magazine, the definitive digital magazine for startups, small business news and entrepreneurial culture. As an entrepreneurial change-agent, Erica Nicole been featured in national media outlets including Forbes.com, Upstart Business Journal, Fox Business, MSN Business on Main, The Huffington Post, Black Enterprise and more. Connect with her on Twitter. A version of this article first appeared on YFS Magazine.

Topics: PR

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