Businesses are usually established to satisfy the need for a specific product or service demanded by people called the target audience. Alternatively, a small business is started when there is a necessity to generate income. In this case, the target audience is defined after starting the business.
What is the target market? What is the target audience? The people you consider your potential customers make up your target market. Out of these people, those who show interest and react to your marketing communication are called the target audience.
Identifying your target audience might be as simple as putting out a handwritten board saying you sell coconut water on a national highway where there aren't any roadside refreshment shops, or it could get as complex as fighting for SEO rankings to reach your target audience on the internet. Whatever your business, these are follow these simple steps to identify your target audience -
- Who needs the product /services that your small business provides?
- Where are they located?
- How can you reach them?
For this, you need to answer the question - where do they hang out and what do they read, both online and offline.
How to identify your target audience?
The people who need your product/service should be able to find your small business during a routine inquiry. For example, a juice seller selling neem juice outside a jogger's park in metro cities correctly identified his target audience as the people coming to the park for walks and workouts. Many of them park their swanky cars and exercise in branded attire. To support their exercise regime, they are ready to buy neem juice from a vendor, provided it is hygienic and pure. The vendor satisfies his target audience by using quality ingredients and storing the juice in shiny containers. A few steps further down the road, you will find another small business vendor serving tasty dosas and piping hot medu vadas to customers. Like the neem juice seller, this vendor has also identified the target audience. It is the taste and the hygiene that matters to his target audience. Similarly, just outside the temple, the vegetable/flower vendor understands the pulse of his target audience and stocks his cart accordingly. In all the three cases outlined above, these small business vendors were able to identify the target market and the target audience by defining whose needs they could likely satisfy.
Your target market may be located anywhere, found in clusters, or spread across a wide area. Your small business needs a strategic asset to locate them. This asset could be the location of your small business, a unique product, or a service offering. The small makeshift eatery owner outside a busy railway station in a city like Mumbai identifies his floating target market and reaches them at a location and time convenient to them. Many among the target market are busy office-goers who will dynamically decide if they will have their breakfast standing in front of his shop or pack it to eat later at their offices. The needs of this target market are speed, healthy food that they can consume daily at a time convenient to them.
How do you reach your target audience?
Rule number one is to cast the net wide enough to reach maximum people in the target market. From this, your target audience will come to you. For example, whenever there is a PTM in a school, booksellers, coaching class owners, extracurricular class owners distribute pamphlets to the parents. From this target market, they are likely to reach their target audience and get customers. Consistently following up with your target market will also help you reach your target audience.
Small businesses have an advantage when identifying their target markets and understanding their target audiences because of the following reasons:
- The capital investment in small businesses is low and mostly restricted to a limited geographic area. Hence identifying their target segment more accurately is possible.
- Relationship marketing can be more pronounced in small businesses because of the close interactions with the target audience.
The way ahead
Once you start your small business, answer the following questions to understand your target audience:
- Understand the needs and benefits that your product or service provides, making customers purchase them. In the example seen above, the tasty, tangy chutney accompanying the idli or dosa may be the winning ingredient that attracts his target market.
- What are your target market's problems, and what benefits do they get from finding a solution? E.g., roadside food vendors cater to the needs of many at reasonable prices. With this, you will have a clear picture of the type of customers your business should target. Small businesses can grow by educating and appraising their target segment about the latest trending information, creating a win-win situation. A local tailor may suggest the latest designs to his/her customers and colors that might suit them. Customers generally have more faith in such cases.
- Yet another method to expand your target audience is to offer complementary services that will likely save the cost or time of potential customers. A milk vendor who delivers fresh produce and poultry straight from the farm will be preferred more than a vendor who offers solitary service.
- Hint to your existing, satisfied customers that you are looking for more work or business and assure them that it will not affect your current offerings. Customers are likely to believe more in local vendors with whom they have built a rapport and will likely recommend your product/service to their friends and relatives.
- When starting your small business, ensure that you can cater to the changing requirements of your target audience. For this, establish a communication channel.
Small business vendors may have trouble identifying their target market and the target audience initially. Understanding their business offerings and answering the question of who needs them can help identify the target market and the target audience.
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Q. Do I have to define my target audience only once during the start of my business?
Ans. No, Like everything in marketing, this is an iterative and continuous process. You need to continuously monitor the dynamically changing market and incorporate the required changes in your business.
Q. Are the target audience and target market the same?
Ans. The target market is all those who can buy your products and to whom you want to sell. Out of this large segment, a few buy from you or show interest in buying from you. This group is the target audience.
Q. How can I be sure if my target audience is correct?
Ans. If your target audience resonates with your offerings and keeps coming back regularly, it means they have a routine need that you cater to successfully.
Q. Should I invest in a website to grow my small business and reach my target audience?
Ans. If your target audience looks for products and services on the internet, it is good to invest in a website. It is possible to host an informational website at a small annual payment to attract your target audience. You can hire freelancers to design a website for you at affordable prices.