Establish Your Target Market (Andrea Hattan)

Andrea Hattan

This piece is part of our Small Business Basics content series. Today’s piece by entrepreneur Andrea Hattan is about understanding your target audience: who they are, what they need, and how you can reach them.

After you read, share with us:
What audience is your business speaking to—and what are you doing to get through to them?

Your avatar, buyer persona, ideal client or customer—the name doesn’t really matter, when the concept is the same.

The question is, “Who are you marketing to?”

Often people say, “Everyone can buy my product or service.” While that might be true, if you speak to everyone, you essentially speak to no one. So it’s so important to know who you’re speaking to so they feel that you’re talking specifically to them.

How do you choose your target market? If you have an existing business, you can look at your current clients and customers. Who would you copy & paste—the people you would work with on repeat? If you had a super exclusive, secret club, who would you let through the red velvet rope?

Another approach is to look at your competitors. Who are they working with that you’d love to be serving? Who makes you feel a little bit jealous?

You can also look at yourself. Who do you relate to? Whose problems do you know really well, because they are—or have been—your problems?

Profitability matters here, too. Who would be someone you could serve frequently or at the highest price? For example, if you own a brick and mortar store and you sell candles, who’s going to buy candles often? Or who’s going to buy a whole bunch of candles all at once?

Let’s walk through an example avatar:

Who would buy candles? Typically someone looking for a gift or someone furnishing their own home. It could be a husband, a wife, a grandmother, a neighbor. There are any number of avatars. They’re all additional, fun extra sales that happen, but they aren’t necessarily who we’re targeting.

Gather research—online, in focus groups, or from your existing clients—on who buys candles most frequently. If you can put a name and face to this person, it’s even better. Whether it’s an existing client or just an imaginary person, you can build the avatar around them, so it feels like you’re talking to a real person when you create marketing copy.

Let’s say that we’ve identified women in their 30s who are college educated and married as the people who buy the most candles. Let’s call this avatar Taylor. Maybe her household has a combined income of a hundred thousand dollars a year, and she and her husband own their home. She’s also into things that are all-natural. She values research and trusts other women in her community. She shops at Whole Foods, does yoga on the weekends, and buys Apple products.

Ask yourself about their psychographics and their demographics: where they live, what their interests are, what kinds of things they already own.

If you’re speaking to this one person, what’s going to happen is that anyone who is in a similar situation to Taylor and feels like Taylor feels is going to think you’re talking just to them.

The next step is to dig deeper into discovering your target market’s pain points. So how do we speak to Taylor? What would make Taylor know she has a problem in the first place?

A few ways to discover your avatar’s pain points is to give your current or prospective customers a survey or interview them.

When I started my coworking space, I created an online form that asked, “What are you looking for in a coworking space? What are some of the challenges that you have working from home or from a coffee shop? What are some events you might like to attend? What type of food would you want if we served food? What type of activities and content would you come for? What do you want the vibe to be like? What makes you feel safe when you’re in this space?”

I also asked about them. Questions like, “Which media do you read/listen to? Where do you shop? What’s your favorite restaurant? Which events are you already attending?”

Reviews can also tell you a lot of things. People will share the positives and negatives about your business and your competitors. You’ll see what they love about the competitors and where the competitors are missing the boat. You can be the one to come along and say, “I can do it in a way that’s going to serve you better.”

Based on what people are saying in the comments, you’ll get an idea of their pain points and what is missing in the existing solutions. I always tell people, “You should come work at The Hive, because when you go to a coffee shop, how do you make sure that you can sit down next to an outlet? What if your computer dies in the middle of a presentation to a client? Or how do you deal with that awkward moment of, ‘Am I supposed to buy their coffee? Are they supposed to buy my coffee?’ We offer unlimited coffee here for you and your guests.” I speak to the pain points they’re experiencing with the alternative, and I show how we address those and improve the experience.

If you get enough reviews for your own business, there are even services you can use to computer generate an avatar or a voice for your brand based on the words your customers are using. When I did this for my brand, we came out as, “the creator, the hero, and the caretaker,” archetypes. That means we’re all about innovation, taking action, and offering support. All the words that people said in our reviews were, “I’ve never felt more supported,” or “This is such a powerful group of women who are active go-getters.” The language your reviewers are using might just tell you what type of brand voice you should have.

You can also search in social media groups and online threads for common questions about your industry. For example, you might go to a mom group on Facebook for your area, search for “coffee shop,” and just see what places people are recommending and what they’re saying about them.

There’s also a great keyword research tool, AnswerThePublic. It’s a free resource where you can type in your keywords and you’ll see the “who, what, when, where, and why” that people are plugging into Google around those keywords. If you were to create content around every one of those questions, statements, or keywords, you would basically dominate that keyword.

Once you’ve used all of these ideas to figure out who you’re talking to and what their pain points are, you’re ready to actually start talking with them. In order to do that, you’ve got to know where to find them. Consider the places (both digital and in person) where your existing customers are hanging out. Think about the media they consume. Your prospects are likely in the same spaces and following the same media. Ask to be a guest on a podcast they might be listening to, advertise in a magazine they’re likely to read, or speak at an event they might attend. It’s all about putting yourself and your business in places where you’re likely to find more of your target market.

Andrea Hattan @andrea
Andrea Hattan founded The Hive Wichita, a workspace and community holding space for women to grow their businesses.
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How are you making sure to speak your ideal audience’s language?