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Target Market

For a business to be successful it must properly identify its target market.  While that may seem obvious, it is amazing just how many sane intelligent business people have not taken the time to think about it.

In developing a marketing strategy for clients I will ask "Who is your target market?  Who is your customer?"  All too often the reply is:   "Everyone."

That simply is not true.  No business has "everyone" as a target market; oh it may seem like some do at first glance, but it isn't really true.  Let's examine some examples:

bulletLawn Care -
bulletWho don't want to, or don't have time to do their own yard work
bulletHave the disposable income to spend

This lets out apartment dwellers, low income homeowners, and individuals who enjoy doing their own yard work.

bulletSporting Goods -
bulletInterested in participating in sports activities
bulletDisposable income

This lets out the couch potato and anyone who simply does not like to, or is physically unable to, participate in sports.

bulletRealtor -
bulletHomeowners/estates who wish to sell
bulletIndividuals/families who wish to buy
bulletAcceptable credit
bulletEnough savings to make a deposit and cover closing costs
bulletEnough income to make the monthly payment

This lets out those who do not want to buy or sell a home, those with poor credit, those will insufficient savings, those with insufficient income, and those who are too young to enter into a legal contract.

bulletGas Station -
bulletThose who have a car
bulletThose with the money for gas
bulletThose who are currently low on gas

Clearly, if you have a full gas tank you don't really care where the nearest gas station is; it only matters as the needle gets closer to the big E that we start straining our eyes looking for a gas station. Also, those who use the bus don't have any interest in gas stations either.

Now that you've started thinking about your target market, let me confuse you some more -- Sears and J.C. Penny do not have the same target market.  Similar, but not identical.  Each aims at a slightly different social-economic group.

Most shopping malls have several shoe stores, are they after the same customer?  Not necessarily.  I have seen situations where shoe stores were next to each other and across from each other, but each had a different target market.  One store targeted men, another children, the third carried high-end ladies shoes, while the fourth went after low to middle income women.  Each with a specific market that did not interfere with it's neighbor.

Be as specific as possible in identifying who your customer is.  Are they old or young; blue-collar or professional; male or female; white or black or Hispanic or oriental; rich or poor; educated or not; short or tall; married or single; own or rent; or, have children or not.  There are more ways to break this down, these are the more common ones.  Knowing this is the key to effectively getting your message out.

If you don't have an accurate perception of who your target market is you will fail.  You will fail because if you don't know who your customer is, how can you satisfy their needs?

Several years back I went into a White Automotive store and looked around,  I noticed that in the tools section there was only one of every tool.  After several minutes of browsing I struck up a conversation with what turned out to be the owner.  I asked him why there was just one of every tool, his response:  "I don't know what my customer might want, so I just keep one of everything."

And what if someone buys that single 5/16th wrench, and then someone comes in the next day looking for the same tool?  "I'll order him one.  It should only take a week or two."  You and I both know that the customer will go to another hardware store and buy the needed wrench.  Yet, when I brought that up he just couldn't imagine anyone doing that since he would special-order the item for them.  He couldn't see that if a customer was looking for a wrench or screwdriver they probably needed it then, not later.

I asked the owner how he decided what to carry in the store, and he said:  "If someone comes in and asks for something that I don't have, then I go out and get one.  If someone asks for something then there must be potential demand for it."  Which explains why after about a year he went out of business with an odd collection of tools, lawn mowers, appliances, house wares, knick-knacks, and assorted stuff.  He simply had no concept of who his customer was, nor of what they wanted.  You may think that illustration is a rare occurrence, but believe me it happens much more frequently than you might imagine.  

The first step in knowing your business is knowing who your customer is, and what they want.

 Copyright (c) 2002, Brock Henderson, Louisville, Kentucky