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How to find a target market for your creative business


How to define a target market for your small business. You'll learn how to find your ideal customer and market effectively.

First, you find your perfect business idea. Then you niched down to a specialty. And you felt good about the decision. Now it’s time to focus on the success factor: your target market.

A small business will not go far if it did not go through the process of target market research. If you don’t know your customer for this product, you will not be successful in the long run.

Sometimes businesses take off without any business plan. They see spikes of traffic or sales, and then it all plummets down. That’s from lack of planning.

You may get lucky and have a lot of sales without this step. However, the people who managed to do this have eventually stepped up their planning. That’s after realizing their businesses won’t last if they didn’t!

To avoid the panic, do this before you start your business or launch a product.

If you’ve already gone into business and discovered this important missed step, it’s okay. Because now you’re able to pivot your business the right way.

Why you need to find a target market

1. It helps with your elevator pitch

As an entrepreneur, you’ll be meeting a lot of people. Whether online or in person, you’ll find yourself in many introductions. Treat every connection as an opportunity to build a relationship. You could be taking to your ideal customer, a partner, or someone who will refer you.

If you only say “I’m a designer” then you’ve lost any chance to see where that relationship can go.

If you say you’re a visual designer who helps jewelry shop owners with beautiful e-commerce websites, then there’s a better pitch!

2. Your business becomes more useful

If you’re making whatever you want to make and then closing your eyes to pull the trigger, you’re gambling. Knowing who you serve helps you figure out what to do next.

How will you know if your product is amazing but needs one small tweak?

How will you know if your product is terrible and need to throw out that idea for something simpler?

Let’s say you have an amazing online video course to teach parents how to get organized. Your content is great but you notice that the engagement is very low. You find out later that your target market consists of busy homeschooling parents with hectic schedules. They bought the course but forgot about it halfway through.

You then find out that an email course is better for them so that they get daily reminders of the curriculum. Suddenly, engagement skyrockets and people are finishing your course with great success. A small change can make all the difference. But only if you know who they are.

3. You become trustworthy

People don’t buy from you if they don’t trust you. It’s as simple as that. If you have a generic email, with generic website copy that targets to everyone, it won’t get you anywhere. You will look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

If you know what their struggles are, you’ll get amazing feedback.

  • It’s like you read my mind!”
  • “I’m going through that right now.”
  • “I was just thinking about this and then you said it!”

Knowing what they want before they even say anything looks magical. You will become an authority in your space and people will remember you.

Who are they? Make a profile

This is a fun way of honing down on a customer. These profiles are not set in stone. They can develop to different people over time. This doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s just a guide. The main purpose of this is to help you feel like you’re speaking to only one person. It’s the secret weapon to humanizing your brand!

1. Make a profile using the following information:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Marital Status/ # of Children
  • Hobbies
  • Extra credit: find a photo of this fictional person!

2. Why is a profile necessary?

Now you can talk to someone when you’re thinking of writing an article, website copy or an email. If you know what they’re like and what goes on in their everyday lives, then you can speak their language.

For example, experienced graphic designers have a certain lingo. You can mention mood boards, color palettes, vectors, kerning, typography, and so on, without having to explain yourself.

It would be different if you were targeting people who want to learn about graphic design. Then you would have to use a different vocabulary as an introduction. The words mentioned above may have to be explained in articles, courses or emails.

WARNING: An avatar won’t’ work for you if…

As much as I love to plan ahead and have it in writing, there’s a giant disclaimer on customer avatars. They won’t work until you’ve had your first customer. So what does that mean? You have to learn how to sell it first.

As a service-based entrepreneur, you need to land your first clients before you continue to market your business. 

Skipping this step gives you a wishy-washy business plan. You’re pretty much guessing who might buy from you without actually talking to them. You’ll be making up a fairytale character instead of talking to people.

Yup, you have to talk to people! You want to get their feedback, work on refining your process, and your target market will be much more clear. How will you know what they struggle with if you haven’t verified it? It shouldn’t take too long, but make sure you don’t skip the step of selling and surveying your buyers before diving into an in-depth business plan!

Find out where your target market is

1. Where do they hang out?

When you’re starting from scratch and don’t have an audience, you’ll have to find them. Different groups of people rely on different media to get their information.

  • An older audience who is not tech-savvy will not be hanging out in online forums to get information.
  • Young millennials and teens will not be utilizing LinkedIn for the latest fashion trends.
  • Health enthusiasts will not be subscribed to the Walmart newsletter to find the latest paleo snacks.

Usually, if you’ve chosen a niche, you’re interested in the topic and have knowledge of trends. If you know nothing about it, it’s time to immerse yourself in that culture. Study it better before you make this your business!

2. What kind of places do they go to?

Again, if you don’t have too much information on your industry, you need to take a step back and learn for a few months or more. Here’s the thing. If you know your audience well, you can even predict how they’ll react in certain situations!

I’ve listed a few types of places people might go. Use this category and find specific places from there:

  • Community-based blogs
  • Online forums
  • Facebook groups
  • Visual-based networks: Instagram, Pinterest
  • Video based networks: YouTube
  • Live networks: Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram Stories
  • Text-based networks: Twitter
  • Article-based networks: Medium
  • Career-based networks: LinkedIn
  • Religious establishments
  • In-person meetups or networking events
  • Conferences

Find your competitors

This isn’t very fun for people who tend to compare and feel insecure. However, this is not the time to feel bad that your business doesn’t look like someone else’s! It won’t and it shouldn’t.

Competitive research is for knowing who you serve.

1. What are they doing?

Start easy and choose only one or two businesses. Take note of what it is they’re doing.

  • They have a specialty and a pitch. What is that?
  • They have a target market. Who are they?

The easiest way to find this is the headline of their website. They’re talking to someone and then giving a solution. Now, find out how you can do this better!

For example, if they actually don’t have a clear headline and purpose on their website, write that down. You’ll have one advantage over them already if you implement that on your site.

Are there features you don’t see them offering? Maybe the quality is a little off?

If you have a product or information business, the fastest place to look is on Amazon. Look for the 1, 2, or 3 star reviews and see why they didn’t give it a good rating. Is there a way you can improve on that?

2. Don’t get caught up in competition

The point is to find what the target market wants. Always keep it customer-focused and don’t let the competition tell you what to do next. It’s easy to offer what others are offering. But maybe they’re not listening to the needs of the people.

Remember, let your customers choose, not your competitors!

What do they want?

1. Find out their want and turn that into a need

If you already have an audience, you have more leverage. You can ask your customers or readers directly. The easiest way to do that without getting into their personal space is an email. Do one of the following:

  • Ask: As if you’re speaking to a friend, ask them what they’re struggling with, what they want, or any requests they have. Tell them to reply to the email and that you will read, or better yet, respond to all the emails!
  • Survey: Send them to a survey. Make one through a form or site like SurveyMonkey. Most people are willing to take this, but you can always give them an incentive. Don’t give them any free stuff. Your ideal customer will be buying from you. So your incentive can be a discount. But if you offer something for free, they have the wrong motive.
  • Segment: With Convertkit*, you can segment your list. For example, you can ask them what they want to know more about. You might list something like: more free stock photos, how to take stock photos, how to edit photos. When they click on one of those links, you can “tag” them to figure out what they want. Now you’ll be able to tailor the content according to that.
  • Track: In the subject, say you have something they might be interested in. Talk about whatever it is you offer in a broad sense. Then give them a few links to blog posts, landing pages, products, etc. Track what they click on to see what they like.

No audience?

If you don’t have an audience, no problem. Do some research online to find out what they’re talking about.

Go to popular sites on your niche with an active community. See what kind of questions they’re asking the authors.

Places to find these questions and comments include:

  • Blog comments
  • Forums
  • Websites like Quora
  • Facebook groups

Don’t just look. Write them down in a document. You can turn these into product ideas and content. Use their vocabulary when they asked those questions.

Validate the demand

Find out which of these are worth pursuing. Now that you’ve gathered information on your target market, make sure it’s not limited to one or two people only. To make sure this audience is going to make your business successful, you can look up the keywords they were talking about.

1. Google Trends

This is one of the best tools to make sure a topic is relevant today. Let’s say you’re selling minimalist jewelry. You heard someone in your market talking about affordable gold-plated necklaces.

Look that up in Google Trends and see if the search volume is high. If it is, then that’s the green light to pursue it!

2. Buzzsumo

This is another great marketing tool to see the social buzz around a topic. Buzzsumo is free with a limit to how many topics you can search a day. If you need to search a large volume, then they have a paid account.

When you search a keyword, it will make a list of relevant websites and a number of social shares. If gold-plated necklaces are shared a lot on Pinterest and that’s where you know your target market hangs out, it’s another green light!

Leverage your target market knowledge

Now that you’ve gone through all that research, it’s time to make a solid plan around your audience.

There are a few things worth writing down:

  • Ask yourself why they should choose you.
  • What is unique about your product/service?
  • How is it better from others out there?

Be strong in your words.  Tell yourself that you know them so well, they will need this. What you gain from all this time spent looking for your ideal customers is the confidence to sell.

From this, you will have a good idea what to write on your homepage. If you were paying attention, this would be a headline that is speaking to your readers and giving them a solution. You will also craft your perfect elevator pitch. You know what you do, and now you know who you serve.

Take it with a grain of salt

Lastly, don’t get too hesitant on making it a specific group of people. Remember that it’s just a guide. However, if you have a spectacular product or service, there will be plenty outside your target market who will buy from you.

This is a good exercise to do annually as you gain more trust from people.

* This is an affiliate link. I get a small commission but it won’t cost you anything extra! I only mention products that I love and use, so don’t worry!

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