Who is your product or service created for? What are the common attributes or characteristics individuals share that make them perfect potential customers for your business?

Small business owners are naturally an ambitious bunch. When asked the most important question regarding their marketing strategy, “Who is your target audience?”, an instinctive response of “Everyone!” isn’t uncommon.

Of course every business wants to accumulate as many customers as possible, but marketing specifically designed to reach particular customer profiles will turn higher conversion rates and deliver better return on investment.

The more informed you are about your target audience, the more relevant and focused you can make your marketing. Important basic demographics could include age, gender, location, occupation, education, income level or marital status, for example. These can help paint a better picture of your perfect customer, but even more important is getting a sense of their challenges, pain points, purchase history, future buying intentions and honest feedback on your business.

How do you learn more about your target audience?
Let’s start with the audience you already have! Talk to your current customers and consider offering a small incentive for them to give honest feedback or answer a formal survey.

Ask questions relevant to your brand, that uncover customers’ shopping needs and give insight into their purchasing trends. These should include a mix of easy yes/no, qualitative/quantitative ratings and open-ended questions customized to your business and industry.

For example:

• How often do you purchase ______?
• What are the most important factors when deciding where to purchase ______?
• How would you rate your previous ______ shopping experiences?
• Do you plan to purchase from us again?
• What would you change about the ______ buying experience?
• Where are you most likely to see, engage and interact with company promotions?

Your collected answers, combined with demographic info and any relevant purchase history, can help you form a handful of unique customer profiles. By building these personas, you’ll begin to get a sense of what matters most to which customers and who you should be directing your marketing to.

When you know more about your customer profiles and what’s valuable to them, you can better fine tune and customize messaging to help achieve marketing goals much more efficiently. You’ll discover where you’re most likely to reach them, which marketing methods produce a response and, most importantly, drive sales.

Researching your market and surveying your target audience to build customer personas may seem like a digital wild west of small business marketing unknowns. Before diving into customer surveys and target audience research, it’s important to have a plan of action and strategy in place.

Amanda Parker is the owner and president of Collective Alternative, a full-service marketing, advertising and PR firm that specializes in local business.  

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