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Assessing Your Target Market
Before you can sell anything, you have to understand who you are selling to. You have to create a complete picture of your customer and know why they want your product and how they will use it. By determining who will buy your products, you can fine tune the various aspects of your marketing message to appeal to this group and to avoid wasting time and money on non-customers.
You may feel that everyone is a potential customer for your services. While this may be true, it is unlikely, therefore, you should create a profile of those people who are most likely to use your services and target your message to them (it is quite likely that you will have more than one target market but you should first identify each of these groups and then address them individually with your marketing messages).
Marketing follows the rule that you can't please everyone all of the time. Only by narrowing your marketing scope will you be able to satisfy and attract your clients.
Your target market(s) may be a very large or small group of consumers, but they will have certain characteristics in common. It is these traits that are important to you and your marketing plan as it is easier to satisfy a single group with similar needs rather than everyone all at once.
The following list provides some of the attributes that you should understand about your potential clients. Although not all of these categories will apply to your services and/or clients, be sure to consider each item carefully.
Gender - Is your typical consumer male or female or does it matter?
Age - Set an age range for your typical consumers. Be as specific as possible. Will this age change any time in the future?
Religion - Will people of one belief find your product to be more useful than others? Are there some religions that won't have any interest in your product?
Nationality/Ethnic Origin - Tastes differ from culture to culture. How will the tastes and lifestyles of different cultures affect their desire for your services?
Family Life Cycle - There are several stages to the family life cycle:
There are also many alternative courses in this life cycle, including:
Education level - Are they likely to be high school graduates? Do they have a post-secondary degree? Will their level of education affect their use or understanding of your product?
Income - It's important to see if they can afford your product. Single income households? Double income? How large is their disposable income?
Socio-economic status - This is not necessarily based on income. It's more dependent on their lifestyle. People behave differently depending on which segment they feel they fall in to. Are they middle-class? Upper-class? Lower-middle-class?
Occupation - This is often related to their socio-economic status but not always. Are they professional? Blue-collar? Executives? Full-time? Part-time? Unemployed? Self-employed? How many members of the household work outside the home?
Location - Where do your clients live? Rural or urban locations? In a big city? What are of the country? Which region? Which community? Which neighborhood?
Climate - Does the weather and climate affect your services? Is it hot where your consumers live? Dry? Windy?
Topography - Do they live near the ocean? Near mountains? Desert? Rivers? Lakes? Does this affect how they will use your services?
Attitude toward change - How do your clients view change? Are they conservative or liberal? Do they welcome change or try to avoid it?
Values - Do they believe in a strong family unit? Are they traditional or non-traditional?
Priorities - What do they value in life? How do they prioritize various decision-making criteria? Are they cost-conscious? Image-conscious? Environmentally-conscious?
Risk acceptance - There is risk involved in any purchasing decision, however, the level of risk depends on the product/service and the consumer's perception. Some commonly faced risks include:
Note that the risks are all perceived and will differ from consumer to consumer. It is important to understand which risks your customers will perceive and how much of this risk they will be willing to accept.
Wants and Needs - You should understand what wants and/or needs your consumer is trying to fulfill when he/she purchases your product. Why are they buying? What are they looking for? What's their motivation?
Politics - Are they active in politics? Do they have strong political beliefs? Will these affect your product?
Lifestyle - Are they active? Social? Busy at work? Do they have lots of close friends? Are they close to their families?
Media Habits - What television shows do they watch? When? What radio stations? Which newspapers? Magazines? How often?
Living arrangements - Do your consumers live alone? With roommates? Do they live in houses, apartments, condominiums, etc.? Do they own their dwellings or rent? Do they have large mortgages or rent payments?
Reference groups - These are the people who influence the purchasing decisions or your clients, either directly or indirectly. It may be close friends, family, clubs or associations that they belong to, co-workers, mentors or anyone that they look to for information regarding a purchase. It is important to understand who these reference groups are for your clients and what information they are passing along with regards to your services.
Seasonality - If your product is seasonal, what else do they do during that season? Do they make their purchase during that season or in advance?
Purpose - How will the product be used? Is it to be a gift for someone else? Will it be used by many people or just one?
Frequency - How often do they purchase your product/service? How much of it do they buy at a time?
Location preferences - Where do your consumers buy your product? At one particular store? Wherever they can find it? Through the mail? Online?
Time preferences - When do your consumers buy your product? What time of day? What day of the week? What time of the month? What time of the year?
Shopping preferences - Do your consumers shop around for the best quality, price, etc.? Do they buy it on impulse? Do they buy a lot of it at once or only buy it when needed?
Brand preferences - Are your consumers loyal to a particular brand? What makes that brand their favourite? Does brand image play an important role?
Purchase roles - There are several parties that affect the purchasing process:
These roles may be played by a single person or by many different people. For example, if a couple is getting married and they're looking for a wedding photographer, there are several other people that may also take on one or more of the Purchase Roles:
The key is to understand what the influencers want and what decision criteria are considered by the decision makers.