Guaranteed Success: How to Find Your Target Market So Content Sticks

by 34 01/14/2014

You hear it all the time: “find your target market and create interesting content.”

But there’s a severe lack of useful material on identifying and deconstructing target markets to create sustainable online content campaigns.

This is either because:

A) Everyone already understands how to find their target market or

B) Few people are really identifying their target market, but the buzz phrase is fun to repeat

If you agree that it’s B)  please read on.

I’d be lying if I said this type of research was easy. It’s anything but. A lot of marketers skip it or phone it in because it can be very time consuming. But in my opinion, it’s this time that separates the pros from amateurs.

The truth is, there is such a wealth of information about your target market that once you understand how to tap it, analyze it and create for it, it’s difficult not to create content that “sticks.”

Part 1:  Basic Demographics – Start Here

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • Marital Status
  • # of Children

Look at this list and think about how many of these demographic factors influenced your last major purchase.

Realistically, most businesses should only focus on:

  • 2 core markers—data that defines who your core market is, and
  • 1 – 3 Secondary markers—data that fleshes out the core market

When deconstructing the market, focusing on a small core allows you to see what’s important to them, where they hang out—both online and off—and what they’re exposed to.  With that understanding, you can build a basic picture of their life, and flesh out your content from there.

Try not to think of keeping a targeted profile as excluding anyone, but rather keeping your messaging focused on the people who will make the most impact. Trust that “everyone else” will follow once you made an impression with your core market.

Example – Base Targeting Profile #1

What if I sold a B2B software to computer programmers?

Two core market attributes that instantly come to mind here are:

  • Occupation (Core Marker)
  • Location (Secondary Marker)

Now with software, you might think “Location” wouldn’t make sense as a Secondary Marker, but the reality is, there are certain parts of the country where it rocks being a computer programmer (or any profession for that matter).

To know where these places are, I use a free site called CityTownInfo.com which tells me—among many things—the best and worst places in the country for any given occupation.

city town info

 

As a marketer, I want to understand where these areas are, because local salary gives me an indication of the local and business culture for that programmer.

If programmers in a particular city are paid more, it’s more likely employers there will respect—and listen to—the programmers’ opinions regarding purchasing decisions. (Programmers in San Jose are probably taken more seriously than programmers in rural Maine)

Knowing which areas have the highest salary, I’ll plug that information into Followerwonk, to learn the “local language” of people within that industry.

followerwonk

From here, I’d create a Twitter List and watch for patterns in websites the local programmers are sharing , local events they attend, popular hot spots and anything else they share that gives me some indication of where I should represent my software both online and off.

Later, I’ll dig into the content of what they’re sharing and use what I learn to guide my own content development.

Takeaway: Understanding basic demographics on your target market can help you to “be everywhere” to your most important market.

Example – Base Targeting Profile #2 [Redo Section]

Let’s say I was developing a campaign for a college, and my primary goal was to get older Gen Y students to sign up. The base targeting profile might look something like this.

  • 25–34 Years Old (Core Marker)
  • $10,000–30,000/year (Core marker)
  • Women ( Secondary Marker)

While this seems pretty general, this data gives me a pretty good base to work with.

I could find top-selling products for 25–34 year old women, scan the local job market for the places paying $10-30k/year, and ask around (in-person) to discover what they’re watching or reading online.

Understanding… no… being empathetic to the conditions of someone in a $10–30k/year job helps me to develop targeted content later.

For example, top-selling products help me understand what’s important (or what’s missing) from their lives, and knowing what they’re watching and reading lets me know where to place my marketing, as well as the style and tone of the content itself.

Not to mention, I can always target Facebook ads by workplace. Understanding what specific jobs are paying within my target market’s income range helps me to target them later.

Takeaway: Researching deeper into why a demographic is a demographic can reveal specific, actionable parameters that can guide the rest of your marketing campaign.

Part 2: Psychographics – How To Talk To Your Target Market

If demographics are telling you who is buying, psychographics will tell you why they buy.

Interestingly enough, by monitoring your target market’s interests like we were talking about in the previous section, you’ll gain insight into things like their:

  • Personality
  • Attitudes
  • Values
  • Interests/hobbies
  • Lifestyle
  • Behavior

For example, let’s say you notice a high percentage of people in your market share posts from 9Gag.com.

apple spoof

image source

Knowing 9Gag has a unique sense of humor,  it would be safe to adopt elements of their sense of humor and incorporate it into your messaging.

Imagine a brand sells baby clothes targeting working class bloggers with a sense of humor like 9gag?

content for daddy's blog

image source

Within your demographic, you’ll see trends on the thoughts, personalities and values shared by members of the market.

They might buy things that keep them grounded spiritually or make them laugh, that are “all natural” or shows support for a cause they believe in.

Psychographics are what motivate the buyer to take action and they can often be learned by examining the media they consume. Good psychographic profiling can be difficult to do because it requires you to immerse yourself  in the market’s inner psychology and develop an empathy and familiarity with the target customer.

For me, this is where acting training has come in extremely handy, because psychographic analysis is a lot like script analysis for actors.

Pro tip: Read up on how actors analyze scripts. Actors explain analyzing scripts more clearly than marketers talk about analyzing markets, and they both use very similar techniques.

Sneak Peek: What is Your Brand Personality?

Never forget that people allow brands to co-exist with them online.

This research isn’t about finding more places to hawk your wares. It’s about understanding the market’s core attributes and learning to sell in a way that resonates deeply and gets them wanting more.

The best way to resonate with a market is to become a reflection of it’s ideal self.

Chart_Brand_Personality-main-1 image source

Brand personality is a little much to unpack here, so it’s best saved for another article, but this wonderful wheel by Millward Brown gives you a solid base to work with.

For now, let’s leave it at this: Doing the research before you create the content, before you start the blog, before you run the ad makes you stronger, more informed, and better equipped to serve your market the best way possible…

…Which just about guarantees your success.

Thoughts? Ideas? Let me know in the comments below.

Check other Crazy Egg articles by Tommy Walker

About 

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist, show host, and prolific guest blogger specializing in highly effective, counter-intuitive approaches to online marketing. He seeks to expand your thinking on what's possible with online content.

Check out his approach on guest post landing pages, and get a free copy of The Top Ten Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes by clicking here.

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34 COMMENTS

Tamar

I agree “few people are really identifying their target market, but the buzz phrase is fun to repeat.”
but that’s a key to successful marketing.

January 14, 2014 Reply

Tom Southern

A great piece Tommy, and one that’s needed. So much talk and “how-to” is aimed at getting traffic, when what really matters is getting smart with what traffic you aim at. Selecting your audience is not a crime. It’s a necessity when it comes to making business work.

I think you could write a lot more posts on this subject and still not exhaust it.

January 15, 2014 Reply

Hudson

This is an amazing post, and certainly one of the most under-valued out there, based on social shares alone. I think that if people really had a sense of what makes marekting effective, this post would get a lil bump in the rankings.
I teach a marketing class and I constantly re-iterate how important it is to first ID your target customer, but SO many pass up that step. It’s like shooting before you aim – good luck, eh?
Anyhow, a good job, so +1 for that. I wonder if this sort of post doesn’t get more attention because it’s suited to the marketers more than the small business owners, though….

March 19, 2014 Reply

    Jordan

    I myself am looking to start a small business, and have opened one in the past. I can say this kind of post was of no interest to me a small business owner back then, but now I really understand the importantce of not making the same mistake twice. I believe that the answer is YES, this blog doesnt have more hits because small business owners, like myself, are mostly dreamers and not true business people. I am fixing to solve this about myself and really hope other small business owners jump on bored.

    May 23, 2014 Reply

      Kathryn Aragon

      A thumbs-up to you too, Jordan! Good luck on your new business. And we hope to see more of your comments on the blog. :)

      May 23, 2014 Reply

      neil

      Jordan, keep up the great work. Please let us know if you need any help along the way :)

      May 24, 2014 Reply

Susan McNally

Hi Tommy! I’m really struggling to get insight into my target audience. Age wise, they seem to be all over the place. Given that my blog/site is all about cryptozoology (Bigfoot, aliens, mysterious beasts, strange Earth phenomenon, mermaids, etc.) – not exactly a mainstream concept like computer programming – I don’t know where to dig for information.

Are there other resources to dig up information on more esoteric topics? Is there another tactic that you would suggest?

Thanks! … Susan

March 27, 2014 Reply

Mimi

Amazing post! Maybe like most artists though, my mind is not as logical as yours and I struggle to identify my target market beyond basic core market attributes and so I have been stuck for a long time :( Any chance you could me pointers on my situation?

June 25, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Mimi, sure thing. Do you have any specific questions we can help you with :)?

    June 25, 2014 Reply

      Mimi

      Thank you Neil!
      I used to sell a lot of my paintings over 10 years ago with less skills in my craft/web design/social media etc and now I have way more, nothing is happening :( I used to sell a lot online worlwide (ebay mostly when it wasn’t so crowded) so it’s hard to tell who my ideal client was and when face to face, there wasn’t a specific type.
      I offer my art online and even though you gave specific steps, I’m unsure who exactly to target for this kind of product (beyond ”people who like bright colours” and ”between age 30-45”, maybe more women than men)… My brain is creative but not logical!

      June 25, 2014 Reply

Lisa D. Sparks

This is useful info. I’m looking to combine my public speaking biz and content marketing biz into one. The speaking gets my firm business and helps us sell info products. I want it all to be a target for the same audience. How do I get more specific without overkill? When do I know when enough is enough when I’m whittling things down / niche-ing?

July 24, 2014 Reply

    Tommy Walker

    It’s a common fear that you might whittle down too much, but most of the time, that’s just one of those things that we tell ourselves to back out of the narrowing down process.

    In fact, what happens more often than not is that the market expands because the people who you’re initially talking to have lives & interests outside of that “niche” they’re in, and recommend to someone else in another field they should work with you too.

    Also, what tends to be surprising to folks is just how many people are actually in that niche in the first place.

    If I got to the point where I defined my target market as “upscale italian resturant owners” for example, I could go an entire lifetime working with even just a tiny percentage of the overall market for “upscale italian resturant owners”.

    The other thing to remember is that with every niche, there are always more people coming into it. It’s never ever a finite thing.

    July 25, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Great questions, Lisa. You’re thinking about it right: you want to narrow your focus enough to be the top choice for your target market without going so narrow that you limit your audience. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. You have to try and test your different options. Consider starting by choosing a target group that is moderately narrow. Then see who rises to the top in that group. Either segment them as your ideal target or start marketing just to them, depending on how large that market is. Other people might continue to follow you, but you would market just to them. Let me know if you need more help.

    July 25, 2014 Reply

Dahlia

Hi Tommy,

Is there any one who you can pay to determine your target market? I’ve tried all these suggestions that you’ve given, I’ve even read books on it but I’m still unable to determine my target market!!

Can you please help?
Dahlia

August 31, 2014 Reply

    Tommy Walker

    Sure! There are a ton of agencies out there that specialize in market research & could help you get things off the ground. The major factor has to do with budget though, and the quality of research you’re trying to get.

    If budget is limited, try getting in touch with marketing students at a local univeristy. There’s a lot that can go into it, so keep that in mind. Do you have a budget in mind?

    September 1, 2014 Reply

      Dahlia

      Hi Tommy,

      Thanks for prompt reply :). I’m willing to spend anywhere from $100-400. It’s just my target market that I need help with, not the actual marketing of my book.

      Dahlia

      September 1, 2014 Reply

Lin

Thank you so much for writing this article!
I’ve just started my small business and I find this very useful. This blog has taught me so much more than what we business and marketing students learn in school!
It makes me rethink all my assumptions and I just decided to make a thorough research on my target market by doing in-depth semi-structured interviews with focus groups to understand my target market better.

September 13, 2014 Reply


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