Roundtable Recap – Identifying Your Target Market

Identifying Your Target MarketOn April 16th, Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosted the monthly Business Development Roundtable here in Alexandria, Virginia. We discussed the all-too-important marketing topic of identifying your target market. First, we defined a target market to start the discussion of identifying your target market. Some of the definitions we heard were really insightful and ranged from “finding ideal customers” and Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources really honed in on “who will I call” not just the broader concept of “small to medium-sized businesses.” Eliza Dolin of Ivy Quill Communications echoed Patra’s sentiment on the point and added that you’re actually “targeting individuals” because “companies are not hiring you” people are. Looking back at who has been your customer is equally important. We also discussed demographics, psychographics and understanding the individual profile of your buyer.

Director Bill Reagan noted the caveat that “we’ll serve anybody” is counterproductive; you should “narrow that down” to “help you plan, strategize and emphasize where you’re going to market and align your resources.” There is a lot of research you can do for identifying your target market before you start your business. Alexandria SBDC Business Analyst Jack Parker posited the important question: what does your client profile look like? He stated that you need to look at your core market area, as geographical data matters for most local businesses. Peter Baldwin of MarketForce Strategies looks at target markets a little different in that he looks at the “want’s and need’s” of his clients’ buyers. He noted that target markets change over time; different generations have different want’s and need’s.

Next, we tackled the challenge of actually identifying your target market. I asked the seasoned entrepreneurs in the room, “did you know that you needed to target your market? And, where did you start in identifying your target market?” Patra Frame indicated that she started off at her local library (since she started her business before Alexandria SBDC had started here in Alexandria, Virginia!) to research her audience and made a point that it’s a continual process. Director Reagan mentioned that it isn’t quite as scientific since you will likely have to adjust your target market after you start your business, honing in on the right people over time. But, as he indicated, you need to start somewhere. Assistant Director Gloria Flanagan pointed out that knowing who your buyer is can sometimes be tricky, as in the case of children who may be making the buying decision and the parents are merely providing the capital for a purchase.

Finally, we discussed tracking your customers over time so that you can create a historical record to refer back to you, and then making action upon this data for your target market. Most of the business owners found difficulty in naturally finding ways to meet hands with their direct target market so they had to get creative both in referral networking and advertising strategies. There was a consistent theme that you needed to engage with your target market where they congregated, whether online or offline, with a strong strategy. So much great conversation was additionally had in the roundtable, but you had to be there to absorb it all!

If you’d like to join the Biz Dev Roundtable, just come any third Tuesday at noon at the Alexandria SBDC; our next one is tomorrow, May 21, 2013, and the topic is “Referrals & Leads: How to Use, Get and Give Them.” Bring your lunch, or coffee, network and have a conversation with 30+ Small Business owners and professionals about a pertinent business marketing or management topic.