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January 25, 2008

10 Essential Questions to Ask Your Target Market

“My target market is everybody.” Is this statement true for your business? If so, how is that working for you? My guess would be that it’s not working at all. I shudder when a client tells me that their target market is everyone. When you target everyone, it’s too hard to focus on anyone and you attract no one.

One of the most terrifying decisions an online business owner makes is the decision to refine and define their target market. Why? Generally because they’re scared of excluding people. However, the more focused you are in your marketing efforts and the better you understand and can define your target market, the easier your marketing becomes. Really! And, what’s even more astonishing is that you’ll soon begin to hear, “Well, I know you only work with and have seen how successful they have been in working with you, but I’m . Will you work with me, too, and help me succeed?”

What’s the easiest way to uncover the characteristics of your target market? Conduct informational interviews with those who belong to that target market. Despite the fact that most informational interviews are used by people seeking a job in a particular market, you can apply this concept to help you create a full description of your target market. If you have no idea who that might be, interview some of your favorite clients or friends/colleagues that you think would make an ideal client for you. Go through your contact database and find prospects who meet your description and request to talk to them about their challenges.

You can set up 30-minute interviews over coffee or over the phone with people who fit your ideal client profile and ask them a series of questions about things you want to know more about that will give you insight into their daily lives. Or, join in and participate in their online discussion lists, forums. or blogs and research the kinds of questions being posted. Find someone else who provides a different offering to the same target market and ask to send out a short survey to that person’s contacts and to find out more about them as a group.

Here are the questions you can ask in your informational interview or survey. Some of these questions may not apply to your target market, depending on whether you’re a business-to-business company or a business-to-consumer company:

1. Demographics.
Are they male or female? What age group? What socio-economic or ethnic group do they belong? What is their religious preference? What levels of education have they completed? What is their marital status? Do they have children?

2. Psychographics.
What are their lifestyle preferences? What kind of hobbies do they have? How do they spend their free time? Do they tend to be conservative or liberal in their lifestyle and political beliefs? Are they generally introverted or extroverted?

3. Financial.
How much do they make in a year? Can they easily afford your product or service? On what do they regularly spend money?

4. Industry.
What types of occupations do they hold? Are they part of a particular industry or profession? To what groups and associations (real and virtual, personal and professional) do they belong? Is there a list of them that might exist somewhere?

5. Values and Beliefs.
What are their beliefs? What values do they hold dear? What is important to them in their life and work?

6. Location.
Where do they hang out in real time — at church, the local coffee shop, the hardware store, civic groups or professional association meetings? What about online in discussion groups, blogs, forums, online networking sites? Do they attend conferences or trade shows regularly? Can you open the yellow pages of your phone book and find several listings that would encompass your target market?

7. Information Gathering.
What magazines, newspapers, email newsletters, blogs, and professional trade publications do they read? What television programs do they regularly watch? What kind of movies do they see? What kind of online videos do they view?

8. Connections.
With whom do they do business on a regular basis? Where do they network online and offline? Who are their “natural referral partners”, or other businesses who cater to the same target market but offer a different service? Whom do they trust and respect?

9. Communication.
How do they prefer to interact — in person, by email, by webconferencing? Are there buzzwords or industry-specific terms that they use frequently? What gets their attention?

10. Problems and Solutions.
What are the key issues/problems/concerns keeping them awake at night? Are they in enough pain that they’re willing to pay you to solve their problem? Where are they seeking assistance to help solve the problem? What kinds of products and services might they purchase to help solve this problem — books, magazines, coaching, consulting, etc.?

Once you’ve completed several interviews, then compile the information you have received and create a profile of your target market. Based on the info in this profile, then answer these three questions:

  1. Are there enough of them to make them viable as a group?
  2. Would I enjoy working with this target market?
  3. Do you offer ready solutions that would help this target market solve their problems?

If the answers to those questions are all “yes”, have this profile available to you as you plan your marketing strategy, write your website copy, create information products, write articles, blog, or compose your email newsletter. When you fully understand your target market, you are able to streamline and focus your marketing, and you’ll wonder why you ever waited this long to define your target market!

Author:  Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at http://www.OnlineBizU.com. Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at http://www.AskDonnaGunter.com.

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