One of the most common questions I hear from solopreneurs or small business owners is “how do I find my target audience/market?” I know what I am passionate about and my skills now how do I find the niche around this.
For example, you are a personal finance coach and you know that about 70% people live from paycheck to paycheck. Now you are trying to figure out how to niche down further and find your audience that you want to cater to.
NOTE: This is a lengthy post – so you may want to bring a cup of coffee and continue reading it.
Firstly, this is not a uncommon issue. Almost every business has to grapple with this problem – whether it’s a big business or a small one. When I worked at my previous employer we were after a very large market, but we knew could not cater to it all, and we dint have the resources to attack it all at once. So, here is what we did :
1) We looked at what our strengths and what were truly about.
2) We looked at which ‘parts’ (also called segments) of the market that are actually growing and have problems to solve.
3) We then tried to figure out which specific segments that we can focus on.
4) Then we look at how we can create or adapt products to provide value into segments we identified.
5) We figure out the appropriate branding and story (messaging) that we put out consistently and takeup marketing activities to reach the idenfitied segments. 6) We then learn from the customers gather feedback and build them into step 2-6. And we iterate!
Thats it. 6 Simple steps.
Now how do we take the above any apply the framework to a soloprenuer’s dilemma above (remember the personal finance coach above?). Let us take it step by step and discuss it in detail:
1) Look within
Yes before you look outward and jump right into things. You must look inward and introspect. Look at your strengths, weaknesses, values, passions & skills.If you dont already know above – I suggest you take some quite time and do the exercises to identify and importantly write down. It will often help is you work with a small group of people who knows you extremely well (e.g., spouse, close friend or a co-worker who you have worked with for a while). In my case, I also worked with a personal coach to help me put things in perspective and have a third person view.
After this exercise you should be able to answer at least the following questions:
- What are your personal strengths?
- What things are you passionate about? Be specific put both a noun and a verb together. E.g., teaching personal finance, building websites etc.
- What are you current skills? Remember dont worry if you dont have the skills you think you would neeed. We can always learn a skill.
- What are you 3-4 core values you are living by?
Do what it take to get this into written down and understood first. You will see why in the next steps. If you don’t have this nailed down I would suggest you don’t go into any of the steps below.
SECRET TIP: It’s ok to get some of this wrong or even if it’s incomplete – you most likely will anyway. So, the important thing is to start with this understanding. Life is a journey so you will learn more about yourself, where you are heading and change course during the journey. Keep moving on!
2) What are different ways to segment your audience. And which ones are growing and interesting.
Typically big businesses tend to by ‘industry reports’ from analyst who specialize in this and charge big money for it. In our case we need to be smart about this. Here are few ways to approach this (lets take the personal finance guy example).
- Search the internet for infographics in your market (in this example personal finance infographics). They provide you with a wealth of information. Make notes on things that are recurring issues as well as how the audience is segmented.
- Look at what target markets you competitors are after. Yeah it sounds a bit wierd but, I am sure you are not the first person who is looking into serving this target market. So, look at other who are doing this successfully. There are ton of personal finance coaches and guru’s. What is their target audience? Make notes.
- Read top blogs and read their comments. Look for what topics come out, what categories are there in a blog, what the comments are saying around a topic. In our specific example of personal finance guy I would look at popular blogs like http://GetRichSlowly.org and a few more. If you don’t know the prominent blogs in your market a place to start could be Alltop.com and look here blogs on a specific category. It will be interesting to see what categories are there in this blog (think a way to segment the market audience) and then how many posts are there in each topic (typically you would see more posts in topics that actually have a demand/need). See this example http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/category/
- Ask your audience: If you already have access to an audience in this market then ask them! People don’t might telling you how you can help ‘them’. Alternately, if you have access to or know someone who has an audience reach out to them and see if they can help ask the question to their audience.
- Look at other place where you can find pointers. E.g., I would search for personal finance books on Amazon.com see what topics they are addressing. And while you are at it read the book reviews as well.
Make notes on all of the above and identify a 5-7 potential target audience in this market.
3) Now we need to do some match making.
Before we some matches. You need to pain a picture of what your ideal customer or audience will look like. Be as vivid and specific as possible. Dont worry just write it down.
Now, within the segments you identified in above. Make a simple matrix and score them against your skills, values and strengths and pick 3 target audiences that best fit this. Now, use the filter of ‘Your ideal customer’ picture you painted early on in this section and pick 1 (or atmost 2:) audiences.
At this point, I would identify a few people in this section and go talk to them. This will be a test of your assumption about the audience and to deepen you undestanding of their problems.
4) Build you product/service for this audience.
Yep this is the easy part. I dont think it needs much explanation. Except for as a soloprenuer or small business owner you dont really have the limitation and rigidity of larger busiesses when buildign product. Keep a few customers involved in the process of building your product and service. Take feedback and ensure it meets their needs and over deliver in value.
5) Branding and story telling
We need to figure out the appropriate branding and story (messaging) that we put out consistently and take-up marketing activities to reach the identified segment.
This is probably a topic worth several seperate post. But, the key to this is that you use imagery and words that resonate with your target audience.
6) Learn and iterate
We then learn from the target audience by gathering gather feedback. And we iterate! The matter of fact is that we will most likely not get everything right in the first pass. So, we must be continuously gathering feedback, tuning the product/service, messaging and possibly reposition them into your target audience.
I hope this was helpful to see how you can apply the 6 step process to identify the target audience.
What challenges are you facing in finding you target audience? Leave a comment below and we can continue the conversation.