There are two major mistakes a small business can make when they’re just starting out. The first mistake is trying to be everything to everyone. The second mistake is trying to be something for everyone. With the first mistake, the small business hasn’t defined their product or their market. They have a long hill to climb. With the second mistake, the business has a product, but they’re making the mistake of trying to market it to everyone. The problem is this: not every product will have universal appeal. For the most part, a product that amazes five year olds isn’t going to appeal to twenty-five year olds. Therefore, to save your resources, you must necessarily narrow your target audience. This week, we’re going to talk to you about how to do just that.

Many businesses balk at the idea of this, seeing it as limiting their success. However, this is not the case. In fact, casting your net too wide can do the opposite of what you think, draining your budget before you have a chance to make a sale. In contrast, narrowing your focus will increase your cost efficiency by making sure your marketing gets out to the people who will actually take you up on your offer. In other words, it will increase your business’ chance of success.

Here are seven questions you should ask when defining your market:

Who buys my product? Think about who has purchased your product in the past. What details unite them as a group? Are they adults or children? Men or women? Americans or not Americans? Think not about who specifically bought your products, but rather their basic demographic information. If you can narrow down what kind of people are interested in your products, you will be well on your way to defining your product.

What problem does my product solve? Every purchase decision is essentially a problem solving activity. Your product is the solution. But what problem inspires consumers to buy your product? If you buy lunch today, you’re solving the problem of hunger. If you buy gas, you’re solving the problem of running out of gas, and if you buy coffee, you’re solving the problem of sleepiness. So what problem does your product solve? Who has those sorts of problems?

Who can afford my product? You should know if your product is expensive in your market. If it is, you also know that your target audience isn’t a broad one–it’s the people who can afford your product. This is an especially important question to know the answer to. After all, you wouldn’t market a gold Apple watch to someone making $200 a month, right? Once you can narrow down your audience to the people who can pay, you will be able to figure out the people who will pay.

Who are my competitors targeting? Knowing the answer to this can help you not only think of the target audience you missed but also the one that your competitor missed as well. Keep in mind that this isn’t about taking away your competitor’s customers. Rather, this question is about how to distinguish yourself from them so it’s clear that you’re selling completely different products. This is about finding those niche markets and figuring out how to better appeal to your client base.

What kind of lifestyle does my product promote? Your product will likely speak to a certain lifestyle. If it’s aimed at business, then the lifestyle is professional. If it’s aimed at something more casual, then the lifestyle is likely recreation. It’s important to figure this out which lifestyle your product speaks to. You don’t want to be the company that tries to sell meat to vegans or junk food to athletes. Not only will that be a waste of time for you, it would also be a waste of marketing resources.

Where are my consumers located? Are they local? Are they global? Are they located in businesses or colleges? Do they live in small towns or huge cities? Bottom line is you should know where your customers are at. This way, you will know how to tailor your message to them. For example, if they’re local, you will be able to tap into the local culture and values when reaching out to them. You’ll also know where to target more traditional forms of advertisement like flyers, radio ads, and mailers.

Defining your market is one of the most overlooked parts of creating your business, but its value cannot be denied. You may have an awesome product, but you need to know your consumers if you’re ever going to get it off the ground. Do you know who your consumers are? How do you define your target audience? Let us know down in the comments.

In the meantime, if you want more insight on how to define your target audience, feel free to check out our sources here, here, here, and here.

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