How and Why To Define Your Target Market

Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper · 5 min read

It might seem like a lot, but defining your target market and personas within it can be done using a lot of the tools you already have at your fingertips.

Imagine owning a restaurant and trying to pick what to serve people without talking to them. You’d have no idea what they were allergic to, if they had any dietary restrictions, or what they were in the mood for. Yet, you’d still have to try to serve them something that they wanted. Is the answer to create a recipe with a lower chance of delighting everyone but that most people will like? Or should you probably just find a way of actually talking to your customers?

The answer is simple. If you want to do the best by your customers, you need to understand who they are and what they want. Defining your target markets does precisely that.

Knowing what your customers want is exceptionally valuable. Of all the reasons startups fail, close to half of them did because there was no market need for their product.

target market

By creating personas and defining your market, you break up a large target into smaller segments. It gives you opportunities to concentrate on a specific group of customers and focus solely on customizing your product to serve them. It may seem like a lot of work, but rather than hunting for your market; you’re creating it. This work impacts your entire company.

Why find your target market

The most obvious reason to find your target market is to avoid your business closing down like the 42% from the graph above. That said, there are so many additional benefits to knowing more about your customers and how to serve them.

Understand your customers’ motivations

Companies don’t set out to build products that are “good enough.” They strive to develop products that are meaningful for their users. How do you expect to do that if you don’t know where your customers derive meaning?

Philip Kotler said it best: “authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make. It is the art of identifying and understanding customer needs, and creating solutions that deliver satisfaction to the customers, profits to the producers, and benefits for the stakeholders.”

When you understand their motivations for buying, you’re better able to drive action related to customer behaviors. You won’t need to spend as much on acquisition if you have a bead on what your customers like. When your data empowers you to create products that have a real impact on your users, your conversion rates skyrocket.

Differentiate your brand

Apple’s branding is one of the most well-known worldwide, and that’s not new. Apple has historically done a great job of differentiating themselves, and it’s because they know who they are selling to. The primary feature of the first iPod, for instance, was that it had 1GB of storage. That was, in fact, larger than other devices existing at the same time.

While that might have been a valuable feature to promote, it’s not what Apple used. Instead, they highlighted the benefit that this feature provided: “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

target market

Their customers didn’t care about how much space the device boasted, but the number of jams they could fit on a playlist. Apple knew that and targeted those users with meaningful advertisements that resonated deeply.

Build Empathy

Ryanair saw an increase in its net profit from €867 million to €1.24 billion after a deep dive into its customers’ needs. It uncovered that much of where its focus had been, price-cutting and thriftiness, actually wasn’t as important to customers as baggage restrictions and seating policies. Understanding customer personas and what they needed helped the company build empathy and create a better experience moving forward.

How to define your target market

It can feel overwhelming to think about creating your entire target market from scratch. But, we’ve got great news: luckily, you’ve probably already done many of the steps you need to succeed. Here are a few of the ways you can move forward with defining your customer personas and the target markets they sit within.

Start broad and narrow it down

You probably already have some information about your customers. You know which parts of your product they use and what they like. You might know things like their age, where they come from, or their general interests. If you have any kind of analytics tool, you’ve got heaps of actual customer data right at your fingertips.

Use that information to paint a broad picture of your customer base, and then start to narrow it down based on the people that are most successful or valuable. Here are a few things you might want to consider when starting to narrow down what your target looks like:

Demographics, like age, sex, and location.

  • What role they have inside of their organization
  • What they are trying to achieve with your product
  • Challenges, personal or professional, that they are using your product to solve.
  • Things that influence their decision-making
  • Financials of the company
  • Company size
  • Industry
  • What your competitors are doing and who they are targeting

When you compile all of this information, it gives you a vivid picture of who your customers are and how to reach them. Then it’s time to ask them what they want.

Ask your customers

After you’ve figured out who your core group of users are, it’s time to start talking to them about what they love most (or hate!) about your product. User interviews are a great way to get conversations started with your users. If you aren’t sure about who to reach out to, start by sending out surveys.

Review your customer survey responses to uncover users that may have incredibly insightful information to share about their usage. Then, reach out to those users to see if they are interested in meeting with you for a more in-depth interview to dig deeper into what they’re looking for.

Talk to your sales team

Your sales team knows more about what your customers are keen on than anyone else at your company. They hear every feature request and every objection prospects bring up. They can give you deep insights into what your customers find the most motivating and valuable because they have to speak to that specifically to do their job well. They wouldn’t sell anything if they couldn’t pinpoint essential features and talk about them. When identifying your target market, that’s precisely what you are trying to do.

Lean on your sales team and the insights they’ve spent years building to help guide you.

Serve your customers better

Knowing who you’re trying to serve is valuable. It allows you to use fewer resources to reach more people. Beyond that, your target market receives a product that they care more genuinely about, which better meets their needs. It helps you build empathy and understand what your customers are looking for so that you can engrain it into every aspect of your company’s day-to-day.

It might seem like a lot, but defining your target market and personas within it can be done using a lot of the tools you already have at your fingertips. Take the information about your customers that you already have, and then start to narrow down the identifiers to a small group of super-passionate users. Then, ask those users what they like, appreciate, and want more of. Finally, back it all up by talking to your sales team, your product’s gatekeepers, to understand what prospects out in the wild are keen on. You’ll paint a whole picture of your ideal user’s needs, from the start of their search, all the way through to their success with your product.

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Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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