How to Identify a Target Market and Prepare a Customer Profile

Get your message to the people who need and want what you have to offer! This guide takes you through a step-by-step process that helps you identify specific target markets within your industry and provides you with the know-how to create customer profiles to better channel your marketing efforts.

What You Should Know Before Getting Started

  • Types of Markets

Identifying Your Market

  • Step One: Identifying Why a Customer Would Want to Buy Your Product/Service
  • Step Two: Segment Your Overall Market
  • Step Three: Research Your Market

Sample of a Customer Profile and Analysis

Choose the Segmented Target Market(s) You Will Send to Checklist


What You Should Know Before Getting Started

In order to market your product or service, it is imperative that you tailor your marketing and sales efforts to specifically reach the segment of population that will most likely buy your product or service. It is critical that you first determine or clearly identify your primary market. Your energies and funds then can be spent more efficiently.

If you don’t know who your customers are, how will you be able to assess whether you are meeting their needs? Since success depends on you being able to meet customers’ needs and desires, you must know who your customers are, what they want, where they live and what they can afford.

We’ve all heard a business owner say, “My product is terrific! It appeals to everyone.” Many of us have also seen small businesses that try to be all things to all people. This is a difficult, if not impossible, bridge to cross.



Targeting your market is simply defining who your primary customer will be. The market should be measurable, sufficiently large and reachable.

For Example, a printer’s target of mid-sized firms with mid-size projects is not a measurable definition. However, a target market of firms within a radius of 20 miles, with annual revenues of $10 to $25 million and a need for four-color printing runs of approximately 5,000 pieces is a clear definition.

Once your target market is defined through your knowledge of product appeals and market analysis, and can be measured, you should determine whether that target market is large enough to sustain your business on an ongoing basis. In addition, your target market needs to be reachable. There must be ways of talking to your target audience.

Types of Markets

A market is simply any group of actual or potential buyers of a product. There are three major types of markets.

  1. The consumer market. Individuals and households who buy goods for their own use or benefit are part of the consumer market. Drug and grocery items are the most common types of consumer products.
  2. The industrial market. Individuals, groups or organizations that purchase your product or service for direct use in producing other products or for use in their day-to-day
  3. The reseller market. Middlemen or intermediaries, such as wholesalers and retailers, who buy finished goods and resell them for a profit.

Identifying Your Market

Here are three steps to follow when identifying your market:

  • Identify Why a Customer Would Want to Buy Your Product/Service
  • Segment Your Overall Market
  • Research Your Market

Step One Identify Why A Customer Would Want To Buy Your Product/service

The first step in identifying your target market is understanding what your products/services have to offer to a group of people or businesses. To do this, identify your product or service’s features and benefits. A feature is a characteristic of a product/service that automatically comes with it.

For example, if toothpaste has a stain-removing formula, that’s a feature. The benefit to the customer, however, is whiter teeth.

While features are valuable and can certainly enhance your product, benefits motivate people to buy.

An Example is anti-lock brakes; they are features on a car, but the benefit to the consumer is safety.

By knowing what your product/service has to offer and what will make customers buy, you can begin to identify common characteristics of your potential market.

For example, there are many different consumers who desire safety as a benefit when purchasing a car. Rather than targeting everyone in their promotional strategy, a car manufacturer may opt to target a specific group of consumers with similar characteristics, such as families with young children. This is an example of market segmentation.

In one column, list the features of your product/service. In the other, list the benefits each feature yields to the buyer.


Features: Benefits:
1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.
4. 4.


Step Two: Segment Your Overall Market

It is a natural instinct to want to target as many people and groups as possible. However, by doing this your promotional strategy will never talk specifically to any one group, and you will most likely turn many potential customers off. Your promotional budget will be much more cost effective if you promote to one type of customer and speak directly to them. This allows you to create a highly focused campaign that will directly meet the needs and desires of a specific group. Again, this is called market segmentation.

Case Study – A president of a management training firm had been marketing to Fortune 500 companies more than a year. She received some business, but the competition was fierce. One day, she received a call from the owner of a manufacturing plant who needed to have managers trained. The president agreed to take the job, and found out there was virtually no competition for plant manufacturing training services, because it was less glamorous to train in a manufacturing plant than in executive offices of the Fortune 500 companies. The president decided to change her marketing strategy and target only manufacturing plants. Their promotional material reflected this change. Within six months the company increased its revenues by 80 percent and created a competitive edge by segmenting its market.

Market segmentation is the process of breaking down a larger target market into smaller segments with specific characteristics. Each group requires different promotional strategies and marketing mixes because each group has different wants and needs. Segmentation will help you customize a product/service or other parts of a marketing mix, such as advertising, to reach and meet the specific needs of a narrowly defined customer group.

Case Study – Career Options, a job placement firm, has a target market of the unemployed. While it’s true that anyone looking for a job is a potential customer, developing a focused marketing strategy to reach such a broad market would be difficult, if not impossible.

Instead, Career Options should target the following segments within the broad group of people seeking employment: recent college graduates and professionals in transition. Both groups share one important characteristic they need a job but the two groups have different characteristics, different needs and wants. New college graduates, for example, are young and often unsure of career paths. They have little experience in resume writing and interviewing. Professionals in transition may be dealing with the trauma of being fired or laid-off. They usually have a defined set of skills and a career path.

Another example of market segmentation is the athletic shoe industry. Major manufactures of athletic shoes have several segmented markets. One segment is based on gender and the other segment is based on the type of sport or activity. They have different promotional campaigns for each market segment.


Let our experts help you navigate your small business.

Let our experts help you navigate your small business.