Like an elusive gazelle in the Serengeti, your target market can be difficult to see, tough to understand, and maddeningly adept at avoiding your grasp. First, you have to know that you aren’t alone! According to the World Bank, there were 2.68 million new businesses registered around the world in 2014. I assure you that the vast majority of these businesses struggle with, consider, and edit their ideal target market on a nearly daily basis. In fact, in order to survive as a business, you must consider your target market with every decision you make. The businesses that make decisions without their ideal client in mind most likely won’t be around long.
How do you define your target market?
This is an ongoing process that you should become more and more adept at as your business grows. Each client you work with provides an opportunity for you to dig a bit deeper and uncover the motivators that led that particular individual, family, or company to you and encouraged them to hire you. For today, we are going to discuss three aspects of a target market and how to use these factors to market your business and define your approach.
A demographic is defined as, “statistical data relating to the population and particular groups within it.” In terms of marketing, this relates to all of the various categories of customers to whom you could potentially provide a good or service. Some incredibly broad examples include differentiators such as gender, race, education level, household income, geographic location, age, etc. This is just the beginning, the foundation that you will build your target upon. If we use the “old bulls-eye analogy,” picking one of these demographics is similar to the outside rings of the target – maybe even the wall, hay bale, or post the target is attached to.
Frequently, I see photographers pick one of these categories and consider their analysis complete. Wrong! If you want to successfully market your photography business, you need to get much deeper than “engaged women” for your wedding business or “moms” for your newborn photography gig. Before moving on to the next phase of your planning, you need to have a clearly defined demographic.
For example, if I were a family photographer, my target might be “stay at home moms between the ages of 26-45 that live within 20 miles of my ZIP code with a median household income of greater than $150K per year.” Even this definition leaves room for further honing, but it’s a start!
Next, we can move on to their interests. This is where social media becomes such a powerful tool. We can scour Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest platforms to uncover what types of things our clients are looking for. Spend some time digging into various groups on Facebook to see what types of conversations your target client might be engaged in. Is there a particular website they frequent, are there particular books, movies, or TV shows they like, etc.
This is the part of your analysis where things can become a bit overwhelming and difficult to correlate to marketing, but the more you understand your target and the more you can relate to them, the better your marketing will be. Your ultimate goal here is to find emotional triggers that either drive them to purchase your services and products or those that dissuade them from making that purchase. By unveiling these triggers, you are going to be able to show your target client what they need or want to hear in order for them to choose you as the photographer they want to spend money with.
This might be easily intertwined with the interests aspect of our little exercise, but they are different. It might not be the most scientific differentiation, but I view interests as those areas that a client (somewhat) passively enjoys. (For example, browsing a website, reading a book or blog, chatting about it with friends, a hot topic they learn about, etc.) Lifestyle, on the other hand, is something that a client actively engages in. So, this could be shopping, hiking, fitness, charitable organizations, and so on. They will spend money on interests and on lifestyle, but the enjoyment from products of each category is different.
So in this category, you would want to research what types of stores your “target mother” frequents, where she likes to take her children during the day, what types of weekend activities they engage in, what does she do for fun when she is away from the children, etc.
Once you complete this foray into defining your target market, you need to come away with something specific. You can’t get too specific at this point; every little detail will help you down the road. Some companies even go so far as to create fictional characters when defining their target market and they consistently reference these characters as they develop new services, products, and marketing initiatives.
Shoot for a definition similar to this:
- A stay at home mom between the ages of 26-45
- Lives within 20 miles of my ZIP code
- A median household income of greater than $150K per year
- She has a degree in history
- Into fitness, running and yoga specifically, and spends part of each day working out
- She is a member of the “Moms of St. Louis” (fake) Facebook group,
- Shops at Nordstrom, Whole Foods, and local children’s boutiques.
- She drives an Audi crossover,
- Loves Disney,
- Likes to entertain friends with dinner parties with ideas she finds off Pinterest.”
I could go on and on! The point is that the more you can understand about EXACTLY who you are marketing to, the better your chances of branding and promoting yourself and your business in a way that is attractive to your target. Your clients choice of clothing store might tell you about their level of discretionary funds and what kind of customer experience they value. The same can be said about their choice of vehicle and their hobbies. How they spend their free time can give you ideas for marketing pieces and events that will attract them or community involvement opportunities that will give you face time with your target market.
Put it all together
These steps are just the beginning, but hopefully, they tell you a bit more specifically how to approach determining your target market. It is easy to just throw a blanket demographic on something and sit back hoping that people find you, but that approach will not result in people seeking you out. You have to build your target and then hit the bulls-eye at every opportunity and with everything you offer. Your SEO needs to be on point, your website design should be intentionally built to draw your ideal client in, the way you photograph your subjects and the editing process should be cohesive and in line with your target’s preferences, and the list goes on.
These three categories are by no means the “end all, be all” list to developing a well-rounded target market. There are countless other factors to consider, but these should get you started. For those of you readers that are established and have “cracked the code,” what other factors do you look at and how else do you define your target? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!