It is difficult for companies to try to be all things to all people. In many cases, a better approach, especially for smaller businesses, is to attempt to differentiate themselves from their competitors by carving out a niche in the marketplace. Perhaps the best way to accomplish this is by developing a target market and focusing on finding ways to reach it effectively.
A target market is a group of consumers or other businesses to which a company directs its marketing efforts. Members of a target market exhibit certain similar characteristics, such as age, gender, geographic location or buying habits that make them more likely to buy a company's products or services. Companies often use some form of market research to identify their target market and determine the most effective methods of reaching it.
One of the most common methods of reaching a target market is through the use of advertising that appeals to specific groups of people. Some types of advertising are more amenable to target marketing than others. For example, newspaper advertising may allow companies to reach a broad group of people in a community, but is not necessarily targeted to any one group. On the other hand, advertising on a radio station that offers a specific format allows companies to target a more focused group, such as those that may like Christian music or sports programming.
Companies can purchase mailing lists that include names and addresses of people with similar characteristics, working in a particular occupation or having purchased similar products to those sold by the company. The company can then prepare advertorial devices such as sales letters or special offers and mail them to these prospects. This method eliminates the waste of money that can result from conducting a more general mass mailing.
The rapid growth of the Internet also provides companies with more opportunities for target marketing. By placing ads on other websites that also appeal to their target market or using devices like Google Adsense to do much of the work for them, companies have the ability to reach prospects around the world at all hours of day or night. Prospects can then follow a link to the company's website for further information or to make a purchase.