Challenges of Defining a Target Market

Demographic targets can shift as their worldview changes.
Demographic targets can shift as their worldview changes. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Identifying target audiences for your products and your marketing messages can be challenging. Challenges come not just from outside a company, but from within as well. Issues such as a company's failure to understand the real reasons consumers may try their products, attempting to market to everybody, or failure to understand audience mobility all impact a company's ability to effectively target an audience. A marketer's ability to be flexible could be his best target marketing tool.

Trying to Be All Things to All People

One of the common inside challenges to defining target audiences is the exact opposite of targeting. Targeting is a straight, clear, rifle shot. Trying to be all things to all people is the shot gun; it covers the field but may hit nothing. Creating a successful product – or a successful service – requires defining specific needs, matched to a description of product users, then focusing on those users. Creators of packaged dinners, for instance, don't say they are creating complete meal packages for all families. Instead they target busy, working women who have 30 minutes after getting home from work to get dinner on the table for a hungry family.

Don't Assume You Know Why People Might Try Your Product

Unless you ask, you don't know the reasons people may buy your product. For instance, imagine you've designed a mobile sports scoring service. You may erroneously assume that your audience is young, male and active; in reality your target may be male, but over 40, and consist of sedentary TV game-watchers who don't want to get up from their loungers. Targeting assumes continuous learning about why people may need what you offer, before you create the product, while you're developing it and as you launch it. Smart targeting includes uncovering how large the market for your product may be and the potential revenue.

Understand that Product Trends are Moving Faster than Ever

Many marketers fail to realize how quickly trends move. Today's sensation may be tomorrow's pet rock. The easiest way to completely miss your target market is not to understand how quickly times, trends and tastes continue to change. In the space of 10 years, the mobile revolution disconnected consumers from home phones and stationary TVs and shifted marketing to laptops and mobile devices. Staying attuned to your target audience requires constant communication; establishing an ongoing relationship is the best way to knowing where your target audience is and how to reach it.

Don't Just Look at Demographics or the Market Will Pass You By

Age, gender, income, education level, or geographic location may be only a small part of what you need to know to target your audience. These days, everything from life style and belief systems, to social consciousness, or even pet ownership (there may even be differences between dog owners and cat owners) can help determine whether a similar group of people may be potential product targets.

Become More Agile and Mobile, or You'll Miss Your Target

Mediums to reach your target audience are changing as quickly as social trends. The importance of traditional media is giving way to the mobile influence of social media. To target effectively, you need to understand your audience's relationship to mobile devices and social networks and where, how and when they get their information. Understanding the difference between telling your audience something and creating a social platform where they arrive at what you want them to think, feel, do with your product on their own, could mean the difference between hitting your target or missing it completely.

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