5 Common Mistakes Businesses Make With Their Target Market

By Alexis Rodrigo | Entrepreneurship

Jan 26

When working with a new copywriting or marketing client, one of the first questions I ask is, “Who's your target market?”

It's shocking how many business owners and marketing managers don't have a clear answer. If you need financial help with your business find more information here.

Sometimes writing the copy takes longer than expected, because it turns out they need to identify their target market first before we can proceed with the promotional piece or marketing strategy.

It's even possible that my client would adjust the product or service they were originally going to offer, as they gain more clarity about their target market. They realize a few tweaks would make our marketing promotion more effective.

Indeed, your choice of target market and the depth of understanding you have of your target market can make or break your marketing success—and, therefore, your business.

This is why market is one of the 3 elements of marketing (the other two being message and medium).

In this post, I'd like to talk about the common mistakes I've seen business owners and/or marketers make when identifying their target market.

1. Target market is too vague

I remember my days working in a government public information office. We would create communication plans where the target audience was “general public.” This would frustrate me no end, because such a vague target is essentially no target at all. When you try to communicate to everyone and anyone, you end up with a message that resonates with NO ONE.

One way to break down your target market into a specific segment is to think in terms of demographics: age; gender; geographical location; occupation; income; marital status; educational attainment; industry; etc.

This is only the beginning, however, because another common mistake is….

2. Neglecting your target market's psychographic profile

Psychographics refers to your market's opinions, lifestyle, attitudes, values, and world views. These are less quantifiable than demographics, but your market is always expressing these especially in terms of their behaviours.

For example, if you sell grass-fed, antibiotics- and growth hormone-free beef, then your target market are probably those who are aware of the dangers of consuming “ordinary” meats and who value a healthy, organic lifestyle.

3. Targeting people who still need to be converted

Here's a well-known marketing “test.”

If you were selling hamburgers and could wish for anything in the world to guarantee your store's success, what would you ask for?

The best location? No.

Exposure to people with money to burn? No.

A blimp to promote your hamburger stand? No.

The answer: A hungry crowd!

When you've identified the right target market for your product/service, selling shouldn't be a big struggle. You shouldn't have to do a lot of educating, convincing, cajoling, or even manipulating to get them to buy from you.


Because you choose to sell to those who already want and are looking for what you have to offer.

When it comes to marketing, you want to preach to the choir 🙂

4. Targeting non-buyers

Another big mistake is to target those who are either unwilling or unable to buy from you.

Here's an example. I once met an aspiring virtual assistant who told me her target market was stay-at-home Moms who are starting online businesses.

This target market was specific enough. And it wasn't hard to come up with their demographic and psychographic profile. They certainly appreciate the importance of a VA in having a successful online biz.

The only problem? They usually do not have the cash to invest in their online businesses!

This VA was doomed to working for peanuts.

In the same way, beware when targeting children and teens. Yes, they do have pestering power. But the parents will still have to approve of and actually make the purchases. Therefore, your marketing and promotions need to appeal to parents, too.

(I'm convinced this is why so many children's movies use songs from the '80s….)

5. Targeting a market that's too small

While I recommend having a specific target market, it is possible to be so specific that you're left with a very small population of prospects and leads.

Here's an example of a target market that may be too narrow to be profitable: first-time Moms who gave birth to twins in Divinity Hospital in the last 7 days.

This may not be a problem if you're selling a high-priced solution. But otherwise, you're limiting your potential income unnecessarily.

If you do have an ultra-specific product or service, see if you can extend the availability by expanding one of your target market's demographic characteristics. For example, nowadays, geography is one demographic you can easily expand or even remove altogether. If you have a physical product, you could ship it to almost anywhere in the world. If you provide a service, perhaps it could be provided remotely (such as my copywriting services) or virtually through the web (e.g., webinar-based coaching).

If you need to step back and refine or overhaul your target market, here are a few tips that may help:

  • Think back to the best clients you've had so far.

You know, the ones who bought from you with little persuasion, and then kept coming back for more. What do these loyal customers have in common?

  • Who do you enjoy working with?

Sometimes this is a clue that they're also the perfect target market for us. Maybe you enjoy working with them, because they were an easy sell, complained little, and spread the word about your business.

  • Don't worry about excluding others.

Having a clearly-defined and specific target market doesn't mean refusing those who show interest in your offer. Of course, you will continue selling to any prospect, even if they don't fit the profile of your target market. Having a target market only means your marketing is more laser-focused.

  • Create a target market avatar.

Write down a description of your target market, as an individual, as if he or she were a real person. Give your target market a name. Choose a photo showing what your target market looks like. Describe their average day. What worries do they have? What keeps them awake at night? What motivates them?

This exercise will make your target market come alive for you. And if you write your own copy, this avatar makes copywriting a lot easier. Just imagine you're talking to your target market avatar. The copy will flow, sound natural, and will be more effective.

  • You don't have to be limited to one target market.

It is possible to have several target markets. If you offer several products, for example, each one could be more suitable to a different target market. However, be aware that every single piece of promotional or communication material has one, and only one, primary target audience.

Sometimes, you also have the opportunity to reach a different target market than before. Perhaps you've been invited to speak at an event, or be interviewed for a blog or media. When that happens, take the time to develop an offer and marketing material specifically for that audience. Even when you're guest blogging, create a special landing page for readers from that blog. That way, your offers have a higher chance of converting, because you customized them for the audience.

Not Thinking Beyond The Product

When it comes to appealing to your target market, everything counts—including the way you present your business, the office you work in, and how your employees act towards them. You're supposed to provide the best possible customer service, and if customers aren't receiving that then it doesn’t matter how much marketing work you do.

And don’t forget that when customers come down to your place of business, they want to be wow’d. They don’t want to see a rundown building in need of maintenance. Make sure you hire professional companies to do up the entire space, such as CDM2 Lightworks for all of your lighting needs.

Looking back at your own target market, do you think you're making any of these mistakes?

What challenges do you have with identifying and having a deep understanding of your target market? Share your experiences and thoughts below.


About the Author

Lexi Rodrigo is a communication and marketing professional for multimillion-dollar businesses, co-author of Blog Post Ideas: 21 Proven Ways to Create Compelling Content and Kiss Writer's Block Goodbye, and host of "Marketing Insights LIVE!." Connect with Lexi on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

  • Val says:

    I still struggle with remembering this. I think I’m getting better about not trying to write to the masses. The masses are not my target market and I know this. My target market is the starters that I’m chatting with every day. I’m not trying to teach something new to someone that’s been working online for decades. Well, sometimes I am, but that is NOT my target market lol

  • Alexis Rodrigo says:

    @Val – Identifying, refining, re-defining our target market is an ongoing process.

  • What we find shocking is not the fact that many people ‘think’ they know their target market, but the fact that they base the assumption on what they can provide, not what people search for.

    For instance, a local plumber may think he’s a drainage engineer attending to blocked drains, but if there are 5 times the search volume for “emergency plumber”, then, as far as Google search is concerned, he should be an emergency plumber!

    • Alexis Rodrigo says:

      @Max at Maxweb – Excellent insight! It’s easy for us service providers to get trapped into looking at things from our perspective, instead of from our prospects’ perspectives. That’s why it’s necessary sometimes to get a third party’s inputs.

      And btw, your comment reminded me of another post I wrote some time ago: https://alexisrodrigo.com/what-works-in-marketing/

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