Target Practice: How to Identify Your Ideal Customer & Deliver High-Impact Marketing

Learn basic steps to determine your ‘ideal’ client, leverage DIY research tools and improve your marketing messages.

Identifying your ideal customer and tailoring your message to them can improve marketing and sales efforts. Learn basic steps to determine your ‘ideal’ client, leverage DIY research tools and improve your marketing messages.


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“Yankelovich, a market research firm, estimates that a person living in a city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages a day, compared with up to 5,000 today,” according to 2007 statistics. This figure has undoubtedly risen as marketers vie for top of mind presence of on-the-go consumers. The result: a hyper-competitive, cluttered marketplace–infused with incessant messaging.

This is why it is important, more so now than ever, to identify your ideal customer (i.e. target audience). Not only can you better determine demand; you’ll also position your small business to improve message relevance, effectiveness, and cost-efficiency. Targeting will hone and deliver your marketing efforts towards specific people who will most likely patronize and make use of your products and services. Because, what good is it to spend your hard earned marketing dollars talking to people who aren’t interested?

Identifying ideal customers can be challenging. Instead you may find yourself “throwing [insert trend here] marketing tactics on the wall to see if they stick.” Regrettably, this hit and miss approach has the potential to drain valuable time, energy and money.

Imagine if your marketing efforts resulted in one fluid motion that allowed you to concentrate fully on your target and hit the mark every time.


Discover your Ideal Customer

Your ideal customer is a targeted segment of the overall population that you want to sell to… what problem are you solving and for whom? Targeting helps you create a clearer picture of this buyer. The best way to start is to create a customer profile, fueled by demographic and psychographic data.



Demographics generally refer to age, gender, income, education, location etc.

For example, if you own a prestige skincare line then you may target women at different stages of aging. Example: College Educated Women Age 35-54 with a HHI 75k+ residing in the U.S.

Quick & Dirty Tip: Gather demographic statistics by metropolitan area, county, ZIP code, census tract, and state using U.S. Census Bureau data, then dig deeper using the County and City Data Book.



Next, uncover the personality, values, attitudes, behaviors, interests, and lifestyles of your ideal customer. Demographics alone are too broad, which is why you need to gather valuable consumer insights to zero in on the customers who will drive sales. While demographics tell you who; psychographics can tell you why.

In the prior skincare company example: Based on your research you may target city dweller women with access to financial resources that compliment your price point, enjoy health and wellness activities, are passionate about civic involvement, enjoy wine tastings, read Beauty and Fashion online blogs and magazines and support certain causes, etc. Your research will unearth various types of clues.

Quick & Dirty Tip: Gather abstract consumer insights by visiting online forums, reading competitive product reviews and taking an active interest in customers using surveys and informal focus groups. Then use VALS™ (a consumer psychographing system) to further develop your customers’ profile. Lastly, use Nielsen Segmentation Tool and ZIPSkinny to evaluate market segments by linking consumer behaviors for shopping, financial, media and much more.

Once you complete your customer profiles, you may find that you have more than one “ideal customer.” If this is the case, prioritize each target by assigning weight (i.e. 50%, 75%, etc.) representative of their potential market size and revenue. This can guide your marketing strategy (i.e. where you’ll reach your ideal customer), tactics (i.e. how you’ll actually do it) and spending levels.

In a perfect world, your goal is to capitalize on your high-growth, niche market that has customers who are accessible, and is not owned by one established competitor already.


Improving your Marketing Messages

With your new customer profile(s) in hand consider: Is your target viable? Is it sufficiently broad or too narrow (err on the side of narrow)? Are your ideal customers accessible? Do you have the knowledge, partnerships and resources to make your messages to them executable?

Your goal is to deliver high impact messaging that is simple, relevant, engaging.

Start by ensuring your marketing message meets the following seven criteria:

  1. Coincides with business goals and marketing objectives
  2. Reflects key customer insights you’ve learned through research
  3. Clearly communicates who you are talking to
  4. Expresses key features and benefits
  5. Touches your customer when and where they are receptive
  6. Delivers a competitive advantage that is clear and unique
  7. Consistently communicates the same message on all customer-facing touchpoints (i.e. in-store experience, company website, packaging, social media platforms, partnerships, promotions, etc.)


Marketing Marksmanship

Over time, you can build a more sophisticated profile and targeting strategy as you learn more about your customers. Defining your ideal customer at this fundamental level can help improve your brand’s relevance, effectiveness, and cost-efficiency. In effect, you can start marketing with your audience in mind.

You shift from telling customers how great you are to showing them—with a consumer-centric approach that mirrors their thoughts, desires and needs. You are equipped to make smarter decisions about where to advertise, who to partner with, how to differentiate from their competitive options and how to relate to them.

While you may think, “Doesn’t this limit my brand’s potential?” Rest assured that defining your target audience has the opposite effect – it is powerful, directed and purposeful. And at the end of the day, when a customer thinks, “They are talking directly to me, I can relate and this meets my need,” you’ve developed marketing marksmanship that will pay dividends in years to come.


Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Visa Small Business and I receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, however the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.


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