In deciding how to best market your small business, it is important that your business know who it is marketing to and what is being done by its competitors. Without this knowledge at its disposal, your business loses the invaluable ability to tailor its marketing strategies to meet the wants and needs of its target market and differentiate itself from its competitors.

To clearly identify your target market, your small business must first conduct market research. With the data you collect and analyze, your business can learn not only who your target market is, but who they are and how this all relates to what your competitors are doing. By pinpointing exactly who the right audience for your SMB is, you can develop your marketing strategies with a more narrow focus and be more successful in reaching the proper people.

What types of market research can be done by my SMB?

Primary Research

By definition, primary research is research that you conduct on your own. Information that your business collects through its own efforts constitutes as primary research. Use the people that your business has available to it in its customer base to help it learn more about who it serves and how it can best market to them and make them happy.

1. Surveys: By surveying the people who interact with and buy from your SMB, you can get information about your audience directly from the audience members themselves. To promote brand recognition while you are gathering meaningful information, use your branding, logo and company domain name to encourage interaction from followers of your brand.

You can direct them to take a survey by clicking your domain name that is included in your social media posts or that is in your email newsletter to subscribers. Or, you could distribute surveys as people make their purchases in your store if your SMB also has a brick and mortar location that customers can visit.

2. Focus Groups: Conducting a focus group allows your SMB to gather the same types of information from consumers that you would in a survey (although often even more in-depth) while also being able to make a face-to-face connection with them. Participants in the group can share their thoughts and develop community with other members of the target market for your business.

3. One-on-One Interviews: In an interview between a representative of your SMB and one of its consumers, your business has the ability to really hear what the individual has to say and form a lasting impression with them. Your business could ask one in every 100 visitors (or whatever number you choose) to its store or website if they would be interested in being the subject of an interview about your brand, and offer them an incentive in the form of free or discounted product.

Not only can your business get the information it wants to have and that it thinks will be useful, but it also presents the consumer with the opportunity to ask questions of the business. They get the chance to express what they want to express in regards to the brand and what it has to offer them.

Secondary Research

Unlike primary forms of research, secondary research is that which your business does not do on its own. It is composed of data that was collected by an outside party or organization that is available to you and that you can use for your own benefit. Secondary research is your SMB drawing its own conclusions from the existing research that was done by others in your industry or by market research firms, whereas primary research is beginning the research process from scratch.

How can my SMB use these primary and secondary research methods to pinpoint the right audience?

1. Identify who your target market is. WIth the information you obtain, your SMB can know the general demographics of your target market. It can be helpful to learn things like in what age range your audience falls, where they live, whether they are primarily male or female, and an approximation of their household income. Identify who your brand needs to keep in mind in developing its marketing material.

2. Find out more about who members of your target market are as people. It’s great to have the facts on who your target market is and where they come from, but your SMB should strive to dig deeper than that with its market research. Find out as much as you can (relevant to your business) about things like what they like and dislike, what they look for in a product or service when making purchasing decisions, and how they typically come into contact with advertisements (on websites, social media, television, in print…).

Use this knowledge to the advantage of your SMB by forming your marketing around it. Give your target market what they want and communicate to them through the channels they utilize most often.

3. See how your products or services are performing and being perceived. In the gathering of information on your target market and your industry/competitors, your SMB can gain insight on how it is performing. Your business can better know who its consumers are by seeing who it is that’s buying which product or service it offers and by knowing how your competitors are marketing to them.

4. Learn more about your competition. Simply by knowing who it is that your competitors cater to, your SMB can have a better idea of who its own target market is. Also, as was touched on previously, not only will knowing as much as you can about your competitors help your SMB to know who its main audience is, it will also know how they are being marketed to within your industry.

Before diving into any marketing efforts for your SMB, ensure that you have conducted the proper market research. Identify and know your business’s audience so that you can market directly to them and hopefully as a result increase sales and engagement with your brand.