One of the most crucial aspects of running an online business is knowing your target market. It won’t cut it to just provide a broad range of goods or services in the hopes that your spectrum of supplies will capture enough attention to keep your business afloat. You need to narrow your focus.

Good businesses are built by people who see needs among consumers and then figure out an efficient, novel way to meet those needs. Defining your product to target specific demographics is the best first step toward a positive ROI. When you focus your marketing strategy on meeting the demands of your target consumer, you’re specifically promoting to the niche group who will most likely end up purchasing from you. This gets you the most bang for your buck, and all other consumer sales become gravy.

There are some tried and true ways to narrow your target market so that you have a clear view of who you’re selling to. As you read through the following list, think about your own marketing plan and consider tweaking where necessary.

Get Up Close and Personal

One of the worst things you can do when you’re in the beginning stages of developing a product is to assume that the customer knows what you’re talking about and that you know what they want. You need to find ways to engage with your targeted demographic through social media, live events, email campaigns, and more. You can bounce ideas off of them and solicit input.

Research, Research, Research

When you are just starting off, the most profitable use of your time is to gather research. Find out the age, gender, common interests, typical shopping patterns, occupation, education level, marital status, and income of your potential consumers. These factors should significantly influence the way that you market.

For instance, millennials tend to view clothing as a disposable means of expression while the older generation tends to shop for quality over quantity. Similarly, a 25-year-old male college student has different needs than a 25-year-old father of two children or a 25-year-old businessman who only has a dog depending on him. You need to consider what kind of demographic you are shooting for and then tailor your marketing strategy to fit its needs.

There are two real ways to go about gathering research:

  • Primary Sourcing: This is typically more expensive because it requires direct, one-on-one interaction with actual people. This kind of information is usually collected via focus groups, surveys, and interviews, though you can also ask friends, family, co-workers, and mentors specific questions relating to your prospective products.
  • Secondary Sourcing: This way is less expensive, but it is also less in-depth and personal. This kind of research has you analyze other companies’ business models and look up the primary research that is already available online.

Analyze the Research

Once you’ve gathered as much research as you can for your product, you need to ask yourself some important questions, such as:

  • Is my scope too narrow or too broad?
  • Do I need to change any products to better fit my customers’ needs?
  • How can I modify my advertising to reach the specific group (seniors, teenagers, business people, busy moms) that I am targeting?

Consider the Competition

Don’t forget to research your competitors. There are a lot of data analysis programs available online for free that can help you pinpoint what your competition is doing well or poorly. Think about their pricing, reviews, and social media presence. If they’re doing a good job hitting all of their customers’ needs, you might want to refine your product to hit a slightly different market. If they’re doing poorly and you have specific ways to improve on their model, move forward at full speed.