Joe Johnson, Ph.D.
Entrepreneur. Investor. Startup Expert.

Knowing Your Target AudienceKnowing your target audience creates a winning strategy for you lean startup business to succeed.

Knowing the audience for your business, your web presence, and your content can help you to achieve your goals
. Here’s a hint: your target audience isn’t everyone.

While most of us would love to run a business with such widespread appeal that everyone comprises the target audience, that’s generally not the case. Running your business as though it were can be dangerous.

Determining the true composition of your target audience is necessary to ensure that your offerings align with their needs. By focusing on those individuals most likely to desire your products or services, you can focus your energy on maximizing your marketing, honing your products and services, and seeking appropriate feedback.

What Does a Target Audience Look Like?

Let’s assume that we’re thinking of starting a printing business. Who might comprise our target audience?

If you’re planning on maintaining a brick-and-mortar location, then you might decide to target both consumers and businesses. However, narrowing it down to those two groups isn’t sufficient. A properly identified target audience should be more specific. Winnowing the field will enable you to focus your efforts on attracting (and retaining!) those potential customers and help increase your chances of success.

For a location-specific business, a target audience should be restricted to the specific geographic area of operation. So, our print shop’s customers will be from a specific city or county. For our example, let’s use Orlando.

How else can we pinpoint our target audience?

Before you can begin to focus on the intended market for your products and services (your unique value proposition), you need to have a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve or the need you’re trying to fill for your prospective customers.

Our print shop is aiming to serve consumers and business clients in the Orlando area. What kind of services are we planning to offer them? Here’s where our market research will come into play.

Suppose we learned that many consumers prefer to make their own copies. We can offer a self-serve area, as well as the ability to send a document via a website form to create copies for later pickup. Additionally, university students in the area frequently use binding services for their theses and professors appreciate the ability to create course books for their classes. Since the location is within walking distance of a university, these offerings will capitalize on a nearby market.

While it’s useful to make offerings such as these available, they aren’t really sufficient to keep our business going because they represent infrequent activities. While students may desire printing and binding services for their theses and dissertations, they may only seek those services in the May or June timeframe. Likewise, professors will only want course books prior to the start of semester.Dr. Joe Johnson shares advice on the importance of knowing your target audience when creating a lean startup business.

Business clients, on the other hand, are more frequent customers of print shops. Therefore, while having services available for consumers, a B2B model that focuses on local or small businesses as a target audience may be more successful.

Narrowing Target Market

Now that we’ve decided to primarily focus on other businesses, while still offering printing services to consumers, how can we further narrow our target market and create a buyer persona? There are plenty of small businesses in Orlando – which ones shall we target?

Firstly, consider which small businesses most require our services. Then, think about the values which those businesses may possess.

For our print shop, we may seek to identify businesses with frequent printing needs such as realtors and restaurants. If our aim is to serve local businesses, it may be that our target market is further reduced. However, many cities have networks in place to support small, local businesses. These networks may sponsor a monthly meeting of business owners or an online presence that helps to connect those individuals enriching their communities through business. Resources such as these are a great way to get acquainted with our target audience, learn more about their needs, and directly offer them services to aid in establishing and promoting their businesses and brands.

Just like that, we’ve found our target audience. More specifically, we’ve found one of our target audiences. Chances are, with a little more time and effort, we could identify several more markets that would benefit from our business (for example, local music promoters).

Analyzing Buyer Personas

One of our buyer personas might look like this:
A local restaurant owner in the Orlando area who values supporting other small businesses and is in need of vendor triplicate forms, seasonal menus, business cards, and promotional materials.

Another one might be:
A local Orlando real estate agency that values supporting small businesses and is in need of business cards, sell sheets, signs, brochures, and other marketing materials.

Now that we have our target audience and buyer personas, we can dedicate our efforts to converting those clients by differentiating ourselves from other print shops. Rather than just placing an open sign in our brick-and-mortar window, we can network, offer discounts, and actively market our business to our target audience.

As you’re thinking about your own target audience, keep in mind the following questions:

UVP and Needs: What is my unique value proposition (product or service) and what needs or desire will it fill?

Geography: Where does my target audience live? Are they local, statewide, national, or global?

Type of business: Are my products and services intended for consumers or other businesses?

Competition: Who is my competition? Who is my competition neglecting? How can I differentiate myself from the competition?

Demographics: Is my product or service only intended for a particular demographic? (For example, Spanx focuses on women who would like a leaner profile.) Consider age, sex, education level, income level, occupation, marital status, family status, etc.

Psychographics (Attitudes): What opinions, values, or ideals do my potential customers hold? (For example, customers of Whole Foods may place a greater value on organic food than other customers. Customers of Walmart place a greater value on cost savings.)

This should help you achieve a better picture of your target audience, allow you to refine your services as necessary, and aid in pinpointing your marketing to more accurately hit the spot.

About the Author

Dr. Joe Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup expert. He is the founder and principal of GoodField Investments and the GoodField Foundation (

Joe has a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership and an MBA. He is the author of the upcoming book on The Science of Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail and Some Succeed.

Most importantly, he is the incredibly blessed husband of one amazing wife and father of six wonderful children. He resides in Bradenton, Florida. For more information on Dr. Johnson and his work, go to