Know Your Market

Basic Business Cents

It goes without saying that you need to focus your marketing efforts where you can succeed but it is easier said than done to define that focal point.

First, you need to define your niche or area where you are a dominant force. This can include geographic boundaries, product/service offerings, price range, etc. In order to dominate you need to be better than anyone else in product, service, delivery, and timeliness. This niche needs to be something that you enjoy in order for you to put forth your best effort. And, it needs to satisfy your financial needs.

With the niche identified, the next step is to understand the wants and needs, not necessarily the same, of the customers and prospects. The best way is to talk to a sample of them in person so that you can read their body language as well as what they are saying. When an interesting point is brought up, you can delve further into their thoughts and dreams. A good question to open a conversation is what is not now available, but you would be enticed to purchase if available? With on-line sales, ever-increasing technology, and mobility, market niches change rapidly. Existing organizations may have to reinvent themselves to cope with the changing market.

Armed with your thoughts on your desired niche and needs/wants of buyers and yourself, it is time to gather data to support your theories. You want to get facts on the size of your market niche, buying habits, and preferred approach to promotions. Many sources are available and you will want to be familiar with several. I can give an example. These columns are targeted for small businesses. Last month I contacted Dun & Bradstreet and requested the number of businesses under 100 employees in the United States. Immediately, I received an email that said that as of that moment there are 17, 297, 156 US businesses under 100 employees. I know that this article does not reach that wide of an audience, but it was interesting to find out how large the population is of typical small companies.

Other sources of demographics are University/College Marketing Professors who can direct you to available help. Your local library can possibly help or direct you to available sources such as on-line services at large city libraries. Examples are Hennipen County Library, www.hclib.org and St. Paul Public Library at www.wppl.org. You may want to register your local library card with St. Paul Public Library at www.sppl.org/services/library-cards and Hennepin County Library at www.hclib.org/about/library-cards to use their services.

Other good resources are Economic Development Centers, Chambers of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), and SCORE, www.SCORE@hubbardcountyedc.com. And, of course, you can surf the web.

Armed with data to support your research, you can focus your efforts to where you can be successful, enjoy your work, and be rewarded appropriately.