No business can be all things to all people. Instead, you must reach specific customers and satisfy their particular needs. As an entrepreneur, you must identify those customers and understand as precisely as possible what they want.
The process of finding and studying potential customers for your venture doesn’t have to be complex or expensive, but it is extremely important. In a nutshell, it requires you to find out everything you can about the customers whom you intend to pursue. Once you have that information, you’ll have a much better chance of capturing those customers for your business.
Begin your research by checking the demographics of the region that you plan to target. You’ll want to know the population’s makeup in terms of age, gender, income level, occupation, education, and family circumstances: married with children, singles, or retired. To find that information, you’ll need to spend some time online. Do a Google search to find the most recent edition of the Country and City Data Book, published by the U.S. Department of Commerce. This research will give you the most recent census data on the area you wish to target.
Geographic and Lifestyle FactorsGive some thought to where and how your target customers live. Are they urbanites who walk everywhere (foot traffic will bring them into a store) or suburban soccer moms who spend most of their time in the car (do you need to provide a lot of parking space)? What is the weather like? Are people more likely to spend a lot of time outdoors, or are indoor activities more popular? Are these people conservative with their money, or are they spenders? The answers will help determine what you can sell to them, how you should sell it, and at what price.
Consider all of the reasons why people might purchase your product or service. For example, if you’re opening a health club, what are the priorities of your clients. Do they want to take exercise classes, work out with a trainer, or play racquet sports with friends? Will you need to be open early in the morning to accommodate commuters who need to leave for work? Are there a lot of stay-at-home or work-from-home parents who need child care services in order to attend classes? Find out by talking to people in the local fitness industry and by quizzing friends or acquaintances who go to health clubs. Then you can design and market your club accordingly.
Thinking about opening a coffee shop? Stake out the area where you think you'd like to start the business. Notice the traffic, car and foot, at various times throughout the day to see how many people might frequent your shop. Do people dash in and out of shops, or would they linger? This might help you determine whether you should also sell small pastry items or full meals as well as coffee.
Once you’ve considered the key demographic factors, you can begin to assemble a customer profile, a more focused statement that describes your target market in detail. Consult that profile when you make decisions about issues such as what products and services to offer or advertise, how much to charge for various products, and expansion plans.