It’s a big mistake to think that your product or service is for everyone. Every small business should have a target audience. However, defining your audience or customer doesn’t mean that you won’t (or can’t) sell to people outside of that circle. And as a small business it’s even more important to target your marketing (and messaging) so that your marketing is concentrated enough to have an impact. When you spread that message too wide it can get diluted and lose its impact.

How do you target a customer audience?

You can start with who is currently buying. Looking at past and present customers is an excellent start and offers a bit of a short cut gaining the inside scoop. Organizations with good relationships (with their clients) can simply ask them: what do you like about us? What do you see in us that you don’t see elsewhere? And so on.  Many organizations are afraid to have these conversations as it may open up issues that are better left unsaid – this is a big mistake. Having knowledge of any shortcomings can help you build a realistic picture of your company and a solid plan moving forward. For example, if you’re hearing that sales staff offer better support than your customer care this is an opportunity to learn what your clients think is good support. You could ask sales staff what they do and feed this to your customer care staff for them to copy and improve upon. Without this kind of insight your sales staff could continue to be overloaded resulting in fewer sales (as they are focused on care) and your Customer Care staff would get complaints or dissatisfied feedback. Customers are the few individuals who encounter several different departments through their journey and can offer excellent information on where your weakest links are.

Existing customers can be segmented and more closely defined the closer you look. Depending upon how complex your sales cycle is you may be selling to multiple levels of staff within an organization simultaneously. By looking closely at levels and cross-referencing with their requested materials or participation you can gain insight into what part of the sales cycle involves what level of staff. This is part of mapping your sales funnel, but is also helpful with audience segmenting as your content can become extremely targeted and therefore more effective. The more information you know about your customers the more helpful your profiles are. For example, learning the publications to which they subscribe could mean that your ads become targeted to those publications because you know your audience will be watching (or reading). Additional details like event preferences, publication subscriptions, active social media channels, outside interest e.g. specific sporting events, can offer intelligence to your marketing and bring about better results.

As a small business targeting your customers may take longer or it could be an advantage. You have more opportunity to build relationships with clients and learn about them. You also have a tighter control over the customer journey – likely you have fewer touch points or all points are with the same person. The challenge is maintaining this quality and insight as you grow. A few points to keep this insight are:

  • Use a CRM to help track your multiple touch points for each client across their journey.
  • Continue to interview your clients and learn about your weak points. This should be built into your annual plan.
  • Encourage communication between departments (tough one I know). This is especially important between marketing, sales, and customer care/service as these are all customer touch points.
Carolyn Bergshoeff is the founder of WIndWater Marketing, a small business marketing firm in Toronto, Canada. Carolyn helps her clients track and sort through their customer data to define their audience. Visit or email for more information.