This article is first in a series of three about lists. The first installment in this series focuses on how to clearly define your target audience. The second explains the different kinds of list information, and the third outlines important questions you need to ask before selecting a list.

No matter how good your product or service, your message will fail if it’s sent to the wrong audience.

Taking some time to define your target audience now will not only help you develop more successful, targeted marketing campaigns. It can also help you speak the list company’s “language” so you can obtain a list that closely matches the characteristics of your desired prospects.

To help you do this, this article gives you step-by-step suggestions that can help you:

  1. Create a target audience profile.
  2. Learn more about your target audience through market research.
  3. Construct a data checklist that you can use when working with a professional list service provider.

1. Create a target audience profile. Your target audience usually resembles your best existing clients. You can create a target audience profile by answering the following questions:

  • Who are your most profitable clients?
  • Which of your current clients provide you with the most valuable referrals?
  • What products and services do your top 20% of clients most frequently request and/or purchase?
  • What characteristics of your top 20% do your clients have in common? (Examples: age, gender, income, education, presence of children, marital status, home ownership, occupation, concerns, questions, hobbies, interests, etc.)
  • How and why did your top 20% become your clients in the first place?

2. Learn more about your target audience. Once you’ve created a target audience profile, take a little time to learn more about them through market research. Doing so can help you find more people who fit your profile. It may also help you discover new markets or niches.

Across the country, there are numerous marketing companies that can provide you with market research based on your target audience profile. But, if you or a member of your staff prefers to do it yourself, here are a few suggestions and resources for conducting your own primary and secondary market research.

Primary research: Primary research involves gathering information by direct means to obtain specific answers to questions that affect your company’s marketing needs. Some of the methods for conducting primary research include focus groups, phone surveys, personal interviews, and/or observations.

For example, you many want to conduct a phone survey to help you define what kinds of people like working with your firm and why. In doing so, you can find more customers that fit this profile. Based on a list of questions outlined in The Financial Services Marketing Handbook by Evelyn Ehrlich, Ph.D., and Duke Fanelli, some of your survey questions may include the following:

Needs being met

  • Why did you begin doing business with this firm?
  • How did you hear about us?
  • What was your initial impression?
  • What is your impression now?
  • What would you say are our greatest strengths compared to our competitors?

Needs not being met

  • What are you dissatisfied with?
  • Are there products or services that our competitors offer that we don’t?
  • Would you buy these products or services if we offered them?

Generating referrals

  • Have you told your friends and family about our services? Why or why not? Would you consider doing so in the future?

Finding similar customers

  • Were you referred? By whom? When?
  • Who else might be interested in this type of service?

Either you or someone in your office can conduct this kind of primary research. Or, you can hire an outside firm to conduct this research for you. If you choose to hire an outside firm to do this for you, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 for a focus group and $5,000 to $25,000 for a professional survey.

Secondary market research: If you’re considering extending your business into new markets or adding new services or product lines, consider conducting some secondary research.

Secondary research is the process of gathering information that’s already been researched, compiled, and organized for you. Secondary research is usually less expensive than primary research, but it’s often not as accurate, or as useful, as specific and customized research based on your company’s needs. For instance, secondary research will tell you how many women ages 30-40 purchased a term life insurance policy last year, but it will not tell you how likely they will be to upgrade their coverage in the coming year.

3. Construct a data checklist. Once you’ve completed the first two steps, the final step in defining your target audience is to compile a written list that describes all of their characteristics. Some of the categories on your list might include geographic information, demographic information, and/or psychographic information.

This written list can be used as a guideline whenever you’re ordering a list or creating a marketing campaign. It can also help you focus on your most valuable clients and prospects instead of “everyone.”

Consider taking just an hour or two to think through these steps and gather some information about your target audience. It just may help you save some money on your next list purchase or help you identify a whole new niche market!

More Sales and Marketing Tips from Amy Kennel.

Amy Kennel is a communications consultant who specializes in insurance, financial services, and retirement planning. She owns Insurance Marketing Concepts, LLC, based in Des Moines, Iowa. You can contact Amy Kennel by calling 515-289-6413 or by sending her an email at aakennel@gmail.com