Finding Your Target Market Online
If your business is just beginning to move from web 1.0 (hanging out a virtual shingle) to web 2.0 (having real conversations with real people), you are probably working to figure out how to find the people in your target markets online.
Start by defining your audience as closely as possible, then get started with a handful of the following ideas. We also hope you’ll leave a comment so we can hear your ideas and success stories as well.
1. Check print publications.
Examine trade publications and industry-related magazines for online directories, blogs, sites, and forums. Many publications well-known for their print versions now have online versions with a whole host of ways to interact online. For example, if you are selling woodworking tools, you might look in print publications like Fine Woodworking, Woodworker’s Journal, or Popular Mechanics.
2. Ask the influencers.
Send a polite email to the leaders and influencers in the market you’re trying to reach. Be sincere and complimentary about their work; let them know why you value them. Very often they will tell you where they blog or what social network is most useful for them.
3. Google it.
Searching on the keywords in your field will often turn up places where your audience goes when they are looking for something in your industry.
4. Scour Wikipedia.org and other knowledge platforms.
Some areas are very well documented on Wikipedia. For example, a search on “Organic Foods” turns up an article with nearly 100 linked references to related sources. Other knowledge platforms, such as Squidoo or Knol might also reveal industry watering-holes where you want to be connected.
5. Search in social networks.
Start with a search of the Groups on LinkedIn and join the ones that fit your goals. If you use Twitter, resources like Twellow — which allows Twitter-users to have an online profile in multiple categories based on location, industry, etc. — can help you build a following. If you use Flickr.com, try a tag search to find others in your target market. Networking platforms like Ning, Facebook and MySpace also have search functions to help you begin to build groups of the kind of contacts with whom you would like to be able to interact.
6. Use online news release target markets.
Groups like PRNewswire will allow you to select the target markets you would like to reach online. Services like this generally come with a fee.
7. Create old-fashioned email lists.
You can purchase email lists from a number of companies, but you can also create an email list from scratch. Sponsor a big event for all your existing and potential clients, and invite attendees to drop their business cards in a basket. But be sure to do the following as well:
- Offer an event or a free service that you know for certain will add value to their work and lives.
- Be clear that you are starting an email list, and allow them to opt-in as they desire.
- Set expectations, such as promising not to spam, sell/share their info, or send emails more than “x” number of times per month, then keep your promises.
8. Connect with professional associations and directories.
Start with the ones that are free to join. For example, if you are running a restaurant, you’ll want to register with all of the directories that offer listings of eateries in your area. These generally turn up in a quick Google search. Sometimes directories will allow you a free profile, and request a small payment in return for a link. In addition, local Chambers of Commerce have business directories that are great for connecting with your target markets. To get in front of professional associations, you might try offering to speak for a monthly association meeting, conference, or chamber event.
9. Utilize Amazon.
Sites like Amazon are great for telling your target market about yourself and your products. Consider regularly reviewing products in your area and related areas, and be sure to showcase the differences in your products and the competition’s.