5 Questions Every Small Business Owner Can Ask Themselves To Better Understand Their Audience

Market research questions to ask your customersSome people ski while others prefer to swim. Some people vegetate on lush sofas while others run marathons. Some people are moved by the sense of mission and accomplishment while others are propelled by greed. Because everyone is different, no advertising message can be universally appealing.

Businesses often know their general market, but it's more important to know how to break the market down into different audiences.

One audience segment might be the hip, daring 15 to 25 year-olds who like innovative products. Another audience segment might be no-nonsense parents looking strictly for utility over style.  An additional segment might be empty nesters looking for excitement now that children have moved out, and they can begin a new life with fewer responsibilities.  It's much easier for a small business to be effective if they can pitch to small, defined audiences.

Here are five questions that can help your businesses break the market down into manageable audience segments and hook them with targeted pitches.

1.  How well has my business divided the market into demographic segments?

Action Steps:

  • Register all customers and potential leads by asking questions about gender, age, race, ethnicity, marital status, children, religion, level of education and type of job.
  • Use a customer management system to filter and analyze the audience by these vital statistics.

Rationale:  Knowing how audiences are statistically different is the first step to properly segmenting and realizing who will most want your products. During market research, you might find your promotions appeal to a certain age or are more appropriate for people in a certain job industry.  Some products and services might appeal only to an audience with children or spouses.

2. What are the geographic territories for my target audiences?

Action Steps:

  • Request city, state and zip code at the point of transaction for every customer, online or offline.
  • Research local industries, average salaries, outdoor features and weather associated with local life.

Rationale: Segmenting a market by breaking it down into different geographic audiences can help businesses find out what common factors appeal to people in certain regions.  Based on locales, people may expect products to conform to a particular price range to better match incomes and industries in that area.  A business might find that one locale would be more likely to buy its expensive, premium products and that other areas are perfect for the bargain line of goods.

In some regions, residents might be more sensitive to products and services that rely on local resources. Local weather and geographic features like oceans, beaches, green space, concrete, woods, and an abundance of hiking trails can also define both audience and marketing strategies.  For example, only in certain regions at certain times of the year will an audience be predisposed to buying surfboards, hunting blinds, outdoor grills and other feature-dependent or weather-dependent goods. In terms of service, weather in certain locales can affect when there's a demand for lawn treatments or roofing and siding.

Learning consumer behaviour

3. What is the purchasing behavior and psychology of my audiences?

Action Steps:

  • Send a marketing representative to chat with potential customers in places where audiences purchase goods or services. Alternately, email a subscriber list and ask them to complete a comprehensive survey.
  • Ask questions, such as “What makes you buy this product?”, “What turns you off about this service?”, “What's the one thing that would definitely make you buy?” “Are you loyal to a particular brand, and if so, why?” “Who influences you when making a buying decision?”

Rationale:  Finding what makes an audience tick allows small businesses to create psychographics, which are graphics that show typical buying behavior and attitudes. This is helpful information to have when designing marketing approaches that address the obstacles to completing sales. It can likely increase conversation rates.


4. What are the various leisure lifestyles of my target audiences?

Action Steps:

  • Use online tracking data available through cookie technology to find out what interests visitors to your website or social media pages focus on after leaving your company sites.
  • Request that online ad serving companies share customer data with you when you arrange to buy advertising.
  • Ask people through phone calls, mailed surveys and polls on social media sites what hobbies and interests they pursue in their spare time — and whether they use your products while pursuing them.

Rationale:  Finding out passions and leisure activities can help determine when people are most likely to need and use your products and services. Small businesses can then begin to use hobby-related imagery, props and context in marketing materials.

5.  Do I need a second opinion on the target audiences I've defined?

Action Steps:

  • Be honest with yourself about assessing how well you've understood your audience and what holes of missing information exist.
  • Partner with a marketing agency that specializes in audience segmentation. Have them perform an audience audit.

Rationale: Audience auditors will provide suggestions to small businesses about how to better create audience profiles. They independently create panels and email lists to query potential audience members, later condensing information in charts and graphics. For small businesses who don't understand proper audience segmenting, this is a beneficial service that can help both marketing efficiency and customer growth.

You can read more about best practices for conducting marketing research here.

Ray Nelson is a writer, a father and a loyal husband.  Ray enjoys writing about market research best practices and small business branding.


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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
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