Or, learning to identify your target market.

What may be the two most important things to learn about your own business before you can succeed are your unique selling proposition and your target market. You need to know what is unique and interesting about your business and you need to know who cares. If you can discern those pieces of critical business strategy, you’re ready to start setting up your business.

Your Unique Selling Proposition

So. What’s different about your store? Are you local? Are you providing environmentally sound products? Are you left-wing? Right-wing? Do you provide the fastest shipping? Cheapest? Are you a small business? When was your business founded? Are you a brand-new startup? Did your Grampa Jim start the business in his basement in 1932?

Any of these can be valuable selling points – they may provide a hook to demonstrate to your customers that your store sells a superior product. They may show that you sell a cheaper product. They may show that your store has deep local connections with the community. But your unique proposition must demonstrate that your store is different.

Amazon is different because they have incredible breadth of product selection and a personalized shopping experience. Google provides the simplest search interface and a promise of moral superiority. Your local grocer is a dear friend and member of your community. These are reasons to shop at these stores or use these services.

Never hesitate to be different – being different is the only reason anybody might pick you.

Your Target Market

Who are you selling to? There’s no greater waste than marketing your high-end data security solution in Highlights. This is obvious in print advertising, but too often missed in web marketing. Everything about your site is part of the marketing experience – design your site for your market. Sell your site to your market. Market your site to your market.

The biggest mistake you can make in developing your web business is to put yourself first. The design idea that appeals to you is not the right answer, and neither is the copy which appeals to you. You are not your own customer.

Determing why somebody might want to buy your stuff is a critical step. These two questions are inherently tied together – once you’ve determined why your item is desirable, you can begin to answer who might want it. Determine whether you’re targeting business or individuals. You may be able to target both – companies like Staples certainly targets both markets. Decide whether you’re looking at a high-brow market or discount projects. These have radically different marketing channels – do you want to publish discount brochures or product reviews?

Market Research

As much as you can determine from careful and objective consideration of your products, a successful business must also consider performing market research. In some industries this valuable information may be available for free – don’t hesitate to search for information online. Major industries such as consumer technology, air transportation, or toys frequently provide significant data as part of the economic forecast for your country.

Industry Research

Who are your competitors, and what do they offer that you don’t? What do you offer that they don’t? What could you offer that they don’t? One of the biggest techniques for building the potential for your business is to find a gap in the market. If you can identify a service or product which is desired but not available, you can create your own market.

The number of questions you need to ask yourself to understand your target market is nearly impossible to appraise. However, you have to start somewhere:

  • What range of ages are you looking at? Teenagers? Young professionals? Seniors?
  • Is this product predominantly of interest to men or women?
  • What might people interested in this product do for a living?
  • Is this a luxury item? What is the income range people might need to have to be considering this?
  • Are educated people more likely to be interested in this product?
  • What other products might people who would be interested in this be considering?
  • What is the product’s life cycle? Daily, monthly, lifetime?

Although taking all of these questions into consideration can be intimidating, they can greatly assist you in designing an appealing site to your target demographic and in defining an efficient, targeted marketing campaign.