Who your customers are will depend on what you are selling. So that’s where you need to start. There are three things you need to consider:
- What is the core product or service you are offering and what is the customer’s fundamental reason for wanting to buy the product? An example might be a pen, which people buy to write with.
- What is the actual product or service and what are the features the customer will expect? With pens, it will depend on the context. In a busy work area, pens are usually simple, functional ball-points or fibre-tips, with or without a clip.
- What extra benefits and services have you built around your actual product? These could be why customers choose your product rather than another.
Extra benefits could be the cheap cost (because you often mislay pens), better quality (so the pen will not leak in your pocket), having your company logo displayed (to help promote your business) or conspicuous chic - a fountain-pen with a gold nib finished in tungsten and silver, perhaps - to convey prestige.
Understanding these three levels of the product or service you are offering will help you identify your potential customers.
The next stage is to think about ways of segmenting the market into smaller, more distinct segments, or groups of customers, with similar characteristics. A market can be segmented in various ways, for example by age, gender, income, and social class. It might be segmented geographically (according to where people live); or it can be segmented by people’s aspirations. Your aim is to identify segments that are large enough to be practicable but small enough for a distinct marketing approach for each one.
Thinking about products and markets is likely to be iterative: in other words, as you decide which customer groups you are going to target, you can think about what extra benefits a group would value and enhance your product to meet its needs.