Most entrepreneurs, managers and small business owners hate waste. If you’re managing a small business, money and other resources are often tight and there’s no reason why anyone working hard to keep a business afloat would ever intentionally be wasteful. However, if your business hasn’t properly identified your target market, chances are you are wasting time, money and other resources every day, simply by expending these valuable commodities in an effort to market your business to the wrong group of potential clients or customers. Worse, this wastefulness could be dragging down your entire business, especially if it’s been happening for an extended period.

To get started on the research, you’ll need to successfully direct your marketing efforts towards your target market by answering a few questions:

Who Are My Customers?

It’s important for many small business owners to realize that an accurate profile of a member of their target market may not be obvious, no matter how familiar they may be with their industry and community. The crucial first steps towards successfully identifying a target market include developing an accurate customer or client profile, which should include demographic information such as age, location, income and other, more in-depth elements such as income and marital status when applicable. Once you’ve researched and accumulated this demographic data, it will serve as a foundation for the remainder of your research.

How Are They Buying From Me?

Don’t forget to factor in how your customers or clients will be purchasing your products or services, which has a major influence on your demographic data. Do you have a physical “brick and mortar” location, an online ecommerce store, or both? Be upfront and honest with yourself about how dedicated you will be to each outlet – if you have an ecommerce store, but the majority of your time and resources is invested in your brick and mortar store, be sure to keep the focus of your research on the target market of this physical store.

Why Would These Customers Choose My Product Or Service?

The demographic information you’ve collected so far will provide a basic outline of a typical customer or client in your target market, and the next step will be filling in that outline with psychographic information, which includes insights into their personalities, interests, values, opinions, hobbies and lifestyles, ultimately forming a more complete picture of your target market.

Talk To Your Sales Department

Obtaining basic psychographic data doesn’t have to be expensive – in fact, one of the best sources of this information are your own employees or volunteers, more specifically the ones who interact the most with your existing clients or customers. Salespeople and customer support specialists spend the vast majority of their working hours interacting with new, existing and prospective clients and customers, and they often have extremely valuable insights into who is interested in your products or services and the problems they are looking to solve. They even have insights into why a client or customer may be unhappy with a product or service and how that product or service failed to meet their needs.

If you choose to rely on your employees, it’s also important to remember that their own personal biases may negatively affect this data, either due to hidden prejudices, general unhappiness with the workplace or simply due to the nature of their job.