The RIGHT Way to Find Your Target Audience (Scientifically)

I’ve talked in recent posts about the importance of marketing to your house customer list and your house prospect list.

Today I’m going to talk about the final group of people to whom you should be marketing:

A targeted list.

These are people who have not purchased anything from you before, but are reasonably expected to have interest in what you offer and be willing/able to BUY.

So, how do you find these people? It isn’t as easy as you think. Let me explain…

When I say “a targeted list,” I’m talking about what some companies call the “perfect audience.” I’m talking about really doing your research and looking at the hard numbers, and using that information to make sure you’re marketing to the RIGHT PEOPLE.

It might be obvious. If you own a pool-cleaning service, for example, your audience is homeowners or hotels/motels with pools.

But if you sell something where anyone could be your audience — jewelry, for example — you’re going to have to do some research.

I’m going to lay out a number of ways you can go about this that are PROVEN and based on a little scientific research you can do today right in your own office.

But first I want to make it clear that this is the wrong way to go about finding your target audience:

Just guessing. Going with your gut.

This is the sort of approach that can get you into trouble. You could be wasting money by missing a huge portion of great prospects. Or worse — marketing to the wrong people!

We all carry biases we might not even be aware of, so the best way to find your perfect audience is to put your own perceptions aside and look at the cold hard facts.

There are four possible ways to scientifically go about it finding your target audience:

1.) Research your invoices and history

Finding your perfect audience can be as easy as researching your own business!

For example, if you already have a jewelry store, you’ve already sold jewelry — so who bought it?

The tricky part is not letting what you already BELIEVE take the place of cold, hard facts. You might think, most of my customers are middle-aged women, so that’s my perfect audience.

Not so fast — do the research!

Take your invoices from last month and separate them into piles, like:

  • Women over 50
  • Men over 50
  • Women under 50
  • Men under 50

Which pile is biggest? Which pile adds up to the most income?

(If you don’t have your invoices from the last month, start saving them TODAY and do this one month from now!)

You can also separate invoices by amount spent. Look at all of your orders over, say, $1,000. See if you can determine who most of those customers are.

Maybe it’s mostly men under 50 who are buying those bigger-ticket items from you. If you’ve been exclusively targeting middle-aged women, you aren’t optimizing your marketing and could be leaving a big chunk of change on the table!

Your customer database is your greatest ally when determining your targeted list.


If you don’t have a comprehensive customer database, you can start building one by asking (or having your sales staff ask) a few questions of your clients. Most people like talking about themselves, so they won’t mind — and as a bonus, it helps you build relationships with them!

You can even preface the questions with, “We’re conducting a little marketing survey.”

Create a new-customer form that can be filled out after each purchase.

Then ask them questions like:

  • Who are you buying this for?
  • Is it for a special occasion?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • What’s your zip code?

Then note what the items sold are and the age and gender of the customer. If you’re not comfortable asking their age — and I wouldn’t blame you! — give it your best guess.

This will help you collect all the data you need to analyze your customer base and figure out who is REALLY buying from you.

2.) Research from scratch

To continue with the jeweler metaphor…

Let’s say you’re a jewelry designer just opening your first boutique, and you don’t have any invoices to study. How will you define your perfect audience?

With creativity, that’s how. And maybe a comfortable pair of walking shoes!

Yep. I’m telling you to hit the street. Go to a busy area with your work (or photos of your work) and ask — gasp! — complete strangers for their opinions.

You can also do a survey on Facebook — however you can get the data.

Ask questions and take good notes. You don’t want to have to do this several times, so you want to get the most information possible from this “scouting trip.”

You can start by saying something personal like, “Hi, I’m doing a business owner little research and I’d like to ask you a few questions. Do you have a minute? Please be honest, I’m not seeking compliments.”

Then ask the following questions:

  • Which piece do you like the best?
  • Which piece do you like the least?
  • What would you pay for the piece you like best?
  • Do you buy jewelry?
  • For yourself, or someone else? Who?
  • May I ask your age? (I hope you won’t have to ask their gender.)
  • Do you own a home or rent?
  • How far would you travel to shop in a specialty boutique if you really loved what they sold?

(I recommend these questions specifically because when purchasing a mailing list, the easiest demographics to isolate are age, income, gender and whether or not they are a homeowner.)

I know it can be difficult to approach total strangers, but think about it like this:

What’s the worst that can happen?

I mean, seriously. What’s the worst thing? They rudely ignore you? They say they hate your jewelry? So what!

I’d much rather deal with that than waste a ton of money marketing to people who aren’t interested in my product!


Whether you’re researching your invoices or canvassing strangers on the street, you need to tally up the results of your survey.


You are not looking for an average! What you’re looking for is the greatest common denominator.

Say after 40 sales you find that:

  • 18 of them are to women between 50 and 60
  • 7 are women over 60
  • 10 are men between 40 and 50, and
  • the rest are a mix

So what do you do?

If it were me, I’d definitely target women over 50. Then I’d check their zip codes to see if there are any similarities there.

Then I’d add up the 10 invoices from the man and compare them to the 25 invoices from the women. Who spends more? If it’s close, you might want to target both demographics.

3.) Get an accurate list count of qualified prospects

Maybe the above options don’t apply to your situation at all. For example: if you don’t have a physical storefront. What do you do?

Say you sell a product that only goes into American-made cars, and you notice that most of your customers are between 40 and 60 years old.

Find out from a reputable list company how many people living in a 5- or 10-mile radius fit that description. (Specifically, 40- to 60-year-olds who own an American-made car.) Yes, you can absolutely get that specific!

Or you can look at your own customer base and find out where they live. Then find out how many people in their area fit that demographic. That’s your list!

Okay, so:

You get a count of all the records that fit that demographic in your area and it’s 30,000 people. But you can only afford a fraction of that amount. What do you do?

Start with what you CAN afford, whether it’s 10,000 or 5,000. Divide your campaign into three-week segments. Send out the first third on week one, the second third on week two and the last third on week three.

Even though you’ve only reached a third of your potential prospect list, you’ve still successfully targeted a potential perfect audience — and there’s only room to grow!

4.) Test your mailings

If you’re a local HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) business, you’ll probably have no problem getting a good list of potential clients. Pretty much everyone has heating and A/C in your service area. The biggest question is how MUCH to mail.

But some businesses don’t have it so easy!

Say you’re an online retailer of indoor blinds. Almost every house in the country is a potential customer, but every house in the United States is way too big a list to hit at once.

So you’re going to have to find out what particular group of homeowners will get you the best response.


With test mailings!

When you’re trying to find your perfect audience, test mailings have two advantages over interviewing or doing online surveys:

  1. Surveys are usually pretty accurate, but test mailings are your actual results. There’s no arguing with cold, hard results.
  2. When you have a research company conduct a survey for you, the value you get is the information you need to construct your ideal list. When you test mail, not only do you get that information, but you also get ACTUAL CUSTOMERS responding to your mailing!

Aside from postage, your mailing list is typically the most expensive part of a postcard campaign. That’s why it’s so important to do this research and get it right!

Knowledge is power — and PROFIT!

Need help finding your perfect audience? Call our marketing consultants at 800-628-1804 for FREE if you have questions about mailing lists or anything at all about marketing your business. Or you can email me at



*This article is adapted from my new book, Postcard Marketing in an Online World. Click here to read it.




  • Hey Joy, this is great info but seems to apply to B2C prospects. What is the suggested approach for B2B?


  • You’re right, Tony—some of that is just for B2C businesses. Obviously, it’s a lot more difficult for a B2B business owner to stand on the street and find other business owners, but some of the techniques, like researching your invoices and history as well as getting a qualited list from a mailing list provider will still work.

    Does that help?

  • Are there companies that can provide customer profiles if we provide them with a list of past customers?

  • I’m not sure what you mean by that. Could you give me a little bit more of an idea by what you mean on customer profiles?

Leave a Comment:

Your name and email are required to post. We will not publish or share your email address.


Call or Text a Marketing Consultant 1-800-628-1804