Every new or changing organization has faced this situation: After investing a significant amount of time and money, you have an amazing service or product in front of you. However, people now need to find out about this service or product of yours, and you may not be sure what to do to in order to be most efficient with your marketing dollars.

While your instinct may be to reach for mass advertising in order to connect with the largest swath of people, the best way to maximize your marketing ROI is actually to devote more time, thought, and resources to identify and understand your true target audience. By avoiding mass marketing efforts and choosing a more discerning approach, you will see higher rates of return. Avoid the common pitfall of assuming you know everything about your customers — do your research, collect data, and properly analyze it.

A. Be Increasingly Specific

In order to be laser-focused on your target audience, you first need to understand what to prioritize. You will want to do the following:

  1. Gather the basic demographic information. Who is most likely to use your service or product? Answer this question with the basics – gender, ethnicity, geographic location, business sector, age, job title, salary range, marital status, and buying power.
  2. Filter the information. After you have the basic information that is associated with your target audience, you will want to harness the data in a way that allows you to immediately narrow who you are targeting. Think of this as applying multiple filters, one after another, in order to create a crystal clear picture of your target audience. As an example, your first filter might be business owners. Your next filter might be business size, and your third filter might be annual revenue. If you are a consulting firm that specializes in back office functions, then a Fortune 100 client is very different from the entrepreneur who has just received venture capital.

Using filters one by one eventually creates a detailed description of your target audience — the people or organizations who present the best opportunity to be most interested in and willing to buy product or service.

Other filters that you might want to consider are customer interests or customer choices on how they spend their free time and disposable income.

  1. Match Your Value Propositions to Your Target Audience

What values are supported by your service or product? Let’s say that your company specializes in holistic healing retreats in foreign, exotic locations. Who would value these retreats? Perhaps frequent travelers. Or, as another example, let’s say that you are a locally owned and operated business that creates and distributes high-end spirits, such as whiskey, bourbon, and vodka. Your target audient might be local spirits connoisseurs and restaurants/bars who specialize in high-end cocktails and other alcoholic beverages.

When it comes to identifying and understanding your target audience, dig deep to understand their issues, concerns, and values. Then assign different values to your target audience. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the key value that my customers have in mind when they are looking to buy my service or product? Are they looking for ease, reliability, revenue generation?
  • What benefit am I offering customers?
  • How does my target audience consume information — mobile, digital, television, radio, music, film, print? What are the top sources of information for them?

B. Gather Data and Find Commonalities

Identifying your target audience also involves decisions you make with data gathered from various sources. As you gather data, make sure to do the following:

  1. Identify Potential Markets

It’s important to identify target demographic groups. Whether you do this yourself or hire a marketing firm, you should collect demographic data through various means (i.e., surveys, email, newsletters, etc.). You will want to correlate responses to your service or product with specific demographic groups.

  1. Dive into Existing Data as Deeply as Possible

It’s likely that your service or product has competition, so study your competition as much as possible. Who is buying from your competitors? What demographics do these buyers fit? When are they buying? What service or product benefits seem to be most popular? You can find a large amount of this data online.

  1. Ask Your Colleagues, Friends, and Family

Observe what services and products your colleagues, friends, and family members use and buy. Don’t hesitate to ask them directly if they would have a need for your service or product or if they would use it. Their answers can contain important insights.

Be as diverse as possible when soliciting comments and insights for your marketing efforts. You want diversity in perspectives when identifying and understanding your target audience, because it will be easier for you to connect effectively to your customers. This will help you to maximize your ROI.