Target Market Research: The 3 Things to Know First

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Guerrilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you begin target market research? Which customer details do experts say matter the most?

If you’re just starting your target market research, you might feel overwhelmed with the huge amount of methods and tips available to you. According to marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson, you can boil down your research to focus on three key customer details, at first.

Keep reading to find out the three things you should learn about your target market first, according to Levinson.

Researching Your Target Market

Before you begin your target market research, it’s important that you first define your target market. Marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson argues that many businesses waste time and resources trying to get attention from customers who have no interest in what they have to offer. Knowing specifically who you’re selling to helps focus your target market research on interested customers—thus contributing to increased sales and profits.

Once you’ve defined your target market, conduct market research to understand this customer group’s specific interests and priorities. According to Levinson, the more you understand your target market, the easier you’ll find it to appeal to these customers and influence their purchasing decisions.

The 3 Things to Know First

Levinson suggests that you should find out as much as possible about your target market, including these three details:

What motivates their purchasing decisions. This information reveals what aspects of your business, product, or service your marketing strategy should emphasize to maximize your appeal. For example, you may discover in your research that your target market’s primary motivation is to find an inexpensive way to permanently relieve back pain.

(Shortform note: While Levinson suggests that specific product or service benefits motivate people to buy things, other marketing experts argue that deeper psychological issues motivate all purchasing decisions. According to Josh Kaufman (The Personal MBA), people make purchases in an attempt to fulfill five basic needs: to feel good about themselves, to connect with others, to grow and learn, to feel safe, and to avoid effort. Therefore, considering which one of these five motivations your product or service fulfills will help you appeal to your target market’s innate needs.)

Which businesses they already purchase from. Using your target market research to identify this information will show you who your competitors are. Comparing your product or service to what these competitors offer helps you focus on what you should do to differentiate your business and appeal to customers. For example, your target market shops primarily on and only buys from companies that offer free delivery. Therefore, you analyze how your product and customer service policies compare to those offered by competitors offering free delivery on

(Shortform note: Business experts expand on this idea by explaining that you should specifically seek out your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to refine your product or service until it matches or outperforms what’s currently on the market. For example, if you notice that your competitor is slow to ship products, plan ways to strengthen your distribution network so that you can provide a more efficient service.)

What media they engage with. This information reveals what marketing channels you should focus on to reach your target market. For example, your research may show that your target market spends a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram. Therefore, you analyze the different approaches marketers use to exploit these two platforms and create a list of possible marketing methods you can use—such as inserting ads, using affiliate programs, and hiring influencers.

(Shortform note: In addition to finding out where to reach your target audience, you should also find out when to reach them. According to management experts, even if people are interested in your offer, they’ll only pay attention to your content when it suits them. They suggest that you can find out your target market’s preferences by tracking, collecting, and integrating data—such as demographic, psychographic, or clickstream—about potential customers and the circumstances in which they make purchases of similar products and services.)

Target Market Research: The 3 Things to Know First

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  • Why you don't need expensive mass-media marketing campaigns
  • How to create a profitable marketing message and strategy
  • How to define your target market and keep costs low

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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