Now, in a series on loving your website, you might think that a post about figuring out your target market isn’t relevant. What could that possibly have to do with your website?

Well, despite what you might think, it has everything to do with your website.

Think of it like this: you like punk rock music and you hear a song you like for an artist you don’t know. You go to their website and they are styled like Pavarotti. There’s a cognitive dissonance between what you see and what you hear (as well as your ingrained ideas about what a punk rock band’s website should look like).

That’s the purpose of target market research.

It is fundamental to your website because if the people who it is intended for don’t see anything there for them, they will leave. They will not listen to your single. They will not watch your trailer. They will not look at your services, and they certainly won’t visit your Etsy store.

They will just leave.

And you don’t want them to leave. You want them to stay. You want them to do things while they are there.

Now target market research is actually kind of an amorphous concept to most people without business degrees. Like, for real, how on earth are you supposed to figure out the exact buying preferences of someone who likes punk rock music without paying consultants thousands of dollars to do it for you?

Okay, so this is a kind of panic and despair we’ve all felt when it comes to an element of our business from time to time.

The good news is, target market research is actually a lot easier than you think.

How to do target market research

Despite what you might have heard, you probably already instinctively know who your target market is. Sure, you might not know everything, but you probably know a lot.

To figure out what you already know, grab a pen and paper and get a seat in a quiet room. Now, think about a person who your music/film/product/service is for. No, I mean imagine them fully. Picture them in your mind.

What kind of clothes do they wear? Do they shop at Old Navy, the Gap or Club Monaco? Or do they shop exclusively at thrift stores for environmental reasons?

What kind of music do they listen to? Would they be likely to purchase concert tickets, or just enjoy a live album at home?

What kind of food do they eat? Entirely organic or fast food all the time?

Do you think they exercise on a regular basis? Do they walk or take public transportation, or do they have a car? Or a bike?

What kind of hobbies do you think they have? Do they like playing sports outdoors (even if it’s just throwing a ball around at the park)? Do they prefer to go to the movies or a museum?

What kind of furniture do you think they have? Is it from Ikea or Pottery Barn? Or is it hand-me-downs from family members?

Do you think they use Facebook or Twitter? Or both?

How old are they? Do they have children? Are they married or single?

The answers to these questions likely come from your gut, and you probably already have them at this very moment. So write them down. Sometimes it even helps to name this person. It’s difficult to create a website for a group of people, but it’s very easy to create a website for one person who represents a group.

Now that you have a good picture of who your ideal customer is (let’s call him Jake), you can start to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

Do you want to know more about Jake’s internet habits? Likely. Don’t worry, no one expects you to have that kind of knowledge. You can get those sorts of details from companies who do that kind of research and write reports on it. Two good companies to look at are Pew Internet and Scarborough. They both have insights available for free and pay, but sometimes if you can’t find what you’re looking for a Google search will solve it in short order.

Finally, once you’ve defined your ideal customer (Jake), see if you can get your hands on one. Someone has likely either bought something from you or has visited your website and contacted you, or you know someone who fits the bill of the kind of person you are making your amazing thing for. Buy them a coffee and pick their brain. Make it clear that this meeting isn’t so you can sell them things. The information will only flow one way, from them to you. Write it all down. Record it if they’re cool with that. Take it home and start formulating a plan for your website that will keep people on it, and buying your album/DVD/pottery/photography services.