Small Business Targeting and Related Branding Components

Establishing a brand by defining customers and competition.


The building blocks of a small brand requires tracking trends, sourcing customer data and getting familiar with competitors.

Where can you get data about customer groups?

Research these eight sources to gather information on your target market:

1.  Trade associations: Trade groups typically maintain data about market trends. Search for trade associations online.

2.  Reference library: A good business reference librarian can be immensely helpful in finding what you’re looking for.

3.  Government websites: You’ll find a wealth of information at,  Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Bureau of Economic Research, US Census Fact Finder and US Federal Statistics

4.  Focus groups: Get a group that represents your target market—whether that’s college students or moms—together for a short focus group.

5.  Survey: Online tools like www.SurveyMonkey.comand offer free options for conducting surveys to ask potential customers questions.

  • Gender, age, race and marital status: Targeting “women” as a market is too broad, because not all women behave the same way. You’ll need to research specific niches within broader categories. For example, married women behave differently than single women; moms behave differently than childless women.

6.  Buying habits and behavior: What makes your target market buy? Where do they buy? (Online? In boutiques? In superstores?) What marketing tactics work best on them? How often do they buy your product or service and how much do they spend?

7.  Market size: How big is your target market? Is it growing, or is it in decline? Find data for the past three years plus future projections. Targeting a market that’s shrinking is generally not a good idea.

8.  Realistic market penetration: Just as important as the market size is how much of that market you can realistically hope to capture. This is where researching your competition comes in.

TRACKING TRENDS: What factors are shaping your customers’ behavior?

The following sources will help you keep on top of trends:

  • Newspapers: Since trends typically start in big cities and trickle down to other areas, read the leading newspapers from urban areas, such as The New York Times.
  • Periodicals: Read the magazines your target market reads—whether that’s Road & Track or Tiger Beat—to keep up with what matters to them.
  • Television: Popular shows are often good indicators of consumer trends. For example, the growth of cooking shows in the past decade has been matched by consumer spending on gourmet foods, home entertaining and tools for home cooking.
  • Internet: Set up Google Alerts for topics you’re interested in, or visit Google Trends ( to see what the most popular searches are at any given time.

Researching Competitors

  • Business model: What sales channels do your competitors use and how do they make money?
  • Size: How big are your competitors? Will you be competing against other small businesses, national corporations or regional chains?
  • Location: Are your competitors local, regional, national or overseas? Are they brick-and-mortar locations, or do they sell only online?
  • Profitability:

How profitable are your competitors? What are the average margins in your industry and among your specific competitors?

  • Market strategy: How do your competitors position themselves? Are they businesslike or informal? Low-price leaders or premium products? Do they offer hand-holding service, or a do-it-yourself atmosphere?
  • Features/benefits: What are the features and benefits of your competitors’ products or services?

How do they compare to yours?

  • Price: What prices do your competitors charge? Do they offer discounting, bundling or subscription plans?
  • Efficiency: How are your competitors staffed? How many employees do they have? Do they outsource work or work virtually? What kinds of overhead costs do they have?

Next- Knowledge of Competitors and Branding.

Marj Weber
Marj Weber
Marjorie Weber has been educating entrepreneurs and guiding them in their search for capital for the past 20 years: combining financial literacy workshops with one-on-one mentoring. Marj is currently President of Primed 2 Grow Inc. a company that provides access to capital for both existing and start up enterprises. She has provided term loans and working capital to hundreds of small business in South Florida. She was Chair of SCORE Miami Dade from 2010 to 2014 and served as a financial advisor for SBDC/FIU from 2014 to 2017. She also served as an advisor to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program and the SBA Emerging Leaders Program and provides training for Veterans seeking an entrepreneurial path upon retirement from the service. She has facilitated workshops under the auspices of Miami Bayside Foundation, Little Haiti Cultural Center and several local banks. She commenced her career as a real estate investment banker in New York.

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