As a small-business owner, you’ve probably given some thought to your target market. After all, you’re not trying to sell life-coaching services to everyone in the world, right?

You’re simply trying to sell your product or service to the people who want and need it most.

Finding out who those people are, and learning to connect with them in a meaningful way, is what marketing is all about.

When you are clear about your target market, niche and ideal client, you’re able to create marketing materials that easily turn prospects into paying customers.

The terms target market, niche and ideal client get tossed around a lot. The first step to streamlining your marketing efforts is to understand the difference between the three.

Target market – This is the broadest section of the population you’re targeting.
Consider what group of prospects will get the best results, in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort because of working with you.

For example, perhaps you run a private cleaning company in Philadelphia. Is your target market “everyone who lives in Philadelphia?” It shouldn't be.

Why? Because not everyone in Philadelphia needs or wants their house cleaned. Of the people that do, who is it that needs and wants what your company has to offer?

Do you do your best work with affluent, college-educated married couples with children?

Then perhaps you brand your company as an upscale, top-of-the-line and exclusive service.

Do you consistently get business from coupon clippers, single parents or young professionals on a budget? Then perhaps you brand your company as the most affordable cleaning service in town?

There is not necessarily a right answer to who is your target market. However the wrong answer is “everyone.” The old saying “You can’t please all of the people all of the time,” definitely applies to target markets.

Niche – What you do for your audience

Target market deals with your customer. Niche is all about you.

Health and wellness is an industry. Private pilates coaching could be your niche – that is, what you offer to people interested in health and wellness.

Dating and relationships is an industry. Dating advice for new divorcees could be a niche to pursue within that industry.

You can’t differentiate yourself from thousands of other businesses if you attempt to market a “travel website” or a “weight-loss product.” There are millions of travel websites and weight loss products out there. What makes yours different?

Here’s what "niche-ing down" looks like:

Travel agent - Solo travel expert - Career break solo travel - Career break solo travel for 40-somethings

Business coaching - Business coaching for solopreneurs - Business coaching for tech-challenged solopreneurs

Ideal client – The detailed description of your perfect client or customer.

It’s difficult to connect with a nameless, faceless group of people, even if you’ve done your homework and “niched down.”

That’s where an ideal client profile comes into play. An ideal client profile is a made-up person who represents your perfect customer. They have the exact problems your best customers have, they need your help and they’re ready to buy right now.

By creating a detailed bio of your ideal client, including biographical information and emotional needs, you’ll be able to create email newsletters, blog posts, website copy and products that resonate with your audience on a deep and personal level.

Why? Because using an ideal client profile is like writing a letter to one person instead of thousands – the result is that each person who reads the letter feels like it’s written just for them.

Remember, choosing a target market, niche and ideal client is for the purposes of your marketing efforts.

You will likely attract people who don’t fit what you’ve chosen, and that's OK. We’re not talking about turning anyone away.

We’re talking about focusing the limited time, money and energy you have to spend on marketing on the people that will yield the best results.

Define your target market, see if you can “niche down” within your chosen industry and spend some time crafting your ideal client’s description.

The more specific you get, the more effective your marketing will be as you begin to create customers for life.