One insanely simple way to research niche markets for your business

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that their target market is everybody. It’s not uncommon to hear an enthusiastic founder proclaiming that anyone can and will buy their product. But not product is attractive to all the billions of people – young and old, male and female – who live on earth.

A business cannot be all things to all people so successful businesses identify one or more narrowly defined “niches” that they will target with their marketing. Identifying a niche to become your target market is an essential early step toward increasing the effectiveness of your marketing and the profitability of your sales.

So how do you research your target market to determine how you can help them the most? The best place to start is with good old-fashioned magazines! Magazines are the ultimate niche market research tool. Magazines serve a narrowly-defined market – a niche – and you can piggyback off of their hard work to make your business more successful.

If your niche is a consumer market, search online or in your friendly neighborhood magazine store to find at least one magazine in your niche. If your niche is a business market, search online and in industry associations for trade journals.

If you don’t find a lot of magazines serving that niche, you either have a small very small niche or you have not defined your market closely enough. Proceed with caution! If you find a lot of magazines serving that niche, it’s a signal that you are entering a highly competitive market.

Get copies of current and back issues of as many titles that serve your niche market as possible.
Now the fun begins!

  1. Design. Look at how each magazine is designed. Examine the fonts, colors, and images then consider how these elements and their layout would attract and engage the target market.
  2. Headlines. Look on each cover to see what the headlines are. The bigger the headline, the more important the story will be to the target market. As well, look in the table of contents at the feature stories (not the columns). From these clues, “reverse engineer” the problems that your target market faces on a regular basis, and (if possible) sort them into order from the ones mentioned most frequently to the ones mentioned least frequently.
  3. Staff qualifications. Who are the writers, editors, and staff of the magazine? They may not exactly reflect the target market (i.e. a children’s magazine wouldn’t have children on staff) but it’s very likely that many of the staff have a background related to the target market (so an editor at an economic magazine should have a background in economics). Review any writer bios and staff information to see what they bring to the role of “expert”.
  4. Advertisements. Look at the advertisements in each magazine. What product or service are they selling? What headlines to they use to capture the fickle attention of the reader? Pay particular attention to advertisements that appear more than once.
  5. Feature articles. Read each feature article to get a sense of how these magazines communicate with the readers. Is it peer-to-peer? Is it as a trusted advisor/mentor? Do they use a narrative format? What is the reader expected to do or know at the end of each article?
  6. Next, turn to the columns – those back-half-of-the-magazine columns that are often built around a theme. What is the Columns. theme of the column? How in-depth is each column? What kind of problem, need, or question is the column hoping to solve on a regular basis?

After thoroughly reviewing each magazine and making notes, you should have a pretty good idea of what your target market is like and what kinds of things attract their attention and engage their interest. From there, you should have enough information to start building your marketing to reach them effectively. Of course you would never copy verbatim (plagiarize) the headlines and articles from the magazines but instead you would use the information you gained from each magazine to form a clear picture in your mind of what your target market thinks about and responds to.

Then go out and build your own business as if you were writing a magazine to solve some very specific problems for your target market.

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