When I first came up with the idea of creating the SHOLDIT clutch that’s a purse, I assumed travelers, working busy female travelers, would be interested in the product.  

Luckily, when I started my company in the fall 2012, I hit the nail on the head. But there are plenty of things I didn’t know that I learned along the way.

As a business owner, finding your target customer is essential for starting and growing a company. As quickly learned, you can’t be all things to be all people. You’ll go crazy and you’ll spread yourself too thin.

That’s why it is so important to figure out who your customer is. Because your direct consumer, is your customer. Once you know who that is, you have to find buyers who reach that same customer.

For new business owners, here are five tips to help you find your target customer.

  1. People watch to problem solve. Go to a busy area and watch the people there. Go to the mall and sit on a bench, and watch people. Are they fumbling with bags? What are they doing or not doing? Another good place is inside an airport. Chuck Cohn, a Forbes contributor suggests sitting in a coffee shop to help identify your target market. Regardless of how you do it, the principle is the same. People watching can give you new ideas.

Sometimes, when we are trying to start or build a company, we forget to do simple things that are free.

  1. Go directly to the consumers to test your idea. It was at those direct consumer opportunities that we got feedback we really needed when we started out. Even going to just a small local festival where you might see 50-100 people was helpful. Seeing their reaction and if the price point was good really helped.

We always asked why they were buying. That’s how we found out who our main customer base was beyond just travelers. One person was purchasing for her daughter who was studying abroad. Another woman said her mom hated to carry a purse and sticks money in her bra which embarrassing to her. Doing those shows, you get to see real people and hear what’s important to them.

  1. Give out promo codes
    It’s not okay to solicit in a place like a mall. But I’ll carry promo cards. If I see someone walking around with a lot of bags, I’ll say, “You look like you are fumbling around, I’d love to share this promo code for you for a SHOLDIT clutch that’s a purse. It looks really cool and might help.” Then if they are interested they can check out the promo code online.

  2. Build email lists through tradeshows.
    Once we knew our target demographics we went to tradeshows, used online surveys (like SurveyMonkey) to build a database and to get to know our customer even better.
  1. Be willing to adjust with the market.
    You can assume your customer base is one way and then it switches to another. You have to be able to shift.

For us, it was getting into custom market. We now print custom fabrics and zipper pulls, which means we are working smarter and more efficient and growing in the same direction. To do this, we created a thought (some would call it a vision) board to see how we could expand our business while still staying within our niche. As you receive feedback see how it fits within your company model and how you can expand and grow (within reason) to accommodate your ever-changing target demographic.