When I think about a business's target market, I define them as the group people that benefit from that business's products and service, if they know about those products and services.
When you look ad McDonald's advertising it's pretty clear that their focus is mostly on families. Particularly families with small children. Some McDonald's restaurants have play areas for the kids. The colors and pictures in side of the restaurant are all very bright and appealing to kids. Most of the options on the menu appeals to children and of course their mascot is a clown. Targeting children has been a successful strategy for McDonald's, because these kids bring their families with them.
If your business is mostly online, researching the needs of your target market, may be tricky. I use Google's Analytics and certain other programs to track the sources of traffic, to my site. Using these tools I can get a Geographic breakdown of where my traffic is coming from. I can also tell what users are searching for on the search engines that leads them to my site. This doesn't give me a complete picture of who is visiting my site, but it does give me some idea.
Whenever I publish an article, I use Google Adwords to look at the keywords that are related to the topic, which gets searched for on Google Search most frequently. I then optimize my articles for those keywords.
I keep an eye on sites like Yahoo Answers and forums in my niche. This gives me an idea of what matters to consumer and what information they are looking for.
Using all these tools together I can tell who my readers are and I can give them what they want to read.
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