Are you struggling to attract customers or stuck on branding? Serial entrepreneur Mélissa Peng shares five ways to identify your target demographic.
By Landry Allred, Illustration by Madison Weakley
Mélissa Peng knew she had a knack for entrepreneurship at the age of 8 when she sold flowers to fund a trip to Martinique. By college, she had developed a network of 70 associates nationwide selling health supplements through Isagenix International LLC. Before the age of 30, she had graduated from the MIT Sloan School of Management and worked in marketing roles at businesses like Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble Company, Macy’s and NBCUniversal Media.
But she wasn’t fulfilled. Two years ago, Peng left corporate life to pursue self-funded entrepreneurship, moving from Los Angeles to Texas to chase her passion. Now, she manages three businesses: Camellias and Curls, a hair-accessory company, Pon Di Beat, an Afrobeat and dancehall studio, and Curly Executive, a branding company which culminates her entrepreneurial and marketing skills to help others.
Based on her rich experience in entrepreneurship, she’s compiled five tips to help fellow entrepreneurs identify their target audience.
ASK YOURSELF: WHO DO I WANT TO HELP?
“Marketing and selling are about meeting a need for your customers. You’re giving them a thing that fulfills a need. If I already have a product, [I ask myself ], ‘Who does it help?’ If you start there, you can understand who your target customer should be, and that anchors you well for the future because you know you’re creating a product or idea that will help people.”
“I ask, ‘Who is your target customer?’ Most people say, ‘Like me,’ or ‘Everyone.’ That’s not specific enough. When you say someone is your target customer, it includes all things about them. ‘Someone like me’ means race, behavior, how they think, etc. As Americans, we tend to shy away from things that define target customers, like race. The problem with that is if you’re creating for a diverse customer and haven’t stated that as your plan, you’ll miss out on core things. That customer needs to see themselves in the product.”
DON’T BE AFRAID TO TARGET A NICHE AUDIENCE.
“A lot of people are afraid to state their actual target customer because they worry it’ll turn off other people. Niche marketing is sometimes the best marketing. The more specific, the better we can find people we actually want. It’s not about getting everybody to you. It’s about getting those people who are going to go crazy for the thing you’ve created. One of the other reasons people are afraid of niching is that maybe you don’t see your customers where you are. Don’t be afraid to make that choice because sometimes, even if it requires a bit more work to go after that audience, you’ll get a much bigger payout.”
GET TO KNOW YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER.
“With Pon Di Beat, I man the door and meet every person that comes to my events. Don’t be afraid to talk to your customers. I would ask them, ‘How did you find out about my event?’ I was able to talk to 250 people and know my Instagram ads are working, my Facebook is doing okay, Google’s actually surprisingly helping me. You can learn so much from your customers. But even if they don’t exist yet, free, available information exists all over the internet about your customer. You should be leveraging that.”
COMMIT TO YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER.
“Decide who that target customer is going to be and make things for that person. Don’t switch it up. When you’re a smaller brand, and especially when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re trying to make money. Maybe at the beginning stages, you get into this habit of trying to tailor everything so people will want it. In that, you’re not staying true to your target customer and spending time building a following that maybe isn’t even the following you need. Staying true to your target means committing to products that work for them, focusing on that [and] building your brand.”