How to define and measure your target audience – for free

Probably the most important thing that anyone running a business needs to know is who, where and how large the target audience is. If you’re starting any kind of brick-and-mortar retail business, you want to put it where it’ll be surrounded by prospective customers. Even for business-to-business or home-based advertisers, you need to have a good sense of what –“ or, more specifically, who – is out there, if only to make sure you take in enough territory to provide enough of a customer base.

What’s even more important than know how many and where is who and how they think. Now, there are two ways to find all that out. Better yet, they’re free. And even better than that, they can arm you with some valuable marketing insights.The way to do this is through mailing list brokers – even if you’re not contemplating, even your wildest dreams, sending out so much as a single piece of junk mail. List brokers, you see, maintain and have access to extensive business and consumer databases.

Beyond demographics

If those databases covered just demographics – location, age, sex, household size, household income, education, etc. – that would be valuable. But the databases go beyond far beyond that.

Let’s say you’re looking for newly divorced women in Midlothian who bake, eat organic food, collect figurines, donate to to animal welfare charities,shop for high-fashion clothing at specialty stores and enjoy scuba diving. They’re in there.

Or antique collectors who are NASCAR fans and do-it-yourselfers with high cholesterol in Short Pump. They’re also in there.

If you’re in child-related business, you can find expecting parents and parents of preschool kids. What’s more, you can find them by distance from your daycare or preschool facility.

Just looking at the list of behavioral categories can suggest new advertising and marketing channels you hadn’t thought of.

Beyond office addresses

But what if you’re looking for widget companies with more than $2 million annual sales and 25 to 250 employees in Hanover County? No problem.

If you sell to businesses, you can find any business by SIC code, any geography from a half-mile from your headquarters to the Richmond metro area to the state and the nation. You can also identify prospects by sales volume, number of employees, number of years in business, and credit rating. This last criterion is nice if you like getting paid or if you’re in the business of factoring receivables for businesses with cash flow problems. And you can identify the executive decision-makers you want to reach by job title.

Two free sources

Two mailing list companies put all this information online, where anyone who wants to can access it. Mind you, this is not the mailing lists themselves. You may not need them or want to pay for them.

But as a way to show off their wares, these companies let you conduct searches by any combination of criteria they have and give you total numbers. You can save your searches, go back in and change criteria to see how the numbers change, and really get a feel for your potential targets.

So just go to or (with InfoUSA, you’ll have to create an account, and that’s free; with Database 101, you can just start searching).

Click whether you’re looking for business or consumers, follow the intuitive choices, and you’re set – to take advantage of a whole bunch of marketing avenues you may not have known were out there.