What is Market Targeting?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

The second step in the product promotion process, market targeting refers to picking a specific group or small set of groups to which a business will advertise. It is based on the idea that, because it's not really possible to make or do something that will please everyone, a business has to specialize. Companies select an advertising group to strengthen their brands, as well as to get an idea of potential sales for production or financing purposes. They can use three main approaches for this: universal, selective or concentrated. It is common for an organization to reevaluate its target groups and related campaigns over time because markets are always somewhat flexible.

Segmenting customers breaks them up into different groups.
Segmenting customers breaks them up into different groups.

Definition and Differentiations

Market targeting is the second of three steps in product promotion — the other two are segmentation and positioning. Together, these stages are sometimes called STP. Whereas segmentation breaks up an entire market into different groups, targeting is the process of selecting exactly which one of the groups will be the focus of advertising efforts. Once the company knows the customers it will concentrate on, it positions its products or services specifically for that group. People sometimes use this term to refer to the entire set of STP processes, however, which creates some confusion.

Main Principle

The guiding concept behind this stage of product promotion — and STP processes as a whole — is that a company can never sell to everyone successfully. The needs, wants, beliefs and habits of people around the world are so varied that it is virtually impossible to make a product or service that is truly universal to everybody. Focusing efforts on just one or a handful of groups, therefore, is necessary to connect with customers and complete sales.


The main reason an organization uses market targeting is to give more power to its brand. When a business knows exactly to whom it will sell and what compels those individuals to buy, it is better able to create advertising campaigns that communicate the brand message effectively. Ultimately, this typically ends up giving sales a boost, driving up revenue and profits.

Organizations also use these methods when they want to get an idea of how much of something they’ll sell. These predictions are especially important for purchase managers, who are responsible for buying whatever the company needs to operate, and inventory managers, who track what the organization has on hand so that it is able to meet consumer demands. They also matter to production supervisors, who have to schedule operations based on what purchase and inventory executives do.

Estimates related to sales sometimes are necessary in order for a business to get initial financing from banks or investors. By showing the selected group and how many transactions are likely to happen within that sector, the investors and banks have a better concept of how big the return on their investment might be. It also shows that the company has thought out its platform and advertising schemes thoroughly, and financiers take this as a good sign that the organization is serious enough to succeed.

Undifferentiated Approach

One way of handling target group selection is with an undifferentiated approach. The underlying concept is that the product or service has broad appeal that transcends factors such as age, gender and location. Instead of trying to tailor strategies to generate sales within one or two groups of consumers, the company uses a campaign aimed at gathering customers from all walks of life. This approach keeps the number of potential buyers high, but the difficulty is figuring out how to make advertising appeal to many different kinds of people.

Differentiated Approach

Market targeting may, alternatively, be selective or differentiated. With this approach, the business identifies two or more specific consumer groups that are highly likely to become loyal customers. Efforts focus primarily on creating rapport with those identified consumers. Selective methods often involve creating specific programs that speak to the needs of the targeted groups, although the goods and services provided are essentially the same for all programs.

Concentrated Approach

A third approach is focused or concentrated marketing. Here, the business identifies just one specific group of consumers that is highly likely to generate enough revenue to produce a profit. It might involve finding a niche of consumers that is overlooked, or developing goods and services that appeal to a larger segment of consumers by offering something that the competition does not. This strategy has become less popular because companies have learned that having a presence with multiple groups usually generates more sales. Using a concentrated technique is risky because failure to sell to the single selected group can force the company to completely redefine itself or even shut down.

Flexibility and Change

What people want, think and do shifts over time, so markets are never completely static. Additionally, once a company has done business in a segment for a long time, it reaches a point where there simply aren’t many more new customers available to attract. To keep revenue and profits up in these contexts, companies often modify the advertising campaigns they have for their current target groups over time, or if needed, they switch their target focus entirely. People, therefore, can see market targeting as a flexible process that requires periodic reevaluation.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Overall, picking a limited number of target groups provides a degree of focus that streamlines most of what a company does, making operations more cost-effective. That efficiency is not completely free, however. Segmenting and figuring out which group might produce the highest number of sales requires an enormous amount of research, which businesses have to spend money to complete.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Explain the factors that influence the efficiency of the market targeting process.


SurfNTurf-This is the same concept with television shows. Shows that are really popular do not have as many repeats as those that are not because they really want you to watch when the show actually airs rather than waiting for the rerun.

For example, the USA network show Burn Notice is the number show on cable television, but I never see reruns on this program.

After the season is over then the show is yanked off the air. This is quite different than the programming at Bravo with the Housewives series. These shows are repeated so often that you really do not have to tune in when the episode first debuts.

This makes the ratings lower for the show and not seem as special as a show like Burn Notice that offers very limited programming.


Sunshine31-That is so true. I remember that there was a waiting list for a Hermes bag that was over two years.

In addition, the Apple I Phone was sold out immediately and this caused even more of a stir for the company. If the phones were readily available it would lose its elusive charm and people would not get so excited about it because they can get the phone anywhere.


Sneakers41-Market segmentation is really the target market selection and the positioning of its products to attract those customers.

For example, if a marketer wanted to attract young mothers for their children’s play gym, the company might advertise in a magazine like Mc Calls, or Red Book that are typically read my stay at home mothers.

Sometimes the target market positioning requires a product to be sold only in certain types of retailers. For example, if you were looking to buy a Chanel lipstick, you will only find them in the Chanel counters in department stores.

This positions the cosmetic line with a more upscale market with a certain degree of exclusivity. In fact, the more exclusive the brand the less accessible it is to the general public.


The target market demographics help a company learn what the profile of their typical customer is.

This information includes the average income range, age, sex, and other buying preferences and habits.

The more the company knows about their psychographic target market the better the target market position will be for the company.

If for example, the target market analysis denotes that a typical customer is affluent and over forty, then the company will respond to marketing measures that will reach this market.

This is what is known as a market segment. It is the portion of the target market that is most likely to buy the marketers product or service.

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