It doesn’t matter what your social enterprise does or how lofty its ambitions – there will be a very specific audience out there waiting to become highly engaged with and advocates of your brand.

But how do you find that audience? More importantly, how can it be defined? What makes it your audience?

Every business needs to spend time defining its target market if success is to be achieved. In the world of the social enterprise, getting your target audience right can be the difference between national recognition and sinking without trace.

The path you need to take to find your specific audience isn’t detailed in any text books, but there is a tried-and-tested four-step method you can use to get your creative juices flowing:

1. What problem are you solving?

Before you define your audience, you need to define the problem your social enterprise solves. And this isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think.

Let’s say you want to provide job opportunities for disadvantaged youth in your area and aim to do so by opening a street food restaurant. There’s a clear social purpose within that strategy and a desire to solve problems for the youngsters who become members of staff, but what about your customers?

Are you simply solving the problem of where to eat out this evening, or does your focus on street food suggest you’re looking for diners who want to expand their culinary horizons?

2. Create a customer ‘persona’

Thinking of your audience as one, big room full of people isn’t particularly insightful. Instead, you need to think about the individuals within that room.

You can do this by creating customer ‘personas’. These are simply fictional characters who best represent your target market. In our street food restaurant example, a customer persona could be as follows:

Name: Sarah Lewellyn
Age: 33
Martial status: unmarried, but living with partner. No kids
Job: Youth worker
Likes: travel, music festivals and her job
Dislikes: package holidays and fast-food restaurants

We can of course explore much deeper than the example above and add a few extra personas to our marketing plan, but by personalising the audience, you should start to get a feel for the individual people who will come into contact with your social enterprise.

3. Consider yourself a big fish in a small pond

In the world of the ‘niche’ and highly personalised service offerings, there’s no harm in targeting a relatively small market.

Consumers value convenience and undertake buying journeys that may change from one week to the next. Therefore, the smaller the pond in which you reside – and the larger your stature within it – the more chance you have of staying one step ahead.

With your personas in hand, try and define those people even more tightly. Where are they likely to be based? Where do their jobs take them both emotionally and physically?

Don’t be concerned if your market appears to be getting smaller during this process – that’s entirely natural (and healthy) when it comes to defining an audience; the smaller the better!

4. If you’re struggling – look internally

Defining markets is incredibly difficult, so try and avoid becoming disillusioned if you don’t hit upon yours quickly.

One way to decide on the right market for your social enterprise is to think beyond the product and instead about the organisation. In what areas does it excel? Is direct customer contact a particular strength, or are you more of a facilitator and builder of strategic partnerships?

Think about how the skills inherent within your social enterprise might attract an audience. Who would reside within that audience? If you’re a solutions provider that partners with third parties to create a product, for example, which people are most likely to welcome a combination of several platforms on which they might current source individually?

Limit your market research to the areas in which you excel and the personas that are most likely to attract.

Wrapping up

This process will take a long time – make not mistake – but it’ll be some of the most productive, valuable time you spend while building your social enterprise.

What have we missed above? If you’ve relied on a specific method to define your social enterprise’s audience and don’t mind sharing it with the world, let us know in the comments section, below!

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