Who Are Your Customers – Do You Really Know?

How deeply have you thought about the various groups that make up your customer base? 

Most businesses that we work with can quickly identify some sort of broad customer group that they think is their target demographic, but all too often, they fail to really drill down on the specifics of that customer group – age, gender, socioeconomic class, interests, etc.  

Depending on your industry, your customers could be:

  • Your donors, board members, and financial supporters
  • Your volunteers
  • Retail consumers
  • Distribution company representatives
  • Wholesale customers
  • Potential investors

A good marketing strategy always starts with a clear understanding of who your customers are – who it is that you’re targeting. And that’s usually more than one “type” of person. 

Identifying Target Demographics

Customer is really just another word for a target demographic.

Target demographics are specific groups of people that are chosen for a social media or advertisement campaign.  They are the people that your organization needs to speak to when creating marketing messages.  Typically, each group will have different motivations for why they might engage with your organization or may get involved in different ways. 

For this reason, you need to create unique marketing messages if you want to truly be able to connect with the people in each group, and before you can create the marketing messages you need to first identify who these groups are.  Not sure how to do that?  Let’s look at some examples!

rise International

rise international

rise International is a nonprofit that works to support social entrepreneurship in Africa, through a variety of programs. They’re a great example of an organization to use as an example of the different “customers” that a nonprofit’s marketing needs to speak to, because of how multi-faceted their programs are.

rise is currently operating two unique programs that work together: “in loco” an architecture and construction residency program that seeks to improve architecture and construction in Lesthoto, Africa, and a program that provides on-going entrepreneurial education and support to social entrepreneurs in the same region.  In fact, the “in loco” program participants are currently designing and constructing a building for one of the social entrepreneurs, who is running an orphanage.

For rise, there are three primary groups that the organization needs to market to:

  1. the people they serve (meaning the people who benefit from their offerings),
  2. volunteers and individual supporters, and
  3. major donors and organizational supporters.

Each of these three groups can be further broken down into more easily recognizable groups of people to whom marketing messages can be targeted. 

  • Who they serve
    • African social entrepreneurs 
    • African architects
    • African construction workers
  • Volunteers & individual supporters
    • US/UK based architects
    • International architecture students
  • Major donors & organizational supporters
    • US/UK based architecture firms
    • Large companies interested in supporting change in Africa

This outline of targeted groups shows all the people rise needs to keep in mind when creating a marketing plan. rise is a complex nonprofit striving to achieve a lot of goals – it may be that your list of customers is not this long, and that’s okay.  In fact, if you’re just starting out (or even if you’ve been around for a long time), it’s often better to keep things more tightly focused – you’ll get better results.


hippeas snack bag and slogan

Hippeas is a snack company that makes puffs out of chickpeas – think cheese doodles way healthier, cleaner, and cooler cousin. 

Hippeas snacks are sold in the US, the UK, and online.  Their products are sold both direct to consumer (online) and wholesale to grocery and other retail stores (like CVS pharmacies).

For must food brands, the primary target demographic is the consumers who will be ultimately eating (or drinking!) their products.  Take one look at Hippeas Instagram feed and it becomes pretty clear who their target customer demographic is.

Hippeas’ primary customer is:

  • Young millennial/Gen Z – college age, 25 and under
  • female
  • Upper middle class/upper class
  • Active/outdoorsy in a beachy sort of way
  • Interested in activities like light exercise, surfing, yoga, hanging with friends
  • Physically fit, prioritizes organic foods, maybe vegan

A secondary customer group for Hippeas would be males who otherwise align with the profile above, and a third group would be retail buyers in health and natural food markets or, potentially, retail buyers who stock snack kiosks on college campuses.



Opcity is a startup that was founded in Austin, Texas in 2015, and developed a web and mobile platform which utilizes machine learning and analytics to match real estate leads with appropriate agents. 

In addition to matching home buyers with real estate agents, lenders and title companies can use the platform to build relationships with agents who will then recommend their clients to use those lenders and title companies.

Opcity has four very distinct customer group to whom their marketing needs to be targeted:

  • Home buyers who want to be connected with an agent to find a home.
  • Real estate agents/brokers who want to find clients and connect with potential lender/title company partners.
  • Lenders who want to connect with agents/brokers in order to get referrals.
  • Title companies who want to connect with agents/brokers in order to get referrals.

Each one of these distinct groups has a unique reason for wanting to engage with the platform and thus need unique messaging from Opcity.

Key Takeaways

Knowing your customers is important.  
Knowing your customers will help you understand how to market to them more effectively, and is the first step to creating a marketing plan.

Identify unique customer groups by why and how they engage with your organization.
Members of each group should have similar motivations and frustrations that bring them to you, and they should interact with your brand in similar ways. If two people have different reasons for connecting with your brand then they probably belong in different customer groups.

Having a narrower focus is okay.
Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to keep things simple.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone – mastering one vision with just one or two target demographics, before expanding can be a great way to achieve success.

Need personalized help? Get in touch with us – we can help you find your customers!

Thoughts or Questions?

Our blog does not accept comments, but we want to know what you think!  Tag us on Twitter to get the conversation started or contact us.