Five Filters for Qualifying a Target Market

How do you know if a given audience segment has potential for you?

This article is part of a series, Understanding Our Audiences, for interpretive planners and other visitor experience professionals. Here is the beginning of the series. 

Pender Island, British Columbia

Every so often, someone in your organization will say, “Hey, we should really be serving Market  X!” How do you know if Market X has potential for you? Here are five filters you must run them through. If they qualify, you should probably think about including them in your planning.

  1. They are UNIQUE: They have needs and interests and behaviours that set them apart, measurably, from other kinds of people. If they don’t, you don’t need a segment for them. Lump them with another group.
  2. They are SUBSTANTIAL: They exist in numbers great enough to make a meaningful difference to your organization. You can attract enough of them to “move the needle” towards the goals you’re trying to meet (increased revenue, improved resource conservation, increased advocacy, etc.)
  3. You are geographically and financially ACCESSIBLE to them.
  4. They are CONTACTABLE: You have a channel of communication with them or can develop one; you are confident that there is a medium (social media, direct email, personal outreach, a particular newspaper) that they will receive and respond to, and that you can afford.
  5. They are INTERESTED: You actually have something of interest to them, or can develop something of interest to them. You need to be very honest with yourselves about this one.

Exercise: Are these target markets?

Run each of these candidate market segments through the filters above.

  1. You have always separated your out of town families from your local families. Recently, you learned that they have functionally the same needs, desires and even communications channels.
  2. You discover you are attractive to local wealthy stay-at-home mothers, who tend to be a small, non-lucrative, demanding clientele.
  3. You suspect that you are a match for a segment who live more than a few hours’ drive away, with two competing attractions in between.
  4. You know that mountain climbers visit one of your remote locations regularly, and you would like to establish a relationship with them to further your mission. You know they are young, poor, passionate about their sport and geographically very diverse, and you have no reliable way of contacting them.
  5. Your main product line consists of volunteer docents (largely retired) leading relaxed, information-heavy guided tours on weekday afternoons. Your board of directors suggests you reach out to young singles.
  6. You have a long-standing client group that you simply know as the Senior Bus Tourists; that is literally all you know about them.


  1. They’re not unique; lump them together until you discover functional differences between them.
  2. You need to find a win-win with this group; at the moment the relationship doesn’t appear to be mutually beneficial. If you can’t, you’ll want to disqualify them as a priority target market (which does not mean making them feel unwelcome. See below.)
  3. You’ll need to find a way to motivate that segment to overcome that distance barrier and drive past your two competitors… or disqualify them as a priority market.
  4. Either find a communications channel (perhaps via the online climbing community, or through personal outreach during climbing season) or disqualify them as a priority market. If you can’t reach them, you don’t have a relationship with them.
  5. You’ll probably need to develop a new product and promotions line, or disqualify those young singles. Make sure your board understands the true costs involved in developing this market.
  6. You’ll need flesh out the picture to add product preferences, income, values, media habits, et cetera, before you invest any further in them.

Next: When you choose target markets, do you exclude everybody else?

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