"It Is Your Job Or Your Hobby?"

By Mary Aviles & Tiffany Teague

Detroit Local Case Study #9

When you meet with me at Open Office hours or in a Strategy Session, one of the first questions I'll ask you is, "Who is your target?" And, if you tell me something like, "Women, aged 18 - 65, with disposable income," you're basically telling me you don't know. In order to most efficiently convert from awareness to ambassadors, we should instead be focusing our precious time and capital on a more limited target. Seth Godin calls this finding your minimum viable audience. We all feel the natural inclination to cast the widest net. Committing to finding the smallest niche you can serve well requires DISCIPLINE.

Tiffany Teague, owner of Whipped Up Cosmetics, has been working to identify her target market. In 2013, she launched her cosmetics brand after several years of using her own shea butter recipe to combat her children's eczema in the winter months. While researching potential pop-up opportunities on MIGreenTeam, she decided to trial some health- and vegetarian-related events. She successfully exhibited at the 1st annual V313 Vegan Celebration at the Eastern Market and booked her best single-show sales to date. That was her aha moment. 

As a result, she started including produce market visits in her social media strategy to signal to consumers her commitment to plant power and plant-based eating. Both her packaging and hashtags are now labeled "vegan and/or plant-based" to increase awareness and aid in discovery among the food, body, and personal care-conscious community. She's also increasingly conscious about where she sources certain oils and butters and communicates to followers that her products are human tested and as organic as possible. Her efforts are paying off. Whipped Up Cosmetics recently logged their highest single-event revenue at VegFest and is currently in negotiation to contribute to a vegan subscription box! Tiffany was thrilled when they reached out to her unsolicited--the results of her new promotional strategy.

Finding your audience mindset requires time. But, it doesn't require a degree in market research. There are several methods you can employ to develop a persona (like the one you see below). Start by inventorying what you DO and DON'T already know about your target. Then:

  • Review secondary research (publicly-available information on the Internet) about the types of consumers you're trying to reach or regarding industry trends

  • Read online reviews (yours and your competitors') and look for patterns or unmet needs

  • Source earnings reports from public competitors/public industry players for demographic or mindset-oriented nuggets


You'd be surprised what you already know when you sit down and document these elements. You're already engaged in this type of data collection in the course of a typical day. The trick is to discipline yourself to analyze the data periodically and apply it to your marketing efforts.

  • What do you know of your customers' journey(ies)?

  • Who are your customers' key influencers?

  • How can you incent word of mouth/delight/gratitude?

"I’d be lying if I said this type of research was easy. It’s anything but. A lot of marketers skip it...because it can be very time consuming. But in my opinion, it’s this time that separates the pros from amateurs." - Tommy Walker, Crazy Egg

I am also a small business owner. I understand the daily anxiety to feel like you're moving forward; the pressure to check tactics off the list. But, I can't stress enough the importance of putting in the time to better understand your minimum viable audience. The repercussions on your overall strategy can be tremendous.

If you're curious about Whipped Up Cosmetics, please visit them on Etsy. If you'd like some help identifying your target market, please contact me to set up a Strategy Session or come see me at TechTown Detroit's Ask An Expert. If you appreciate the sentiment in the headline, you might be a candidate for Retail Boot Camp, since it came from instructor Sarah Donnelly.

The Real Secret Sauce Is Generosity

The Real Secret Sauce Is Generosity

Not All Who Wander End Up in Detroit

Not All Who Wander End Up in Detroit