Your business serves many different kinds of people. However, your decisions regarding which products and services to sell and how to market them depends on your target market. After all, you can’t please everyone, so it’s important to narrow down your target market and focus on people who are highly likely to purchase from your business. For most businesses, the target market consists of primary, secondary and tertiary segments.


A secondary target market is the group of people who are the second most likely to purchase your products and services.

The Differences Between Primary and Secondary Target Markets

When researching the target market for your business, it’s important to group your prospects into three distinct groups:

  • Primary target market: These are the people who are most likely to buy from your company. They have a specific problem they are facing that you can solve with your offerings.

  • Secondary target market: This group of people is the second most likely to purchase your products and services. However, they are not as ready to engage in a sales transaction as the primary group. They may require additional convincing and may have more hesitation than the primary market. They may also require you to establish your credibility so they can begin to trust you. They may have the same need as the primary market but to a lesser extent and with less urgency.

  • Tertiary target market: These are the people who may be interested in your products and services but do not have any urgency in making a purchase. They may want to wait for your price to drop or for your popularity to rise.

When researching the types of target markets, it’s critical to segment them by their likelihood of making a purchase. That way, you can allocate your resources appropriately so you see a stronger return on your investment. For example, if you spend too much on a marketing campaign targeted to your tertiary target market, you may not have enough funds to engage your primary target market, which is responsible for the most sales for your business.

Why not just focus on the primary market? The secondary market has a high potential for growth, and you may be able to convert some prospects into the primary target market by establishing trust and credibility with them. If the secondary target market has a unique need that differs from your primary target market, you may be able to create a product or service that is designed specifically for them. This can help you to add another revenue stream to your business.

Begin by Segmenting the Audience

How can you determine who is your secondary target market? All target market research begins with the process of market segmentation. While there are many ways to group your target market, they can be categorized through four distinct areas:

  • Demographics: This is the most basic way to segment your target market. Businesses group their prospects by age, gender, race, ethnicity, occupation, income, family status, sexual orientation and other foundational characteristics — for example, women who are nurses and have a family with children.

  • Geographic: Where your customers live is an important factor to consider. It affects how they can access your products and services and also affects their needs. Location is affected by the climate, density and size of the region. For example, people who live in cold climates will have different needs than those who live in warm climates.

  • Psychographic: The kind of lifestyle your target market lives affects the kinds of products and services they choose to purchase. Businesses can segment their market by looking at their prospects’ attitudes, values, opinions and interests — for example, people who value environmental sustainability or people who play badminton recreationally.

  • Behavioral: This kind of segmentation is based on how prospects behave toward products. Markets can be segmented by product or brand loyalty, frequency of purchase, frequency of use, readiness to buy and urgency to buy — for example, people who are not loyal to the brand but have purchased once before.

Determining your primary, secondary and tertiary markets involves more than just segmenting your prospects. Once you have segmented them, it’s necessary to evaluate the quality of your audience segment to see if it is worth doing business with them.

Evaluate Audience Segments for Your Business

Not only is it important to understand the likelihood of a market segment making a purchase from your business, it’s critical to know whether you can sustain your business by focusing on them. Evaluate the market segments you have identified by:

  • Determining size: Is the market segment large enough to help you meet your revenue goals? If it is too small, you may not have enough customers.

  • Looking at accessibility: Can you easily and profitably deliver your goods and services and reach them through marketing communications channels? If they are too remote, you may not be able to sell to them effectively.

  • Understanding unique needs: Does the market segment have unique characteristics from other segments? Do they have different needs, wants and goals that you can help fulfill? Different needs require different benefits.

Identify Primary and Secondary Target Markets

Based on your market segmentation and evaluation results, your business can determine which segment is most likely to buy, which is second most likely to buy and which is third most likely to buy. These are your primary, secondary and tertiary target markets. Understanding these distinctions will enable your business to create unique marketing strategies to target each segment and reach them with messaging that resonates with their unique needs.

For example, if a business sells school supplies, its primary market may be parents of school-aged children. Its secondary target market may be teachers who purchase extra supplies for their classroom. Its tertiary target market may be grandparents of school-aged kids who buy gifts for holidays and birthdays. Each segment will have differing requirements and goals, so it’s critical to understand their differences when developing a marketing strategy.

Target Marketing Strategies for Primary and Secondary Audiences

The way a business communicates with the primary and secondary target markets will depend on the needs of each segment. You can get a better understanding of your target market’s needs by reviewing their demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral characteristics. In order to reach each market segment, it’s critical to use promotional channels that resonate with that audience.

For example, the parents of school-aged kids may care about getting the best school supplies for their kids, so their focus will be on quality, selection and brand names. In marketing to the primary target market, the business should focus on those elements. The business can advertise on parenting websites and send direct marketing email blasts to its prospect database that talk about the huge selection of top-quality brand names.

On the other hand, the secondary target market of teachers may be concerned about cost and sticking to a budget. They will also want to make sure they can find enough supplies for their whole class, so they may consider availability an important benefit. In communicating with the secondary market, the business should focus on affordability and availability. This secondary market may respond to sales promotions, discounts and coupons, and focusing on sponsorships and press releases may help build trust with this secondary market.