The first and most important task in building a marketing plan for your animal care business is to define the target market for your product or service. Your target market is generally defined as the group of consumers to whom you want to sell your offerings. Because these consumers will be on the receiving end of your marketing invitations, you want to ensure you're talking to the right people.

The Composite Picture

Marketers commonly start a target market analysis by dividing the total market into distinct, relevant, identifiable and quantifiable segments. Markets for most product and service categories are divided into geographic, demographic, psychographic and purchase behavior segments. Using these market segments as templates, you can construct a composite picture of the typical animal care customer you intend to target with your animal care marketing programs.

Who They Are

Geographic and demographic market segments are commonly called quantifiable segments, because of their readily identifiable characteristics, such as age, location and household income. For your animal care business, you may select the town where your business is located as the geographic segment. Then, you'd build a demographic profile of pet owners located within your geographic segment. The "U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2012)" from the American Veterinary Medical Association is a handy resource that describes pet owners by demographic characteristics, including household income and size, marital status and education level. The handbook also shows you how to convert national statistics to local market statistics. You can also find even more pet ownership statistics from the American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey.

How They Think

Psychographic and purchase behavior segments provide insight into pet owners by attitudinal and emotions characteristics. Although not as readily accessible as quantitative statistics on pet ownership, you can infer attitudes owners have about their pets from statistics about how owners treat their pets. For instance, the American Pet Products Association's National Pet Owners Survey revealed that 36 percent of dogs sleep in their owner's bed and 59 percent of cats sleep wherever they want. From these nuggets of insight, one might conclude, for example, that at least 36 percent of dog owners view their pets as members of the family and want for their pets no less than what they want themselves.

Hot Buttons

Target market analysis also provides insight into the appeals that could grab the attention of pet owners and trigger a buying decision. For example, the Pet Owners Survey revealed that 69 percent of dog and cat owners have "traditional families," commonly defined as mom, dad and kids living under one roof. You might extrapolate that pet owners and other traditional families respond to the same appeals, such as appeals to family values, safety and protection and a nurturing environment. Target market analysis provides fertile ground for developing hypotheses about your target market. Test to validate your hypotheses with real people before developing a marketing communications strategy.