How to Figure Out Where Your Targeted Prospects Live Online

targeted prospecting

When it comes to getting found on the Web, the most often overlooked step is how to figure out where your targeted prospects live online.

One reason is the overwhelming emphasis on inbound marketing for this lack. You see, marketing as a whole is often broken into two strategies: inbound and outbound.

  • Outbound marketing tactics such as commercials on TV and ads in magazines aim to catch a prospect’s attention by interrupting what they are currently doing (that’s why outbound marketing is also called “Interruption Marketing”).
  • Inbound marketing tactics such as blogging and social media updates aim to catch a customer’s attention by helping them with what they’re already doing. With this approach, your marketing campaigns don’t interrupt customers; they’re a natural extension of why they went online in the first place (e.g. researching a product before buying, getting the most out of a product they just bought).

Inbound marketing is certainly important (especially content marketing), but somewhere along the way online marketers started to forget outbound marketing tactics altogether and that was a big mistake.

You see, the most important part of outbound marketing is figuring out how to get the most targeted eyeballs on your commercial or ad. For example, if your targeted prospects are men who are health conscious:

  • You do advertise in Men’s Health
  • You don’t advertise in Self

Seems pretty obvious, right? However, many small businesses fail to use the outbound tactic, “get as many targeted eyeballs as you can” alongside their inbound marketing tactics online.

The result? They are publishing their online content where it’s least likely to be seen by their targeted prospects. All the time and effort spent on creating, publishing and promoting their online content will go for naught and that’s a loss few small business owners can afford.

To avoid falling into this trap, you need to figure out where your targeted prospects live online because that’s where they’re most likely to come across your online content.

First, It’s Time to Bust a Couple of Myths

Before you learn how to find your targeted prospects online, it’s time to bust a couple of myths that can undermine your online marketing efforts.

Myth #1: Your Website is the Best Place to Get Found Online

A website is a necessary marketing tool in today’s world. It’s your business’ online branch, the spot that legitimizes you and serves your prospects and customers.

Unfortunately, it’s not always the best place to get found online. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to drive traffic to your website. You need to create a lot of useful content to climb the ranks of search engine results. I know this because I’ve done it on my own site. It was gratifying to see the visitor counts grow, but it never brought me as many leads as I’d hoped.

Instead, I decided to ride the coattails of sites that have already built large traffic numbers. They’ve already done the hard work and put in the effort to attract targeted traffic, a fact that can significantly improves your inbound marketing results.

For example, most of my targeted prospects live on LinkedIn. They’re on there every day to network and identify potential customers. What better way to get in front of them then to write blog posts using LinkedIn’s long form publishing platform. As they’re already there, you don’t have to work as hard to attract them. They’re much more likely to see your content, all of which contains a call-to-action.

Since I’ve begun posting in LinkedIn, I’ve attracted a lot of followers (i.e. targeted leads) who are interested in what I have to say and offer. My list of leads, both LinkedIn followers and those who followed my calls-to-action and were added to my mailing list, has grown significantly faster than it did when I published the same type of posts on my site’s blog.

Those are results you can take to the bank.

Myth #2: You Need to Be Everywhere

One of the most satisfying parts of my job is when I get to tell a client that they can let go. They can ignore Facebook. They can forget about Twitter.

You see, most small business folks are overwhelmed with the mountain of online marketing advice. Everyday they can read posts about the newest social media platform, the hottest blogging plugin and latest online marketing tactic. The result? Overwhelm.

How do folks respond to this situation? By trying to be everywhere at once because, “If I’m not there, I’ll lose business. It can’t hurt to hedge my bets, right?”

The fact is, it can hurt. It can steal your time and energy and, when the results are lower than you’d expected, it can steal your hope.

If you want to avoid getting sucked down by the online marketing whirlpool, you need to get focused. You need to concentrate on the online spots where your content is most likely to be seen by your targeted prospects.

You need to know how to figure out where your targeted prospects live online.

How to Figure Out Where Your Targeted Prospects Live Online

There are three approaches you can use to discover where your targeted prospects live online:

Use User Demographics

A little research online will reveal the user demographics for many popular social media sites. Using these demographics, you can discover where your targeted prospects live online.

For example, using the data you’ll discover here, you’ll learn that “80 percent of Pinterest users are female. Beyond this, more than 90 percent of all pins are created/shared by women.”

If your targeted prospects are or include women, you should begin spending a lot more time publishing and promoting your online content on Pinterest.

targeted prospecting

Use Industry Demographics

Like user demographics, industry demographics can help you find the spots where your online prospects hang out.

For example, a bit of online research led to the chart below where you’ll discover the industries with the most post interactions on Facebook. If your small business is in the automotive, airline or fashion industry, then Facebook needs to be a priority.

targeted prospecting

Look for Them

Of course, you can always look for your prospects online yourself. This may take a bit of effort, but the results can be worth it.

Here are three ways to look for your targeted prospects online:

  1. Groups and Communities (both public and private): Facebook groups (both public and private) and Google+ communities are ideal places to search for your prospects. Once you find one that looks promising, use this short checklist to figure out if it’s a potential platform for your content:
  • Little SPAM: many groups and communities are overrun with SPAM, posts that are promotional and not useful, as online content should be. Avoid these spots because the members are much more likely to disengage and ignore any content that’s posted there.
  • Updated recently: has someone posted to the group or community this week? This month? If not, the spot might be dead and not worth your effort.
  • On topic: if the group says it’s one thing, but the post topics are another, then you may not want to jump in. A well-focused group has attentive and effective moderators — those are the groups for your content.
  • Conflict of interest: if a competitor created the group or community, it may not be worth your effort to be heard there. First check to see how other competitors were handled. If none have posted there at all, an indication that the moderator deleted their posts, then move on.
  1. Discussion Boards and Forums: once the mainstay of the Web, there are still many of these spots thriving online today. Typically organized by topic, industry or some other specific demographic, these can be fertile spots to find prospects.
  2. Hashtags: adding hashtags (#) to your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ posts will help your targeted prospects discover your content. That’s because they can search using hashtags and, if they’re searching for information relevant to your business, your content will be included in the results.

Test Each Online Spot

Once you’ve identified a spot where your targeted prospect might hang out online, test it using this simple three-step process:

  1. Publish 3-5 pieces of content there (e.g. posts, social media updates, images, etc.). Make sure to include a call-to-action within each such as, “Click here to go to my website and download my eBook”.
  2. Then, use a tool like Google Analytics to track how many people came to your website from that spot as well as how many of those prospects actually converted into leads by submitting the form to download your eBook.
  3. Continue to post content to the spots that lead to the most conversions (i.e. they not only come to your site, they also submit the eBook form) and stop posting to the spots that don’t perform.


Inbound marketing is much more effective if you publish and promote your content in the spots where your prospects live online.

The math is simple really: a large number of targeted and engaged prospects present in one spot + your content = a higher chance of converting those prospects into leads.

Follow this formula to not only become a more effective online marketer, but also to free up your time to focus on what’s really important: closing sales and serving your customers and clients.

Target Photo via Shutterstock 3 Comments ▼

Matt Mansfield Matt Mansfield is the Tech Editor and SEO Manager at Small Business Trends where he is responsible for directing and writing many of the site’s product reviews, technology how-to’s, and lists of small business resources as well as increasing the reach of our content.

3 Reactions
  1. Gabrielle Hailmann

    Great tips! Knowing and finding your prospects are the first two important steps. Converting those visitors into leads and leads into sales is how you make your investment in marketing profitable. You need to understand, monitor and optimize the entire sales journey to get to your destination.

    Thank you for your blog.

    Gabrielle Hailmann CEO of Lead Generation

  2. The affinity and inmarket reports within Google Analytics can also help in developing where prospective customers go online and then tailoring AdWords and other digital ads to appeal to the audience. I liked Myth 1 and how it was explained. Unfortunately there are still small businesses who see their websites as a brochure, something static rather than as software which require effort to build exposure online. There’s an increasing debate about reach being dead, that pay to play is the strategy that draws traffic. That may be debated, but developing marketing strategies is increasingly important as digital evolves into a mainstream requirement for business.