Please help with describing the target market for a business forum!

My ambition is to build Business Advice Forum to be the busiest most user-friendly business forum on the Internet. I have been having a little difficulty defining our target market (in terms of visitors and members, i.e. not advertising or revenue sources). I’m not trying to write a target market description to impress investors or anything like that, my aim is solely to get clarity for myself.

I’ve come up with the target market description below and would love some feedback as to how it could be improved.

Small business owners and those planning on starting a small business - a “small business” in this instance is one that employs one to three people including the owner.

Global market, i.e. not country specific (Ireland, UK, US, India, Australia & New Zealand, Other Asia)

Age Group
16 – 40 year old age group

All levels - Comfortable using the Internet

English speaking but not necessarily as first language

Ambitious, independent, willing to learn

Business Stage
All stages from business idea to established business

Business Size
Employs one to three people, including the owner

Target Market Business Sectors - i.e. business sectors our members would be involved in.

Online Businesses
Website content publishers, earning from ad sales
Forum owners
Website & graphic designers
eBay business owners
SEO & Online marketing services
Programmers & application developers

Traditional Businesses
Consultants & advisors
Food outlets
Agents & distributors
Service providers


I’d be delighted to have experienced business people who are over 40 on the forum, the more the merrier. The age group was never intended to restrict anyone, but I believed that the younger age group would be easier to attract to to the site. Thanks for the feedback.

Personally, I think limiting the upper age in your target is both wrong (I am well over 40 and participate in several business forums along with other business owners over 40) and unnecessary. I can see saying your target is not 12 year olds, but don’t see a purpose in targeting a group that excludes people who often have the most experiences to share.

Agreed, when he first launched the forum I was “oh great, another forum, hope he doesn’t waste too much time on this”.

I visited the other day and to say that I was impressed with what he has accomplished (starting from zero) is an understatement.

Good job man.

Your target market is pretty generic. You need a sawed off shotgun, to cover it. :wink:

I would try to develop 2 - 3 detailed profiles of dream participants. Don’t stop at the demographics. Describe their preferences and dreams as well. What makes them tick, and how can your forum make them tick even better?

hi Fergal -

I think your idea is good and you are off to a great start. Further, I think you are wise to try and nail down your target market so that you can refine the site accordingly.

I notice a few things about your target audience that stand out:

  1. I would agree it’s way, way to broad. But I think you probably know that :slight_smile:

  2. Your list of target businesses is just huge. I’m not sure it’s necessary to limit it to something like ‘web design’ but to get some traction you might want to bring some focus. Maybe something like franchises or single person shops, simple services or home jobs. Or, you could try to enhance an area of interest like taxes, biz formation, or legal. You can always expand, but it might help to get some traction.

  3. You will either have business experts giving advice to newbies, or established business people giving advice to each other. There are things between, but you might want to lean towards one or the other for starters. A lot of business people aren’t really excited to constantly give advice and are more interested in collaborating with peers (this is how it is in real estate forums, which are secretive and avoid newbies).

Looks like the site is going well, although I’m not sure it’s not easy. Keep at it!!

Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that BAF is already a flourishing forum, with healthy post/view counts, so I don’t think Fergal is asking for advice as to whether starting a forum is a viable plan.

I visited BAF for the first time today. I’m not a member yet, but I was very impressed. There are some really interesting threads.

I don’t agree that the target market described is defined too broadly.

The primary definition here of a small business, ie one that employs just 1-3 people, seems pretty tight to me, certainly tightly focused enough to be very relevant to quite specific types of people, with similar day-to-day concerns, similar needs and similar problems - even though they may be in a wide range of business fields.

I’m puzzled by the 16-40 age range however. Age is just a number in this context. Why the early cut-off point? Colonel Sanders didn’t make a start until he was 65!

A forum that genuinely concentrates ONLY on businesses with 1-3 employees has a good chance of gaining popularity. There are plenty of people in this demographic, and there are plenty of people who want to advertise to them too.


I agree. Age correlates to business experience and success, whether our younger colleagues agree or not :slight_smile:

Thanks everyone for your replies and for your kind words regarding the forum. I’ve printed out this thread and will spend some time thinking about it and working to narrow down the target market.

As regards the age of our target market, my feeling was that people under 40 would be more likely to turn to an online forum for advice than the over 40’s. Older people (and I’m not far off 40 myself) are very welcome on their site and their experience and wisdom is very much appreciated.

When I started the forum, my view was that it would be a great resource for people with small traditional businesses, e.g. plumbers, retailers, small manufacturers, etc, etc. It was not my plan, for it to become a webmaster forum. However, as it has grown we have attracted a much higher proportion of members who are making money online and it is our members who have taken the forum in that direction.

Any further suggestions or feedback would be most welcome.

Thanks again!

Agreed and there’s a bigger problem at work which is what I like to call the social paradox.

Essentially, targeting a wide range of visitors (like you are doing) with a generic forum makes you compete with all of the existing and successful forums out there. Forums are literally a dime a dozen and there’s thousands - possibly millions of forums that are simply lying dormant because people just kept cloning or trying to reinvent the wheel which didn’t appeal to an audience. If you want to have any home of success you need to specify a niche audience (a SMALL target group) and from that you’ll gain a regular subset of people who contribute to the originality of your scheme. It’s a simple fact that’s been proven over and over again that if you’re just going to create “yet” another forum (for business or for something else) and you don’t have the existing client base (we’re talking building a forum around an existing service), you simply don’t have a hope in hell of it ever attracting enough of an audience for it to become profitable. The social paradox is that the larger your aim, the less you’ll succeed… in respect to forums, people won’t want to contribute to a new forum with little posters - they want already active communities. I would seriously advise ANYONE thinking of building a forum (as a business) to consider two facts… do they already have an audience (to get those important early seeds of regular contribution sprouting) and do they have a forum idea that is original (hasn’t been attempted before), if the answer in either of those cases is no - don’t even bother. The cost and expense you’ll incur in time and effort will yield little to no results and you’ll just end up as another spam infested failure. :slight_smile:

The one part you can’t count out is many people in business want there to be something in it for them. They want links. They want to tell you about their products. That want to sell their own advice. You need to find a way to harness this without sacrificing the quality of your forum.