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Adapted from content excerpted from the American Express® OPEN Small Business Network

It is important to be thorough and specific when creating a description of the target customer for your product or service. This description defines the characteristics of the people you want to sell to and should indicate, among other things, whether your customers are cost or quality conscious, under what circumstances they buy, and what types of concerns they have. If you have an existing business, list your current customers and the trend in your sales to them.

To create a customer definition, describe your target customers in terms of common identifiable characteristics. For example, a catering company could target professional couples in the metro Chicago area who need to hire caterers for their kids' parties. Or it could target corporate event planners in Massachusetts responsible for procuring caterers for internal meetings. A windshield wiper blade business can sell directly to automobile manufacturers, or to aftermarket parts distributors.


  • Narrow the field by briefly describing customers you don't want to reach. High-end general contracting services would not have people who buy on price as customers. An association management consulting service might not be interested in selling to associations with 1,000 or more members.
  • A common mistake is to describe customers in general terms, such as all "people who want to buy a bicycle," or "anyone who needs a resume created." To avoid this stumbling block, use the Customer Profile Worksheet to make a list of the characteristics of the people or companies that will buy your product or service.
  • Be sure to include details of what geographic region you plan to sell to. Is your market national, regional, international, or local?
  • Do not use industry jargon or regional slang that may confuse readers. If you must, define the terms in your business plan.
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