Who is your target audience? This is one of the first questions you must ask yourself as a new business, and one you should continue asking as your product/service evolves…and as your customer does.
Determining who you are selling to and who you want to sell to may seem simple, but it’s a complex process – as complex as your audience. But you need this information in order to compete in any market. Without it, you have a product with no consumer to buy it, like a film with no audience to watch what you’ve spent hours upon hours writing, producing, shooting, and editing. How will you communicate your message if you don’t know who you’re talking to?
In short, you must define your ideal customer. You might even do this before you build your product or service, as your ideal customer can inspire the features and design of your product. And after you’ve defined your consumer base, your marketers must present this product to your target audience in the best possible voice, through the best possible channels. To do this, again, they must have a refined definition of who you’re targeting.
As popular as you imagine your product may be, you are not likely delivering one that will serve all. A marketer narrows down the audience in order to communicate your company’s message directly to them. A broad campaign will lack the heart and personality necessary to compete in today’s market, while a more direct and specifically targeted campaign will speak to your customer heart-to-heart. This is effective marketing.
The following are seven quick steps to build an effective marketing campaign and help define and serve your ideal customer:
1. Define your ideal customer: Select your criteria
To market effectively, you must select the criteria that will determine your ideal customer (i.e., the consumer you’re determined to sell to).
This is the difficult part, because there are endless possibilities when it comes to categorizing your audience and sorting them according to your criteria. To select criteria, consider your brand. Highlight those factors that most closely identify with your audience and can enable your business to connect with their wants/needs. For instance, if you’re selling a teen acne product, age will likely be one of your criteria in determining your audience and, thus, your brand message.
Apart from age and other demographics, you might also consider your consumers’ attitudes and worldviews, which we’ll talk about in the next section. These will narrow down your target audience and give you a better idea of how to deliver your message specifically to them on a human level.
By selecting criteria, you are narrowing your field and shutting out those who you have no intention of selling to. Although this also narrows your consumer base, it means you can more effectively target your audience, as you no longer have to accommodate their values, wants, needs, and beliefs in your marketing campaign.
2. Market Segmentation: Discover your target audience’s needs/wants
At some point, you might assume your audience must know as much about your brand as you do. But this is where you should step away from your brand and into the skin of your target audience.
Now that you know your target’s demographic and perspective, look at your brand from their point of view: if you’re a new brand, your audience may be hearing about you for the first time, and first impressions are important. So laying out all the benefits of your brand in a voice that relates to your audience is key.
Placing yourself in the skin of your audience will also allow you to spot any potential failings in the understanding or use of your product, as well as to identify any weak points in your message. By discovering your target audience’s needs and wants, you are better able to produce and manage a marketing campaign free of branding errors or inconsistencies in your message.
How do you learn this information?
The main technique to discovering what your audience wants is market segmentation, which involves grouping your audience into smaller subgroups – those with common interests. By identifying commonalities between these natural groups, you can better focus your message to communicate with various audiences.
The four main groupings are geographical segmentation, demographic segmentation, behavioral segmentation, and psychographic segmentation.
Geographical segmentation divides your target audience by locale – and that’s any locale that you so desire, whether neighborhood, city, region, state, or nation. This will give you an understanding of your catchment area, while also determining the region’s climate or topographical characteristics, which may directly impact your product’s sales there. For instance, you’re not likely to sell many snow tires in Florida!
Demographic segmentation includes descriptors for groups of people, like ethnicity, gender, age, and income. These will help identify which consumers will most benefit from your product and help you to form a brand message to communicate with them. By considering demographic segmentation, you can narrow your target audience significantly and therefore focus your message. If you’ve created a gender-specific service or product, for example, you’ll only need to target half the population with your marketing campaign.
A combination of geographical and demographic segmentation is called geo-clustering. This targets the right audience in the right place.
Behavioral segmentationhelps to identify the behavioral patterns of your target audience. Your current customers and potential customers will have behavioral patterns that likely determine common group traits, and this will help you target them specifically. For instance, a restaurant may target groups differently than singles or couples. This allows the same business to offer services to different segments, based upon their behaviors.
Psychographic segmentation involves identifying the aspirations, lifestyles, and values of your customer. Instead of segmenting based upon the fixed tangible descriptors for a grouping (geography, demographic, etc.), psychographic segmentation groups consumers based upon how they see themselves. This type of segmentation data is often determined by polls and surveys.
3. Communicate effectively: Open up the right channels
Publishing an ad in a newspaper or magazine may have been all the rage in the ‘60’s, but advertising has changed shape. Nowadays there are dozens of mediums by which to reach out to your target audience.
According to Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content at marketingsherpa, “a large majority of U.S. adults — 72% — prefer communication with companies to happen through email.” According to the site’s survey, apart from email, many customers actually prefer traditional versus digital communication. Again, however, this depends upon the market you are targeting.
Your channels of communication should align with the audience you want to reach. If you’re a business in a small town, for instance, running an ad in the local paper a la ‘60’s advertising may be just what you need.
But to reach a larger nationwide target audience, ask yourself how your audience gets their information. Print media, radio, television, the web; these are all potential channels of communication that will help you reach your consumer through a means they’ll actually digest. The information your target audience takes in through their channels of choice should include your brand message.
4. Promote your business: Gear your message toward your audience
You will see both the similarities and differences between customer groups when you segment your market, and this will allow you to appeal to each of these groups via different promotions and message tweaks. You can also adapt your product or services to meet specific needs.
Segmenting will allow you to focus on delivering competitive value to various segments by offering a different message or packaging to different groups. For instance, the restaurant previously mentioned may offer the same product to families as they do to couples, but by communicating their services via a different message, they’re promoting their business using the information they received from segmentation. On the other hand, you might also choose to maintain the same brand message for all customers while offering a range of different products to meet varied needs.
Consider adapting your product according to the importance of certain aspects of service to specific audiences. Does one segment value super-speedy service and reliability? When you’re communicating with this market, highlight these areas of your service.
5. Engage your customers: Interact and react
In today’s market, you must be on your game. You and your customers are no longer remote players; you are interactive members of communication. This means communication with your customers and delivery of your product or service must be all-engaging.
According to Aj Agrawal, CEO of Alumnify and contributor to Inc., to do this, you must “engage consumers with relevant, intriguing information that educates or entertains, earning their interest instead of buying it.”
So instead of putting pointless mumbo jumbo out into the world, a better strategy for winning over your audience is to provide information that’s relevant to them – information they’ll find helpful or entertaining. This helps build a rapport with your target audience and converts one-time buyers into loyal customers.
6. Track your results: Determine if your message was communicated to your target audience
Now that you’ve sent your brand message out into the world, you must measure whether or not your target audience has heard it. You can do this through surveys, polls, or by simply reading consumer responses to your channels.
More often than not, despite your intentions, you may find a different demographic or audience is responding to your marketing campaign. This may mean that you’re using the wrong marketing channels to reach your target audience.
7. Refine your actions: Make changes wherever needed
Once you’ve measured how effective your consumer communication has been, improve upon it.
For instance, if your message didn’t reach your intended audience as in the above example, you may receive significant feedback from the audience it did reach. The feedback may be positive, which would suggest that you expand your initial target audience to include certain other demographics you hadn’t yet considered. The point is, your target audience should not be fixed. It should evolve with the brand and with the feedback you receive about your message.
Neither should your campaign be fixed. The feedback you receive from your audience will tell you exactly how to fine tune your message, tone, and brand identity. All you must do is be open to your audience’s responses and smart about optimizing your message to reach consumers more effectively.
Above all, customers want their time to be valued. An article by analyst, Kate Leggett, on forrester states that according to a 2013 report, “71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.” Keep this in mind when creating and communicating with your customers.