30 May, 2014 12:12

Are you preaching to the wrong choir?

While every business owner or marketing department head certainly has heard that basic rule of advertising — know your target audience — when was the last time you stopped to ask, "How well do I REALLY know my target audience?"

Say, for instance, you run a landscaping business. You know your target audience includes homeowners in your town. But if you take it a few steps further, you may just discover that your true target audience includes homeowners between the ages of 45 and 65 who live within a five-mile radius of the center of town and who have an annual income over $55,000. Sounds pretty specific, right?

The old adage "you can’t please all the people all the time" certainly applies to your marketing efforts. Too many businesses try to be all things to all people, focusing on too broad a demographic. Narrowing your focus can result in a more effective use of your marketing dollars.

If you haven’t taken this particular commandment to heart, it’s likely affecting your marketing for the worse. Here’s how to identify your true target audience.

Playing Detective

Get out your deerstalker. It’s time to play Sherlock Holmes. Identifying your target audience involves a bit of research into demographics. Start by compiling a list of customer characteristics, including age, gender, location, income, education, occupation, ethnicity, martial status, and number of children. Now think about the last few purchases you made. How many of these factors influenced that purchase?

Narrow your focus down to the two most significant factors — we’ll call these your core factors — and then choose up to two "secondary factors" to round out your market. You’ll want to focus your research on these core and secondary factors to really get to know your target audience. Find out where they shop, what’s important to them, which businesses they frequent (both online and off), and what problems they experience that your product or service can solve.

With those answers in place, it’s time to delve deep into your audience and compile the data and information that make them tick. Resources for your research may include:

  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook Insights (analytics available if your business page has at least 30 "likes")
  • Customer review sites (What other businesses are your customers patronizing on Yelp? What appeals to them?)
  • Your competitors’ sites and reviews
  • Surveys or interviews with your current and past customers
  • Hosting small focus groups

Keep in mind that you’re also looking for psychographic information, such as hobbies, interests, lifestyle, attitudes, and beliefs. While demographic information tells you who is most likely to buy your product or service, psychographic data tells you why they’re interested.

When you’re compiling the data, look for common threads that run among your customers. Do they work in similar industries or have similar hobbies? Does your product or service appeal to families with two kids or single professionals? Seeking out similarities makes it easier to target relevant customers.

Develop a Profile

Now that you’ve gathered your research, develop a "typical customer" profile. The goal? To create an in-depth picture of who your customer is. Your profile should contain both demographic information — age, location, marital status, etc. — and psychographic information — values, attitudes, political leanings, hobbies, and the like.

Your profile will help you determine where, exactly, to find your target audience. Do they tend to live in a certain neighborhoods — or certain streets in certain neighborhoods? Do they patronize certain businesses because those places reinforce their values? The better you understand your target customer, the more easily you can tailor your marketing materials to appeal to them.

Remember, your customer profile and your target audience aren’t static. They’ll evolve and change over time, and so should your approach. Determining your target audience isn’t a once-and-done proposition; rather, it’s an ongoing task that grows along with your business.

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