It’s planning season for many businesses. That’s why over seven weeks we’re posing seven questions you should ask yourself and your team that will inform your marketing plan for 2020. This week we explore our second vital question: "Who is your target audience?"
Defining your target audience will help you refine what it is your business offers the public: product, price, the kind of promotions you run and more. It can affect where you locate your business, how to split it between bricks-and-mortar and online efforts, and even give you a sense of its viability; put simply, are there enough customers out there interested in what you have to offer? Developing a target audience also will help you contain costs by making sure you’re focusing your efforts and resources on the right people.
So, where do you start? You need to look at your potential customers from four main angles: demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioural.
This is basic statistical or community information that may include age, race, religion, gender, family size, ethnicity, income, and education. This is the kind of information you can collect from local census data, chambers of commerce or other trade associations. Many libraries also can help you develop this information.
Example: You want to open a trendy coffee shop in your town’s high street, as it’s always been hard to find a good brew and some artisan baked treats. Your demographics, however, indicate that your town’s high street has been in decline for years, and that joblessness and low wages have kept the local economy stagnant. You may have to adjust your expectations of what to offer on your menu in terms of price as well as the expense of the ingredients in your baked goods. You may also have to consider a different location if you feel your upscale product will do better in a wealthier part of town.
Quite simply where do they live and work? And how do these factors contribute to their habits, preferences and decision making?
Example: if you’re a travel booking firm, people in the north or Europe may need a cheap holiday destination to get some sun in the winter, while people in the south may prefer information on snow skiing. Even at a local level, you’ll need to decide what the boundaries are for your business territory, if any – or how you’ll need to connect with people who must drive to your shop and park vs. locals who might walk by your shop each day. This holds true for online businesses as well – just because people can access you from anywhere doesn’t mean their geography doesn’t affect their preferences and behaviours.
The term might sound scary, but essentially this research is about understanding your audience on an emotional level. What are their needs, concerns, values, beliefs, hopes, aspirations, interests, opinions and lifestyle?
A golden rule to remember is that all purchases are done on an emotional level (information you provide tends to back up those emotional choices). Are they already loyal to a competitor – or are they the type of people who respond more to price than forming a brand relationship? Do they believe it’s better to shop locally or do they seek out companies with a social mission? Or are they champion bargain hunters who get a thrill from finding a deal? Understanding what’s important to your customers will go a long way to making sure you market in ways most relevant to them.
Example: “Rashid,” 19, is passionate about climate change and wants to do what he can every day to do what he can personally to limit his carbon footprint, but also to support environmental causes. He actively avoids single-use plastics, takes transit and bikes but avoids flying, and seeks out food shops and other vendors who limit their plastic packaging. He is a student in a local university and hopes to make a career in either environmental science or politics.
This is where you seek to understand what your customers do. How do they obtain information about new services? How do they buy new products or services? How do they use the internet to learn about products or spend money? Are these urbanites who walk everywhere or suburban families who spend a lot of time in the car? How do they behave when buying something – quickly looking online for a deal, asking friends for referrals, going into shops and asking for advice? Digital marketers specialise in focusing only on people’s online behaviours while searching, navigating websites and social media or purchasing online.
Example: If your customers celebrate Christmas, how do they buy gifts for others? Do they visit independent shops and markets, visit a big-box store or shopping mall, or do they buy online? Or is there a mix you can identify? Are they usually return to the same, dependable brands (like their favourite butcher or wine brand) or do they tend to try something new based on what’s trendy? Do they spend time on finding the perfect gift or are they more likely to buy a simple store voucher and let the gift’s recipient decide how to redeem it?
Tying it all together: buyer personas
A technique used by many marketers is to imagine model characters as your typical customers – buyer personas. You likely have more than one type of customer, and this technique is a fun way to imagine them – how each lives, thinks, behaves. Some marketing firms have even created physical environments to imagine in painstaking detail how their customers live. Others use the method to create a marketing campaign tailored to each personality type and compare results to see who’s really responding to what’s being sold.
In our marketing mentoring programme, we use a persona tool to help our clients develop each of these customer segments.
Example: “Betty” is a suburban mother of 37 with two kids, a husband and a dog. She works full time in an office. In her spare time, she gets to the gym 2-3 times per week and likes to cook for her family, especially on the weekend. She likes buying handmade and local products as gifts but only has time to buy them online. She often looks at Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration and then searches online marketplaces or the online home of local shops for something she will actually order.
The bottom line: the more you know about your customers’ daily lives, attitudes, values, preferences and behaviours, the better chance you can develop your business and your marketing methods that are truly relevant.
Question 3, “What are your marketing goals?” We’ll look at how to develop SMART marketing objectives – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
"What are your business goals?" What can you quantify about your revenue, products sold, services provided, etc.? Any marketing plan should be rooted in this essential information. Read more.
I'm Tim Hart, owner, coach and trainer at LoveSmallBiz.com. I'm also owner of marketing communications firm Hart Communications.