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Do you really know your target audience and what motivates them to buy? If you don’t, then you’re missing out on revenue and profit opportunities.
Not knowing the wants and needs of your target audience reduces your ability to develop a product or service that provides solutions to their wants and needs. Add to that, your pricing, selling points, and promotional efforts may all be off the mark and hurt your ability to generate sales. Being off-target also means you are wasting a good portion of your advertising dollars because your message does not connect with and motivate your audience.
Figuring out your target audience
It’s important to understand your buyer – whether it’s direct-to-consumer or B2B. If you want to improve your return-on-marketing efforts, there are some basic steps you can take at minimal to no cost. Here are questions you should be able to answer, recognizing that your product or service may cater to multiple target audiences.
Demographics: In addition to influencing product/service development and pricing, these factors have a strong impact on your choice of advertising and communication vehicles, and the corresponding language and imagery.
- What percent of your customers fall within what age ranges? A 20+ year old does not make purchase decisions like a 40+ or 60+ year old.
- Income levels. Are they low-income, middle, affluent?
- Education. High school, some college, BA, MBA?
- Ethnicity- cultural factos influence purchasing behavior and customer loyalty.
- Religion-can determine what a customer can purchase, e.g. the Jewish faith with kosher food requirements.
- Gender-Men and women don’t make buying the decisions the same way (surprise!)
- Martial status- different decisions factor can weigh in when married vs. single.
Most of this free information is available through the U.S. Census Bureau online, and can be looked at nationally, regionally or locally. If your target audience is a business, you can also research industry trends and statistics that will influence the buying behavior of companies within that segment; such data is often available through trade publications.
Another powerful tool you have at your fingertips is the customer survey. Properly designed, you can gather a wealth of data about your target audience. But an important caveat: GIGO (garbage in-garbage out). If the survey isn’t correctly designed, the information may be of little use – or even worse, send you off in the wrong direction.
A final note
Target audiences are a moving target (no pun intended). Customers are constantly evolving in response to changing situations and stimuli. Examples: The Great Recession shrank consumer buying power. Technology and automation are shrinking demand for employees. A global economy means companies are forced to look beyond their country’s borders at both opportunities and competition.
Are you boring when it comes to presenting your business to prospects? If so, you may be encouraging them just to choose you based on price.
Too often, neither printed materials nor a website markets a company as effectively as they could because the choice of words fails to differentiate the firm from the competition. Given that statistics indicate that 80% of people now check out a company’s website to learn more about them, it’s vital to realize that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it, that can make a tremendous difference.
Let’s start with three common points that everybody seems to say – and see if you recognize yourself.
- “We provide great customer service.”- Do you know anybody who announce they provide lousy customer service?
- “We care about our customers.” Well, I certainly hope so! But isn’t this a given-unless you are doing something remarkable.
- “We do our work with pride and integrity.” Isn’t this expected of you?
I call these “So what?” selling points, because they are a given – of course you do this. The problem is that when you rely on these as your key selling points, you sound like everybody else out there. That means customers are more likely to compare your products or services based on price. Which you don’t want.
Instead, you want them to compare you on value – all the additional end-benefits they get by working with you, instead of a competitor. Stuff you can’t necessarily put a price on, but implies that the quality of your product or service will be far superior.
You want to stand out. How do you do that? By writing your copy from the viewpoint of the customer. In other words, how does your product or service satisfy their wants and needs? That’s what a prospect is really looking for when they are learning about you – how do you fulfill their needs better than somebody else? It’s all in the language.
Look at it this way – a BMW has 4-wheels and an engine; so does a VW Bug. They are both cars that get you where you want to go. Why do some people by one or the other? Because the language is written specifically to “push the hot buttons” of the target audience. Not only what they need in a car, but what they want in a car. One of these wants is what the cars say to others about them. Such as, “Look at me!”, “Wouldn’t you like to be as successful as I am?”, “I like to have fun,” “I’m environmentally conscious.”
Some simple real life examples:
Picture framing company
- Typical selling point: “We have a great slection of frames at great prices.”
- End-benefit oriented selling point: “Make your picture stand out with our extensive selection of frames designed to fit every budget.”
- Typical: Satisfaction guaranteed. Free estimates.
- End-benefit: Making homes look beautiful for over 20 years.
- Typical: Your comfort and satisfaction is our goal.
- End-benefit: Come in for a great smile.
Your choice of words is one of your most critical marketing tools. Watch your language!
We all know that a loyal customer is priceless. The old 80/20 rule puts it best: 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. But if you don’t take care of them, you risk losing them to a competitor.
Know who they are. This may seem obvious, but I am often surprised at how companies don’t keep track of their best customers. If you don’t know, then it’s time to find out. Identify your best customers by a specific measurement, such as sales, profits, business size, frequency of visits, etc.
Make them feel special. In a world of automated phone systems and technology, people really do feel like “just a number”. Recognition is a powerful way to differentiate yourself from competitors and keep them coming back. Recognition can be as simple as greeting them by name whenever you speak with them – and making sure your employees do the same. Read on to learn other budget-smart ways to build customer relationships.
6 Quick & Easies
- Good old-fashioned ‘Thank You for your patronage’ cards. Seriously. People send mail so rarely that a handwritten TY Card will stand out and be remembered.
- Thanksgiving cards. Most people send Christmas cards, so they become one big blur. Send a Thanksgiving card, and you’ll be remembered.
- Spice the cards up. Consider including a gift card. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. It can be to a coffee shop or area restaurant you know they are likely to visit. Or to your own place. The value can be influenced by how important the customer is, and where the gift card is to be spent.
- Cash register surprise. When they make a purchase, from time to time, surprise them with an unexpected discount or special goodie. For example, if you’re a restaurant, offer them a free dessert or beverage of their choice. Always remember to thank them by name when you present it, so they’ll feel extra special.
- Birthday Club. Invite people to join your birthday club, and create a list which you check daily. Email a birthday greetings or, better yet, send a birthday card wishing them a great birthday, and thanking them for their business. Consider including a gift card or discount coupon.
- Testimonial request. Ask them for a testimonial that you can use on your website and with your marketing materials. Position it as free PR for them. The message you’re giving them is that you value their business so much that you’re proud to showcase them to others.
The objective of Focus Groups is to gather in-depth data on a variety of questions from those individuals defined as the potential target audience for a product, service, or concept. In other words, the consumer’s viewpoint.
Because of the qualitative nature of the research, Focus Groups are principally used to obtain a GNS (Gross Negative Screen). In other words, to spot directional trends—negative or positive—that are likely to impact the concept being presented. If a strong enough trend emerges—ie. pronounced like or dislike—a ‘red flag’ is considered to have been raised, requiring additional discussion and evaluation before proceeding further with the research. Focus Groups are considered qualitative research, unless enough of them are conducted to create a statistically valid sample (minimum 30 respondents; preferably 50).
Focus Groups can be run before, after or in conjunction with other ongoing quantitative or qualitative research. Often, the results are distilled down to key issues, and then those issues are incorporated into a subsequent quantitative research project which seeks to validate (or invalidate) the data, and provide statistically sound results upon which to base strategic decisions.
The Client should clearly define exactly what they want the Focus Groups to accomplish, as well as providing the research firm with a good contextual background on where the Focus Groups “fit” in the larger strategic objectives of the brand/service/company. The more information and better oriented the research firm is, the better able they will be to craft a productive set of Focus Groups.
There can be multiple objectives within a Focus Group, but they should be logically associated with each other. If they are too broad, development of questions for the Moderator’s Guide, etc. becomes difficult and the resulting data will not be very useful. These objectives should be fairly specific, ie. measure response to different pricing levels; evaluate a packaging concept.
Properly designed Focus Groups are a powerful research tool, whether used to evaluate products or services, or to explore new ideas, concepts or issues.
Company owners, presidents and managers, beware! Your most important advertising tools may be damaging your business!
During a recent highway drive in heavy traffic, my attention was captured by two repair trucks from Company ABC hurtling up the far left lane at speeds well in excess of 65mph. They cut me off, wove in and out of traffic, and were soon lost to sight. There was just one small problem they hadn’t considered: I had noted the trucks’ vehicle numbers.
What People Will Remember
I contacted the company, described the incident and requested to speak with the President, to whom I gave the particulars, wrapping it up with one salient point. “Your employees forgot that they are a traveling billboard. What people will remember about your company is, ‘dangerous drivers.’ Why would I want to call your firm for service if that’s the type of people you hire?” About a week later the President actually called me back to share that both drivers were summoned to his office and received a written warning. He remarked that they were stunned that anyone had taken the time to report them.
Consider these similar situations:
Two clerks at the store kept talking to each other while ringing me up, completely ignoring me until I interrupted to point out a mistake. The clerk was rude to me for the balance of the transaction. I tracked down a manager to complain, pointing out the same customer service ‘risk of exposure.’
At a restaurant, I overheard several people at lunch using non-stop profanity as they loudly talked about various topics (including the company they worked for). All were wearing company attire with prominent logos. I contacted the company, and was connected with their manager.
Don’t Neglect “Customer Interaction” Training
In the craziness of day-to-day operations, company owners and managers often either neglect to train employees or to reinforce the training that when they drive a vehicle, wear company-branded attire, or are serving at the counter, they represent the firm – for better or for worse. Too often, it’s for worse.
The moment an employee leaves the business premises, or if the manager/supervisor is not present, some may think that careless driving, rudeness, or even foul language is acceptable, as long as it’s not directed at the customer, since they “know” it will not get back to their boss. They assume that nobody will report their behavior.
But the damage they do to a firm’s image is significant. The message they send is that the company’s owners, managers and the company itself don’t care enough about customers to train their employees correctly. And that in turn can imply the firm may not care enough about quality of product or service either. Which leads to a prospective buyer wondering, why should people buy or hire from them?
Remember that in our viral communications environment, bad experiences – direct or indirect – are rapidly shared, and can hurt a company’s bottom line. Think Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google, Bing – the many different places people can post reviews.
Marketing is More than Advertising
Marketing a business isn’t just about placing ads. It starts with employees who are a company’s most important billboard. In their demeanor, language and interaction with everyone, at every point of contact, whether direct or indirect. This reality has to be part of training of every employee – not just the ones at the counter. It should be a stated section in the HR/Employee Handbook. And an annual refresher is vital as an element of a company meeting. As part of this, it helps to recognize employees who have received positive customer feedback.
A business owner or manager can’t fix such shoddy behavior unless somebody tells them about it. Because I believe they would want the opportunity to correct things, I contact them. Everyone deserves a second chance. And if you’re wondering, yes, I contact companies to praise exceptional performance as well. What goes around, comes around.