An astonishing number of small businesses don’t have any clue as to who their target audience is. They’re not even sure who they are trying to market to, the problems that their audience face, or why they’re targeting this market in the first place. What do their target market like, dislike, want and need? What are their pain points? Many small businesses just don’t have an idea.
But unless you are intimately familiar with your target market, you won’t be able to get through to them. If you want to send out effective messages and run an enticing brand that gets results, you need to go that one step further and take the time to better understand your customers.
So how do you do that? Here are a few strategies that you can use.
Rethink Your Assumptions
This first step is the most crucial – rethinking your assumptions may even be what you need in order to redefine your target audience clearly. These days, assumptions alone are simply not good enough when it comes to figuring out who your target audience are, what they want, what they need, and the problems that they’re facing that you can help to solve.
For example, let’s say that you’ve decided your target is young men. Go further.
- Why are young men your target?
- Dig deeper into the demographic.
- How old are they exactly?
- Where are they from?
- How much do they earn?
- Are they professionals or students?
- Do they have families? Partners?
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- What are the issues that they are facing?
You may have even made assumptions regarding certain direction styles or the type of messaging that you expect to appeal most to your target audience, but don’t take any of it for granted. Unless you’ve got data, rather than anecdotal evidence backing up any claim about your target audience, let go of it.
Learn from Others
Learning from what others have found before you is one of the best entry-level marketing strategies. Spend some time reading up on:
- Case studies
- Psychological analyses
- Buyer personas
You can find these in industry reports, from general market researchers, sociologists, and even from your competitors in some cases. Filter the data that you find to make sure that the research you use is as relevant and as recent as possible.
Come Up with a Customer Persona
Once you have managed to collect enough objective data on your target audience and began to form solid conclusions regarding who they are, what they need and want, and what their likes and dislikes are, you can begin putting a customer persona together.
A customer persona is:
- A fictional ‘ideal customer’ character
- A character who exhibits all the traits that you’d expect the average member of your target audience to have
- It should include hard factors such as age, gender, level of education, income
- Including disposition factors, like sensitivity, temperament, or curiosity
Some questions to ask before you determine your customer persona include:
- Who has already bought from your company? Seeing who is already spending money on your product or service can help you get a clearer idea of the type of person that it appeals to.
- What does my network think? As you begin defining your target market and customer persona, it can be both challenging and expensive to seek feedback from your potential customers using surveys and focus groups. Instead, tap into your social networks and use them to get free feedback; social media polls, or simply asking for opinions in a post can go a long way in helping you understand more about your audience.
- Am I making assumptions? It’s sometimes all too easy to fall into the trap of making assumptions based on your own personal experience and knowledge. This can often make you believe that you understand your target market before you do any research, and even though in some cases you may already be quite knowledgeable, it’s not enough. For example, if you’re looking to sell a product to moms and you are a mom yourself, you might think that you understand your customer – but you’ll be surprised at what you don’t know.
- How will I sell my product or service? Evaluating your competitors’ marketing strategies can help you better define your own target customer. But once you define your target audience, don’t simply copy what your competitors are doing. Take what you’ve learned to send a message that will resonate with your audience that differentiates you from the others.
- How will I find my customers? As you begin to define your target audience, it’s important to figure out whether or not you are able to effectively market to them. You should conduct some market research and study the demographic of your target market in order to better understand their purchasing patterns. For example, if you are selling from a physical store, you will need to know how many members of your target audience live close by. On the other hand, if you’re selling from an eCommerce website, you’ll need to better understand the online behavior of your audience. Analytics tools can help you do this; learn more about marketing analytics from Emerson College Online.
Conduct Quantitative and Qualitative Surveys:
Once you’ve determined who your ideal customer is, it’s time to start gathering research and data that you can use to back up your assumptions. Begin with large-scale, quantitative surveys that cover the widest cross-section of your target audience possible. You should offer multiple-choice questions as these allow you to gather firm statistics that teach you more about your target audience’s habits.
Ask questions relevant to your product and brand, such as:
- ‘How important is (the product) to you?’
- ‘What would make you consider buying (your product)?’
- How much would you be willing to spend on (your product)?’
Then conduct smaller-scale qualitative surveys designed to complement your quantitative research. While the data that you gather from these will not be as objective, it will be very useful in helping you to gather more detailed insights into your target audience and what makes them tick.
Target a small sample of your audience members and use open questions to gather answers that provide you with longer and more detailed responses.
Again, you should ask questions that are relevant to your brand and product or service, like:
- ‘What do you feel when you see this image (of your product or somebody using it for example)?’
- ‘What does the following phrase (e.g., a CTA or marketing material) mean to you?’
Study Your Competitors
Chances are, your competitors have already conducted some market research of their own and put what they found into action. If you have competitors who are targeting the same audience as you, it’s worth taking the time to observe how they do it.
Look at the way that they advertise and write to their potential customers and take note of what appears to be having an impact on your audience. If they don’t seem to be having much of an impact at all, you know to avoid using the same methods.
In any case, whether you decide to go down the same route as your competitors or a different one altogether, looking for ways to distinguish yourself is the key factor.
It can also be useful to look for other popular products and services – perhaps unrelated to your industry – that your target audience is interested in. How do they get their message across successfully to your audience? What kind of marketing messages do they put out? How do they engage with your target audience online? How do these brands position themselves?
Listen to Social Conversations
Social media is one of the best marketing tools in any small business’s arsenal, and it can be used very successfully to define your target audience and see where your brand currently stands in terms of their opinions. Social listening software enables you to curate targeted social lists and zero in on what’s being said about your brand online.
Don’t just stop at social media, either; use tools like Google Analytics to determine how users behave on your site, and heatmap tools to see what draws visitors into your website or landing page the most, the areas of it where they are spending the most time, and whether or not they are getting confused and where. Evaluate how your target audience is interacting with your brand. Do you get a lot of social shares? Blog post comments? Video comments on YouTube? Use the data that you uncover to fine-tune your approach.
Go even further and check out what else your target audience is talking about, too. Which other brands are they following? What kind of music are they listening to? What TV shows are they watching? What trending topics are they following? Who do they usually interact with and why?
Today, defining your target market is a key first step to any successful marketing campaign. In order to send messages that resonate with your target audience, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of who they are and what they want.