“Customers buy for their reasons, not yours” – Orvel Ray Wilson
You had a great idea and have been able to cobble together the resources, funding and the wherewithal to create a unique service or product out of that idea… Excellent so far! However, you now come to the biggest challenge of all: reaching a target audience. Getting the word out is part of the challenge; ensuring that the word reaches the right audience is the other part of the challenge. So how will you get out the word about your product/ service and ensure that the word reaches those people who are most likely to become your customers? What are the most effective ways to reach your target audience?
The founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, Milton Hershey had a simple mantra for success: give them quality; that is the best kind of advertising he said. Fair enough -quality does indeed speak for itself. However, we live in far more complex times when competition is cutthroat; where effective communication takes many different forms. The straightforward marketing techniques that worked earlier may well work today; but you will need a lot more to set you and your product apart; to gain a foothold within the crowded mind space of the would-be customer where so many jostle for space.
The first and most obvious step towards letting people know about your brand and to know the most effective ways to reach your target audience, would be to identify the people you want your message to reach. This requires significant amounts of research and data gathering; while you may be thinking that it is worth your while to engage a professional to carry out market research for you, there is much that you can do yourself.
The age, gender, income group, age group, geographical region that you want to target – you probably have a good idea about this given that you know your product/ service, and its utility best. Another way to identify your target audience is to observe your competition to understand the core audience and how the competition serves him. Research, studies and surveys will also offer insight to help decide upon effective ways to reach your target audience.
The type of product or service you offer will largely determine your target audience. A makeup blog holds no interest for the male demographic for instance. If you customize skateboards, you are hardly going to benefit from communicating with senior citizens. A product such as e-cigarettes is not interesting for anyone other than a smoker or someone close to a smoker who wishes that their loved one would give up the habit. An educational product or service is not likely to be of interest to anyone except educators or perhaps parents of school going children. If someone is offering a cleaning service this is necessarily for a specified geographical area.
If your product is generic and appeals to several different demographics, find other ways to identify your target audience. For instance if its clothes you are selling, obviously everyone needs those! However research shows that about 50% of millennial women (as opposed to 36% of older women) shop for clothes on an average twice a month and millennial men spend twice as much on clothes when compared with other generations of men.
Use a funnel approach to arrive at your target by such a process of elimination so you do not waste your time or resources communicating with people who are not likely to be your customers. Once you know whom you want to get across the message of your product or service to, you can decide what means of communication to use. If your target audience is young and tech savvy, you can of course use social media and online resources to send out your message. If fact you ignore this at your own peril!
Older target audiences may be less tech savvy and also more reluctant to receive information from unconventional sources. They may not only be more familiar with print media or periodicals, they may trust these sources more as well. While TV has mass appeal and perhaps the widest reach, it is an expensive medium. Consider radio – a conventional platform with a very wide reach but with lower costs than TV in terms of content creation and dissemination.
For some products and services, events or sponsorship may be the way to creating awareness and brand awareness. In some cases, sales promotions are the most effective way to communicate with an audience because the idea of getting discounts is just that attractive to some consumers. Networking and creating partnerships are other ways of getting your message out there; where your relationship with established brands can be leveraged to translate into sales for you – some of the most effective ways to reach your target audience.
Creating viral content can be a very effective and economical way to get your point across as well. You would of course have to give a great deal of thought to how you would go about creating the type of interesting and original content that people are going to like enough to share willingly; the type of content that is likely to go viral. Consider for instance, the witty Nutella adverts that everyone was sharing not so long ago. The campaign tapped into the popularity of the product itself and the special relationship that so many have with the nutty, gooey sweet brown stuff! Sometimes a viral campaign may simply be that clever or may relate to a social issue so that people feel compared to share it. Witness the huge success of the Dumb Ways to Die campaign. Originally created to increase safety on Melbourne’s Metro trains, the campaign became so popular it took on a life all its own. Similarly, in a viral campaign, your message may be by the way; but it will still be communicated.
Consider a popular toiletries company’s advertisements that showed how makeup, air brushing and other artificial aids that can help people look better. Not only did these ads go viral for the truth they spoke of and the self-affirming impact they had, they helped create a specific type of brand awareness for itself. Consumers started to associate the company with honesty, which had an additional hugely beneficial impact.
You want your product or service to be viewed a certain way: smart, clever, young, wise, mature or whatever. You want that what you say resonates with your target audience to give you a competitive advantage. Think long and hard about what message you want to send out and ensure that you remain faithful to that by being consistent in all your communications. You may tweak your communications to adapt with different audiences, but a certain consistent structure is important to maintain. Timing is vital as well. How well you time your communication will determine how well it is received and how successful it is in creating brand recall.
When you’re creating the key message, don’t forget things like store signage, or website development… the basic look and feel of your business; the first impression that a potential customer gets of your brand.
Happy customers are happy to recommend a product or service. It used to be good old word of mouth; now the reach of simple world of mouth recommendations has increased exponentially thanks to the internet. After you’ve done your best to deliver a quality product or service, encourage or incentivize positive feedback on your own or other websites or your social networking pages. Good online reviews are long lasting recommendations that will stand you in good stead for a significant length of time.