If your target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault, it’s yours. – Seth Godin
One of the most important keys to a successful business is the ability of that business to identify target customers and to create a superior offering to that particular segment of the buying public. It is vital that a company’s marketing efforts target themselves towards a certain segment of the buying public based on their needs, spending power and purchasing habits. It is essential to identify this segment so that marketing departments can set up and implement effective marketing goals for their company. This is the first step towards retaining and maintaining a loyal customer base, which in turn has a direct bearing on business profitability. Defining the target audience is important not just from the point of view of profitability for the company; it is also essential for understanding and satisfying the needs of customers.
So what is a target audience or customer base? It is a group of people most likely to buy a product or a service. Consider the fact that because of physical and social differences, men and women tend to have very different preferences and buying patterns for a lot of products and services and so would constitute distinct customer bases. Further, there are consumer clusters with the same or largely similar needs. Target customers can be roughly divided into two: primary and secondary markets. For instance, the primary market for lingerie would be young to middle aged women and the secondary market for the same product would be young to middle aged men looking to buy these items for the women in their lives.
Companies segment the market in various ways to identify target customers: geographic segments (by region, address, location or climate), by psychographic groups (religious and moral values, attitudes and lifestyles) socioeconomic or demographic segmentation (income, education, age, gender and career), by behavioral segment (degree of loyalty or occasion related spending). This helps companies identify target customers based on consumer demand, clarify marketing strategies, improve product competitiveness and streamline manufacturing and other processes. Consider how age determines spending: younger buyers may prefer trendy, contemporary clothing; however they may have less money to spend. On the other hand older people are likelier to favour classic clothing and have a bigger disposable income. Similarly lower and higher income groups have very different requirements in terms of leisure time arrangement, communication and product selection. For instance, a home improvement service would do well to target home owners rather than renters. Here buying patterns are determined by income and lifestyle: the more affluent groups are more likely to be home owners and are far likelier to want to buy home improvement products and services than lower income groups who are less likely to be home owners.
Keeping all these factors in mind, once you have identified your target customers, you can go about reaching them and communicating with them. If you choose to go with generational marketing you can identify your target customers not only by age, but by social, economic and psychological factors. The next step would be to gauge where this target audience is to be found. If your product is aimed at a younger demographic, you cannot ignore social media marketing. Have an official page, engage and update regularly, add social media buttons to your website /online store to encourage sharing, and build up a following by incentivising engagement. Create or post content that is interesting, ask questions and answer product related queries that may be posted online. If your target customers are older, you may want to use more traditional marketing strategies by pitching to publications they prefer. Engage with reporters and journalists associated with those publications to publish news stories or interviews related to your product or people associated with your company. You could also write an article as an expert and have this published via the publication.
Improving search engine optimisation is another way to target customers, reach them and be found online. Research the keywords that your buyers are most likely to put into Google or any other search engine. Now ensure that your website pages are optimised with keyword rich content. Create back links to your website or social pages, add new content while keeping abreast with Google Panda (algorithm relating to content quality), Google Penguin (link quality) and Google Hummingbird (algorithm for handling conversational search items) updates.
Projecting the company via events and speaking engagements is another way to target customers. Having an expert from the company (or associated with the company) speak at conferences and seminars can help you connect directly with target audiences. This imparts information, creates a certain personality for the company and increases trustworthiness. Sponsoring entertainment events or having a presence at symposiums and expos could also help to connect to customers directly or indirectly. There is much that effective PR can do to help reach that audience and to snag all important mind space.
Another way to connect to existing customers, encourage repeat purchase or to connect to brand new customers is to create partnerships with likeminded brands. Consider the instance of a prospective customer who lands up on a partner website in the mood to shop – say an online store called X that sells bathing suits. You could be a travel company that partners with X swimsuit manufacture. Your travel agency would benefit by posting a special deal for customers of X – people who are looking to buy swimsuits and may well be persuaded to take a look at beach side vacation deals that look interesting. You are effectively driving traffic to your product or service and a reciprocal arrangement on your website could do the same for X swimsuit manufacturer!
Allocating a sufficient budget for your target customers is important too. While there are ways to connect to audiences without spending too much, there are many aspects of communicating with customer that have simply no short cuts. Companies would need to have a specific goal and allocate not just a budget but also sufficient human resources to connect to target audiences. Informed and talented personnel with good communication abilities can be roped in to communicate with new customers, resolve problems of existing customers and ensure that customer attrition is not a problem.
Another aspect of targeting customers that experts recommend examining, is to maintain the right balance between frequency and reach. Is it better to connect to a smaller audience more frequently or is it more beneficial to reach out to a larger audience occasionally? There is an optimal balance that will give your company the best results; find where that balance is. It could make sense to hire consultants to create definitive guidelines to reach customers.
While a lot of products and services benefit from a consistent and unchanging image and message, many products could actually benefit from the opposite. We are talking about reaching target audiences via rebranding. You could change the message or mission statement that your business has associated itself with. In some cases a substantial departure from the norm could negatively impact trust and here, rebranding ought to be limited to minor tweaks and changes that are visually eye catching but which do not detract from the central message of your company; the message that so many are familiar with and have come to rely on.
Remember, reaching target customers is not a one off. It is a continuing process. Choosing your customers is, as one expert put it, choosing your future!