Who are you talking to?
I’m completely serious here. Who are you talking to with your marketing? Do you have a target audience or are you just throwing money away trying to hit anyone and everyone you possibly can?
I am astonished by how many small business owners and entrepreneurs create a product or service and just assume that they can sell it to everyone. Whatever it is, you can’t. You’re wasting your advertising budget.
Even major retailers that sell just about everything under the sun have specific target audiences. Target and Walmart go after a totally different economic group than Nordstrom and Macy’s.
Identifying your target market is one of the most important steps in creating your marketing plan. It’s also the first thing you should do. In fact, it’s the first thing every copywriter is taught to do when writing any promotional piece.
Knowing your target audience can make your marketing campaigns less expensive and more effective. Take the time to figure out who you’re talking to. You’ll find it’s a win-win.
Here are 3 easy steps to identify your target market and make your entire marketing plan much easier.
Research Your Target Audience’s Demographics
Even if your product is so cutting edge it “solves problems you never knew you had,” you can figure out the demographics of your target audience.
Back when I was writing websites for lawyers, I would ask them about their target market demographics. A standard answer was “anyone with money and a pulse.” A very broad audience indeed.
But as we continued to talk, I’d wheedle more information out of them. For instance, some of the personal injury lawyers would tell me they didn’t want the “cheap” cases. So they were really looking for clients with injuries serious enough to need a lot of medical treatment.
I’d get some great information when I asked about the education level of their average client. Even an answer like “oh, most of them have graduated from high school and some of them have attended a couple years of college” told me a lot.
You can figure out your target audience’s basic demographics by asking yourself a couple of basic questions.
Who can afford my product?
If you’re selling your product for $19.99, you have a very different target market than if you’re selling it for $97, or even $997. Asking who can afford your product will give you a broad idea of your target audience’s income level. Once you know that, you can narrow down the income level of the customers you’re going after.
Who will find my product useful?
Some companies promote their products to anyone and everyone. I regularly get promotional postcards from the Westonka School District and Foss Swim School telling me about their children’s activities and lessons. I am a single woman living in a 1-bedroom house. I wish they would do their research and save their printing and postage.
A great demographic exercise is to ask yourself “who is this product for?” Take the time to write down your answers. Your answers can be as simple as “for mothers” or as detailed as “for working mothers who have toddlers between 18 months and 3 years.”
You can also include time and place: “For working mothers to give to their toddlers as a snack while they’re in the car or being pushed in a stroller.”
You may even find a whole new sub-set of people who would find your product useful: “For active working mothers who are pushing their toddlers in a jogging stroller while getting their daily exercise.”
The nice thing about this exercise is it helps you decide who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.
Filling in the Gaps
From here, you can refine your customer demographics with research. You can find lots of information on the Internet about demographic groups, including generational information and basic group traits. Use these as a starting point, then drill down to find the demographics of the people who will be your best potential customers.
If you use Google Analytics, their system keeps track of a lot of demographic information. You can use this to build an audience profile based on the people who have visited your website.
I like to develop a full picture of my clients’ customers, including:
- Where they live
- The kind of car they drive
- Where they hang out on the Internet
- Their basic shopping habits
- What they do for a living
- Marital status
You can make this list as long or as short as you’d like. My list is pretty extensive. I have a degree in creative writing and theater, so I want to get an in-depth picture of my target audience. Download my Customer Persona sheet to get ideas for researching your own target audience.
You can get great target audience information directly from your current customers by asking them to fill out a simple survey. If you’re starting a new company and launching a new product, you can survey your email list of interested customers. There are a lot of free survey tools and sites out there. My favorites are Survey Monkey and Google Forms.
Psychographics and Behaviors
Now that you know your target audience a bit better, you should get a feel for their interests. This includes their political leanings, hobbies and their religion or spiritual beliefs. This will help you deliver your message more effectively.
Why should you delve into this information? Because you’ll have a very different conversation with a 20-something male who is in to juicing and organic farming than you will with a 50-something female who is a devout Evangelical Christian and the head of a women’s knitting and quilting club that makes blankets for needy children.
This information is going to help you shape your message, especially when you have different subsets within your target audience. You should target your marketing for each group to get the best return on investment (ROI).
Again, I tend to get pretty in-depth here. I think about what types of magazines, music and TV shows my target audience would watch. (Most of this is guesswork, but it helps me get a better picture of who I’m writing to.)
You also need to look at their emotions. This includes their hopes and fears, and what they want in the immediate and long-term. Understanding these psychographics will let you push the emotional triggers that are more likely to make your target audience opt-in or buy.
You can figure some of this out by looking at advertisements for products that are similar to yours. Are they targeting the same audience? What are they focusing on? What emotions are they trying to evoke in their ads?
Interview Someone in Your Target Audience
Now that you’ve researched your target audience, find someone who matches that profile and ask them out for coffee. You almost certainly know someone who fits the description you’ve just created. If not, you know someone who knows someone.
Ask this person questions about their life, their concerns and their problems. Ask them what products they use now to deal with these problems:
- Are they effective?
- Are they happy with these products?
- What do they like?
- What would they change?
Talk to them about your product and see how they respond. Ask them how it would help in their daily life, how they would use it and how they would benefit. If the person is interested in trying your product, offer them a sample and ask them to give you a testimonial if they like it.
I recommend recording your conversation (with the interviewee’s permission). I always record my interviews because everyone talks faster than I can type and I don’t want to miss something important. Most smart phones have a recording app already installed. If not, there are plenty you can download.
Create Your Customer Persona
Use all of the information you’ve gathered to build a customer persona. This is a full character sketch of your target audience. Again, this can be as long or as short as you’d like. But you should include:
- Basic demographics like age, income, profession and gender.
- Basic psychographics, especially their motivations, hopes and fears.
- The problem they’re facing and the pain points it causes.
- How your product can solve that problem and ease those pain points.
When I create customer personas for my clients, I give this person a name and add a picture so I always know who I’m writing to. I feel like having a name and a face helps me to have a better “conversation” with my target audience.
Starting the Conversation
Now that you know who you’re talking to, and what you’re talking about, you’ll have a much easier time promoting your product to the people who will actually buy it.
You can use this information when you’re writing your promotional copy and ads. You can also use it to target your online advertising, such as Facebook and Google Ads. Each of these platforms have systems that let you drill down to show your ads only to your target audience. You can get as specific as the example of the active mother with the toddler I gave above.
Most importantly, you have a much better idea of who you want your customer to be. Now your marketing campaigns will be effective and bring in the people who will spend money and increase your bottom line. Congratulations. Your hard work will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every year.
Want to get into the demographics of your target audience the same way I do? Click on the button below to Download my Customer Persona sheet.
Do you know your target audience? Tell me about them in the comments section below.