There’s no point in developing a fantastic product unless you’re able to connect that product with paying customers. Geniuses have tried and failed. Lesser would-be entrepreneurs too; just watch an episode of Shark Tank.
Original inventions and ideas are prime real estate in the business world, and so everybody apparently has one. What makes you different from everybody else? And who should you channel your energies towards? Everybody?
The debate boils down to this: connection vs conversion.
Could focusing your efforts on those you consider to be the most interested in your product actually be limiting? It doesn’t mean that people outside this demographic are forbidden from engaging with your product. Would you sell Swan Lake tickets at the Super Bowl? Nope. It would make far more sense if you were peddling sportswear, beer or trucks.
The truth is this; you are far more likely to command your niche. But first, how do you establish who or what that might be? Well, finding your target market is imperative when it comes to planning any marketing or PR activity.
If you’re invested in your product (be that in a financial or emotional sense), you may well have a pre-supposed idea of your target market. This is particularly true if you were involved in the development and establishment of the company’s vision. As a starting point, brainstorm with your team and see if your ideas correlate.
Next, think long and hard about who could benefit from what you have to offer. What pain points do you alleviate? Whose life will you make easier? Keep an open mind; this won’t necessarily match your initial assessment. However, It could be an eye opener.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to companies that are yet to launch. But if you’re already trading it’s extremely valuable to evaluate the behaviours and characteristics of your customer base. You can achieve this is in a variety of ways.
Email surveys are one option. You can craft your questions to elicit the common ground that your clientele share, as well as what it is that may have attracted them to your product. You can then use this information to calibrate your focus. Sure, they may well be hurled into Junk 101, but that’s why it’s your job to make them swift, simple and compelling.
Analytics software is a terrifically valuable tool within your arsenal. Google Analytics provides an Audience Overview Report based on your website traffic. This reveals not only which marketing channel your customer may have come from, but also the prominent features of the demographic.
Age, gender, location and interests can all be explored to great effect. The ‘interests’ section is pivotal in informing content. Think about any dinner party you have ever been to. If you want to make a good impression you shouldn’t only talk about yourself, but the topics that will interest your audience.
Social media is another area that’s ripe with data. This can be particularly useful when assessing the interactions with your existing content, which in turn can help you understand why certain posts may be performing better than others. If for example memes are going through the roof, there’s a good chance that you’re connecting with a younger audience.
They of course provide follower demographics too. This article provides loads of useful details on the analytics reporting of six major social channels.
You could even meet *whisper it* face to face. I know, I know. Talking to strangers, imagine that! Responding to post engagements is a great way to obtain feedback, but it will also help you get an authentic feel for your customer base. You can organise Q and As and other such events, which may even work both ways and humanize your brand.
Once you have a good idea of who you would like to target, you can get to work on an ideal buyer persona (or several).
These are essentially hypothetical avatars of your ideal customer within your target market. For example, in the tech industry, it may be that a lot of your customer base consists of young, single men. But it doesn’t feel appropriate to make such generalisations in this day and age, which is why we use data to back up our assertions. You may also wish to consider whether you’re dealing with a consumer or a business, as this will undoubtedly inform their needs.
One approach can be to start with the broadest of attributes, before becoming gradually more specific until you’ve created something distinct. I’m sure that everybody is sick of metaphorical funnels by now, so let’s call this the ‘Guess Who?’ approach. While your persona attributes should be less focused on physical appearance than that particular board game, it shouldn’t be any less detailed. This article provides some examples of how far you can take it.
But what is the point in all this? Well, to understand your customers better. Don’t let the fiction fool you; these personas will aid you in appreciating the very real pain points and tendencies of your target market.
If you discover that you have a variety of personas, it can help you to divide your efforts accordingly and refine your approach for each. And if this works and you hit your targets, they could enable you to develop your product further. After all, if Mildred would benefit from a certain feature being added to optimize efficiency, then why not give it to her?
As discussed in the introduction, saturation is always a concern. In today’s cacophony, you need to shout loudly to be heard. And there is no way you can understand your USP unless you’re well versed in what your competitors do. Any serious boxer would identify where he could gain an advantage over his opponent; it’s simply sloppy to just rely on what you do well*.
*unless you’re Mike Tyson in 1987.
By understanding your USP, you identify which areas are not quite accounted for by your competitors. This can then inform your customer profiles, and provides an even narrower niche for you to laser in on. As a hypothetical example, consider two fast food joints of which one offers only meat products. It would make sense for their competitor to cater to the vegetarian base and publicize these offerings, as they are providing something that can’t be obtained elsewhere. This detailed report explains how to create an informed Competitor Analysis.
As you can see, there are a multitude of benefits to exploring what makes your target market tick. Consider your initial vision, before refining it with customer, follower and competitor assessment. This alchemy between instinct and analysis can be fruitful. Use it to craft your ideal buyer persona, and very soon you will be ready to explore the next step of how to reach your target audience.
This is of course a preliminary stage in your outreach, but as a wise man (Benjamin Franklin) once said, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. The tools are there, and it would be a serious oversight to ignore them.