You’ve read hundreds of blog posts on knowing your target audience. At this point, you know your buyer personas so well, you’re starting to channel them. The other day, you introduced yourself as Bob, the accountant from Poughkeepsie who likes fast cars and wants to automate his email marketing.
But deep down, you know that something isn’t right. You know your target well…but your target still doesn’t know you. What are you doing wrong?
What are you, as a business owner, supposed to do with all that research and data and millions of words written on target audiences? How can you use this information to optimize your own marketing strategy and increase sales?
Truth is, researching and defining your target audience is merely one-half of the equation. Knowing who you’re marketing to is great, but applying that knowledge to your marketing strategy is really what’s going to help your business grow and succeed.
Marketing That Means Something
We’ve all heard of the four P’s of Marketing, right? If you haven’t, they stand for Product, Pricing, Place, and Promotion.
These terms essentially refer to the main types of business decisions that marketers make when bringing a product or service to market.
Think about it—if you want to start a business, you’ll need to know what to sell (product), how much to sell it for (pricing), its position in the marketplace (place), and how to promote it (promotion).
All of these decisions serve as the essence of a business’s marketing plan.
As a business owner working through these questions, you may think that the answer revolves primarily around your product offering, brand, or even your competition.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Determining your four Ps (i.e., constructing your marketing plan) revolves around one main theme—your target audience.
Picture this: If your business is a planet, then your target audience is the sun. Your business operations, decisions, and promotions revolve around their activity. And when you center your marketing efforts around your target audience, you’re guaranteed to be heard, seen, and understood.
How do you ensure that your marketing is inspired by your target audience? Let’s break it down below.
Defining your target audience is the biggest, most time-consuming step. It’s also where a lot of folks stop in this process.
While determining your target audience is super important, it’s hardly the end of the process. In fact, conducting this research and not applying it to your business is a massive waste of time.
And, as entrepreneurs, time is the one resource we can’t afford to waste.
Thankfully, we’ve compiled a great article all about how to define your target audience and what tools to use when doing so.
If you haven’t yet, take a beat and look into that. The rest of this article won’t be very helpful to you until you’ve got your target audience data in front of you, so it’s best to do that first.
So, you’ve got your target audience. You know exactly to whom you’re marketing and selling. Great!
Now, let’s talk about how to apply this research to your business. This section is the lengthiest as we’re going to flesh out the bits and pieces of your marketing plan to ensure it’s aligned with your target audience.
Are you ready?
For the sake of continuity, I’m going to break down said marketing plan based on the four Ps. Since I don’t know exactly how you’ve outlined your marketing plan, this strategy will at least cover the four important themes of marketing.
As entrepreneurs, our minds are constantly racing with ideas and notions of how to improve our lives and the lives of others.
I’ll bet that one (or more!) of these ideas is the catalyst behind your current business—or the business you want to start. At least, that’s how I started mine. I recognized a problem in my own life and a void in the market, and I set out to fix it.
But where did my target audience come into play in all this?
Your target audience should play a role in your business from day one. Some entrepreneurs think that your target audience doesn’t have a place in your strategy until after the product or service is conceptualized, but that’s not quite true.
In my case, the target audience was the driving factor in my business’s name, branding, design details, features, and intended use. Without these things, my business probably would have failed by now.
If I had waited until after these details were set in stone to seek out information about my target audience, I would’ve seen that I needed to rewrite a lot of my strategy. While my original idea was great, any decision-making beyond that required me to remove myself from the center and place my target audience at the helm.
What does your customer want from your product or service? What needs does it satisfy for them? Does your product or service have the right features to meet these needs? Does it feature anything extra that your customer possibly won’t use?
You should have an idea of this from defining your target audience, but digging a little deeper may uncover some new engineering or design ideas you may have never considered.
Now, think about how and where your customer will use or experience your product. Based on this answer, is your product or service designed efficiently enough for its intended operation or consumption? Again, it’s tempting to run with your own ideas in this space, but I promise that returning to the heart of your target audience will promise greater success (and sales!) in the long run.
Take Foundr, for example. Nathan and his team, upon researching their target audience, decided that the very best way to reach their rapidly-growing readership of worldwide, innovative entrepreneurs would be to offer their publication online. Given that their readers are most likely on the move, working on their phones and computers, and located in hundreds of different countries, Foundr recognized that the best way to offer their product was through a mobile app.
Keep an eye on your customer reviews and testimonials. Take note of any complaints about your product or service, and use them to inspire innovation within your business. This will ensure that your product stays in tune with your customer’s needs and wants.
Lastly, think about your product or service’s identity. Is it visually appealing? What size, color, and texture is it? What is it called? These may seem like rote details, and while they shouldn’t be obsessed over, they should still be inspired by your target audience. First impressions are just as important for products as they are for people.
By bringing your product or service to market with your target audience in mind, you’re sure to be seen.
Even if your entrepreneurial idea started in your head (or heart), try to remove yourself from the center of your decision-making. In fact, you may realize that you have an easier time making decisions if they’re not all about you.
This segment of your marketing plan may be hardest from which to remove yourself.
As an entrepreneur, you not only desire to make an income, but also, you alone have seen the work (e.g., blood, sweat, and tears) that has gone into your business. You have a sense of its value, and you’d like to see that rewarded in the market.
Well, friend, sometimes that’s not what’s going to happen. At least not the way you think it is.
As you deal with the cost and market price of your product or service, it’s more important than ever to ensure your decisions are inspired by a deep understanding of your target audience.
First, think about the value of your product or service to your customer. Since you’ve pinpointed their income level and spending habits in your analysis, where do you see your product or service fitting into their budget? Is your item considered an everyday purchase or a luxury item?
For example, if a shoe designer researched their target audience and found that it consists of professional women making well above the average income who appreciate fashion and often allocate the majority of their disposable income on new clothing items, they may choose to price the shoes higher given the audience.
How do they value similar products or services? (This may be a good time to take a peek at your competition or industry averages.) Is there an established price point for products or services like yours?
Depending on your product or service, you may not have a lot of wiggle room outside of various supply chain expenses. But when thinking about overall price, keep your target audience front-of-mind.
Lastly, it may also be helpful to ask people who fall into your target audience for their opinions. We understand that it may be tough to look at your business’s numbers objectively, but pricing for your target audience will ensure your marketing is effective.
Your business’s place, in this sense, refers to its mental and physical location. Many entrepreneurs, upon launching their company, simply claim any real estate available in the marketplace and in their customer’s minds.
If a customer can find your business and brand, that should be enough, right?
Not quite. (C’mon now, don’t settle!)
You should be choosing your place in the market much more narrowly and intentionally, so that you’re in a place where almost everyone who would come across it could be immediately interested, equipped, and motivated to make a purchase.
Remember: By bringing your product or service to market with your target audience in mind, you’re much more likely to be seen and not get lost in the endless sea of options. This is especially important when considering where and how your brand is placed.
Start by asking yourself where your target audience is searching for your type of product or service. If it’s a physical store, what kind is it? Understanding where your audience shops will influence exactly how you position your product.
For example, if you’ve determined that you market to a higher-end clientele that perhaps primarily shops in boutiques and specialty stores, you won’t be selling your product to your nearest department store.
But what if, depending on resources, location, or personal preference, you’ve decided to run a solely ecommerce business? Since over 50% of Americans prefer to shop online, many businesses are pursuing a greater online presence.
Existing only online won’t hurt your business, but your positioning strategy will look a little different. You’ll still need to evaluate where and how your target audience shops, but instead you’ll want to use their social activity, blog, and forum interaction, and even their purchase and search history.
Take a look at Facebook communities, Reddit comments, Quora answers, Twitter conversations, and Instagram trends. If your target audience isn’t super active on one or more networks, then don’t waste your time on there. (I actually wrote about this very thing in a recent article of mine.)
Understanding this information will help you position your marketing so that you can meet them where they are.
Returning to our above example, if you were looking to build a brick-and-mortar storefront, you’d probably be looking to set up shop in an area frequented by your target audience. The same goes for your digital storefront.
Spend time where your audience is. If you’ve determined that they shop on Amazon, Etsy, or other online retailers, get your product on there. If you’ve observed that they make purchase decisions based on the word of popular reviewers or influencers in your industry, work to connect with and share your product or service with these people.
As a new business fighting for real estate in today’s voracious marketplace, it’s tempting to plant your flag and leave it. But in order to be seen, known, and trusted, you must continue to be present where your audience is. Otherwise, your land will lose value, and so will your brand.
Promotion is probably what most people are thinking about when they think about marketing.
Promotion is essentially the advertising leg of your marketing plan. It refers to how, what, and where you share your business with your target audience.
If you take anything away from this article, remember this: Your marketing message can not be one-size-fits-all.
In order to be seen, you must tailor your promotions to resonate with your target audience, if you don’t want to risk wasted time and resources. (I’m especially passionate about this, because paid promotional efforts are becoming more and more expensive. I’ve wasted a lot of money marketing to the wrong audiences.)
Even your most eloquently written, beautifully designed promotions won’t matter if you’re shouting into a void. Your target audience is just that—your audience. Make sure you’re always speaking to them.
Here are a few common promotional strategies and how to align them with your target audience marketing strategy:
- Social media: Set up shop where your audience hangs out. (I touch on this above in the “Place” section.) Don’t waste your digital breath posting on networks where your audience is not, for the sake of having a wider digital presence. When writing posted content, write in a way that connects with your audience and stays true to your brand voice and personality. When investing in social ads, focusing on a finely tuned audience will help you get the biggest bang for your buck. Include as much information about your target audience as you can when creating and investing in ads.
- Content marketing: 78% of consumers believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with their audience. The key word here? Custom. Content marketing should be 100% inspired and influenced by your target audience, otherwise you’ll be writing for, well, no one. Help, educate, and excite your audience by creating how-to articles, tip guides, helpful interviews, and ebooks. Write in a way that tells your audience, “We understand you.”
- Traditional media: Despite the fast and furious rise of social media and digital advertising, print ads are still better-trusted than digital. But given their cost, it’s important to know that your ads are being seen. What magazines and newspapers do your target audience read? If you’re a local or regional business, can you afford to place an ad in the area-wide publication? As always, ensure that your ad copy and design resonate with your target audience.
Keeping your target audience front-of-mind when creating your promotions and ads will ensure that your message is focused and dollars well spent.
Defining your target audience is merely one half of the puzzle. Taking this newfound knowledge and applying it to your business decisions will ensure that your marketing is as impactful as possible. From product to pricing to market placement and promotion, each and every decision you make on behalf of your business should be inspired by your target audience. By bringing your product or service to market with them in mind, you’re sure to be seen.
How has your target audience influenced and/or changed any of your businesses marketing decisions? Got any questions about creating a marketing strategy based on your target audience?