Targeting Troubles: Who’s Your Real Customer?
So you’ve revamped your content or branding, and maybe you’ve seen a boost in traffic to your site but it isn’t showing in your bottom line.
Often, making your brand more appealing to potential customers just isn’t enough to keep them from abandoning that cart. Brands that fail to properly research who their customers are typically missing the mark. It doesn’t matter how clean, cute, polished, or professional your brand is if it’s not the right marketing for your audience.
Who Is My Customer?
Many businesses think they know their audience, but often, they’re wrong. When we’re close to our brand, we tend to develop ideas about what our market base is like according to our own personal bias, the messages we send through our marketing, and who we want our audience to be.
We sometimes let stereotypes get in the way of targeting work that should really be left to analysts. For example, let’s say you’re an outdoor sporting goods store, and your marketing efforts have been aimed at positioning your company as a brand for upper-middle-class outdoor sports enthusiast types with a high level of expendable income.
What does that mean for your brand if your marketing analysts find out that your actual customer is more into hunting and fishing, is lower-middle-income, and loyal thanks to your affordable pricing and great in-store experiences?
It means that you’re probably not optimizing your marketing efforts. You’re wasting money on tactics that don’t work, and you’re failing to capitalize on your real customer base.
Make your marketing decisions according to what’s true, not what you want to be true. Successful companies identify and serve their real target audience. If you need proof, look to Starbucks.
The Customer Knows Best
Starbucks began as a retailer that dealt with spices and coffee beans, then underwent a transformative change under the leadership of Howard Schultz to become the business we’re now familiar with. But in between that, there were a lot of changes to the company’s brand and business model.
Cup sizes got bigger to accommodate consumer demand. Sugary Frappuccinos have exploded in popularity, eclipsing the sales of espresso beverages that the business was built on. Sandwiches and pastries were added to the menu to grant the breakfast wishes of hungry coffee-drinkers.
Starbucks was inspired by the cafes of Italy, but the company recognizes that American consumers don’t want the true Italian coffee experience. The writers at Four Winds Interactive discuss understanding your audience’s needs: “Values such as freedom, defying the status quo and driving change may appeal most to a younger audience but may not be that effective for an older one. Information based on quantitative data may be useful to an engineer but may appear too boring for most people.”
While the founders of Starbucks likely never intended for their artisanal coffee shop to become the fast food giant it is today, there’s no denying that the chain is much more successful now than it would have ever been if it had continued selling only bulk beans and single espresso shots.
The lesson? Listen to what your customers want.
Tactics to Target Right
If you’re ready to mend your relationship with your poor, alienated audience, the best way to start is with some solid research. Stop basing your decisions on your intuition — you know what happens when we just assume.
Once you’ve got an accurate picture of who your customer base really is, build your marketing strategy around them and abandon the tactics that aren’t working for your brand, even if you really like them.
StayNTouch’s Ronnie Coleman gives this example of how this can work to your benefit:
“Tourism Australia decided to ditch its Facebook practices early on in 2011 and handed their page over to their fans. They allowed the people actually experiencing Australia to create and push their content. What was the result? Tourism Australia’s Facebook page is now the biggest destination page in the world – they boast almost 5.5M fans.”
Pay attention to your competitors — the competitors for your actual customers, not your imagined ones. Find out what they’re doing right and identify where they’re leaving room to fill in the gaps.
In terms of execution, this might mean you start focusing more heavily on email campaigns than posting on Facebook if your customer demographic isn’t the type to follow a business’ Facebook page. It might mean posting fewer quizzes to your Twitter and more videos instead. It might mean you need to reconsider the look or voice of your brand.
If you want to see results and achieve the goals you have for your business, be prepared to be critical. This isn’t a time to let your feelings get in the way. Marketers are human, which leaves lots of room for error, but if you can overcome your attachment to your target audience and your brand as you know it, you can begin to hone in on who your customers really are and how you can reach them. That’s what sells.