Understanding your customer is critical to creating strategies that achieve the results you desire. Before you plan anything, you should have a clear and educated understanding of your primary and secondary “target markets.” These definitions should include demographic and psychographic details that give you very specific insights into who your customers are, what’s important to them and what their interests are. Utilizing this intelligence, you can begin the next steps towards creating a strategy that will ultimately compel your customers to action.
One of the most common mistakes I encounter in marketing strategy development is that people assume they know who their customer is. While I don’t doubt that they have a sense, it’s very unlikely that their assumption is correct. Furthermore, it’s risky to build your marketing strategy on assumptions. If you’re right about your customer, then your strategy has a good chance of succeeding. However, if you’re not, then you’ll build a strategy for the wrong customer and you’ll have wasted time and resources to execute a strategy that was wrong from the start.
Create a Demographic Profile
The first place you want to start is by creating a demographic profile of your customer. You want to answer questions like these:
- Is my target customer male or female; does it matter?
- How old are they? If a specific age isn’t necessary, then you can use the advertising guidelines of:
- Under 12
- Are they single, married, divorced, separated, widowed, etc.
- What is their annual household income?
- This is important as you begin to think about who can afford your product or service. Oftentimes, a range is used like this one.
- How many kids do they have?
- Are they young, teenage or out of the house?
- Where do they live?
- If you have a product that appeals to certain people in certain parts of the country, then this is important.
- What ethnicity are they?
- What disabilities do they have, if any?
- Do they own or rent their home?
- Are they employed? If so, how?
- In School
Identifying each of these demographic elements will help you narrow the focus and effectiveness of your marketing strategies. Furthermore, it’s also the language of advertising. When you are looking for options to place ads, demographic information is the first place to start refining your search.
What about a Psychographic Profile?
Psychographics become important when you’re wanting to create a very specific profile of who your customer is. It focuses on the personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests and lifestyle preferences of your target markets. These details will help guide you into understanding more of what influences your customers purchasing behaviors, the impact of cultural events and seasons as well as highlighting opportunities to engage with your target audiences.
What to do when you don’t have customer data
Unfortunately, we will never have all of the information we want in order to make the best decisions. However, if you don’t have any customer insights to build your profiles, there’s a good chance that you fall into one of these three categories:
1. Your product or service is new and you don’t have a customer base yet.
If you’re launching a brand new product or services, the best place to find out more about your target markets is by analyzing your competitors. Look at where they are advertising and then reverse engineer their strategy. Every marketing channel has a primary target market. These are important clues in your intelligence gathering.
Here are six (6) recommended resources that will help you start building a demographic profile for a new product or service:
- Paid Surveys – Companies like SurveyMonkey.com have paid services that make it easy for you to create a survey, and then purchase responses based on demographic targeting. That is a great way to get insights, especially if you have a basic demographic understanding of who your customer is or might be.
- Trade Reports – Most industries have organizations that exist for the purpose of helping those within their industry succeed. They often provide annual reports that reveal demographic insights and annual trends to watch.
- Census Data – This is very useful if you’re targeting a group of people in a specific area. The data will help you narrow down which zip codes best match your target market. Sources like this are especially helpful for strategies that include mass media and direct mail marketing.
- Scientific Surveys – Companies lie Pew, Nielsen, Barna and others, often publish reports based on research they’ve done. Most often, these reports are free.
- Custom Scientific Surveys – If you can’t find the insights you need, you can hire a third party research company to create a custom poll or survey and deliver the results. This approach is ideal if you’re looking to strengthen your assumptions and build a compelling case for a new product launch, entertainment product, etc. You also have the benefit of the results being exclusive to you…a very competitive edge in some markets.
- White Papers have grown to become a trusted source for lead generation by marketing companies. At their expense, they’ll do the research and create reports that give you insight into their customers needs. Oftentimes, these reports are full of insights you can use to build strong strategies that will compel your customer to action.
2. You have a customer base, but you haven’t surveyed them yet.
The next step is to survey your customers and see what you can find. Use the demographic list above to help you retrieve the intelligence you need. I’d also use the survey to get insight into your products, services, and customer experiences. This information will help you in the analyzation process of the Full Cycle Marketing process.
- Send a Survey to your Current Customer – Sending a survey to your current customer base is a reliable and inexpensive way to get the data you need to understand who your audience really is. Again, I recommend SurveyMonkey.com for this kind of work.
3. You’ve been asked to put together a strategy for a prospect client, but you don’t have the required customer intelligence.
This one is quite easy: Ask them for it. Chances are they have it and if they don’t, then you’ll have the privilege of introducing the need and helping them execute on it…i.e.: win business!
The work is worth it
Defining your primary and secondary target markets are critical to your success. Not only will this intelligence help you find the right places, promotions and price (three parts of the five P’s needed in a marketing strategy), but it will help you narrow your marketing focus. Then, you become a savvy marketer who looks at marketing channels as tools in your toolbox. If the tool is right for the job, you employ it. If it’s not, then you leave it in the box. For the record, not every marketing strategy should include social media.
I’ve mentioned before that marketers aren’t afraid to fail. Here’s why: When you make a decision to use or not to use a marketing tool, as a savvy marketer, your decision was intentional. When you’ve employed the Full Cycle Marketing methodologies, you will have a chance to reassess your decisions in the optimization and analysis phases. If your decision proved to be good, you optimize and keep going. If it proved to be wrong, you change it and compare its results based on the other tools you employed. Always, always, always test your theories.
What’s important is that IT is right, not that YOU are right.
This post is part of a new series called, Full Cycle Marketing.
To get caught up on all of the posts, click here.