Strategic Marketing for Small Businesses: Know Your Audience
In this series on Strategic Marketing for Small Businesses, we are discussing some fundamental, background concepts about strategic marketing. As a small business owner, you often have to wear the hat of the marketing department, as well as all the other hats from accounting to operations. Because it can be so difficult to switch quickly between these roles, it’s important to have some resources and a framework for marketing your products and services.
Strategic marketing is about making the big decisions, casting the broad vision, and setting the tone for a brand and/or your products. This level of thought requires a big-picture view of what you want to accomplish.
In the introduction to this series, we discussed how to collaborate with all departments or parties involved in your business (whether it’s just you and your business partner or you and several managers). To continue this series, we’re going to go over the basics of the marketing mix and how it applies to knowing your audience. The end result should be that you have a clearer understanding of how to define your customer and how to find the best way to strategically position your products and services to reach the right audience.
If you wish to serve a specific person, you must know how to serve that person specifically. This is true in every successful relationship. If a person desires wine, but you offer milk, what is the likely result? You can churn the milk, age the milk, and add chocolate to the milk. You can even serve the milk on your elbow in a tux with a moonlight serenade. Guess what? It ain’t happening. The person wants wine. So, before you cry over spilled milk, develop a strategy to know, understand, find, and satisfy those who will appreciate your product.
Some of the most fundamental aspects of any marketing plan include what is referred to as the marketing mix: product, promotion, placement, and pricing. How you establish each of the elements of the marketing mix depends entirely upon your customer: what they need and want. Often, you have multiple products and services you are marketing to various groups. Each group may need their own marketing mix with specialized pricing. Therefore, take a look at the advice below on, first, how to define your audience and, then, how to hone your marketing plan to match your audience, in regards to each aspect of the marketing mix.
Defining Your Audience
How would you define your perfect customer? Frequently, the final definition is that you have several, even though you could probably form a hierarchy. Think in terms of the decision-maker or the influencer. For example, the mother is the one who orders the milk, but the child influences that decision. So, do you market to the mother or the child?
This is part of taking the time to categorize your customers. Each will likely have a distinct marketing mix around which you develop a strategic marketing campaign. Some of the more basic categories around which you could develop your audience definition include:
- Age Range
- Income Range
- Geographical Location
Once you have an idea about these more broad topics, you can delve into the psychographics of your target audience:
- Social Class
- Lifestyle Factors
Each of these categories comes with it an expectation for a product, and, therefore, often a unique marketing plan by which you can reach each group. Don’t be surprised to find that you have consumers across many different segments— the goal is to identify your ideal group and prioritize those marketing efforts.
Whose needs will be satisfied by your product, specifically? Why does your product satisfy this segment of the population?
In the first anecdote about milk, who is the target? Your target market, those who need or want your product, includes the cow connoisseur, not the wine connoisseur. Your target market is the gangly kid with skinned elbows, the mom trying to satisfy his hunger, and the more nutrition-focused audience of milk drinkers.
Understanding who wants your product is the first step in a strategic plan. You should realize that there are likely subsets— the child and the mom in the milk example. How you market to each will vary, but it starts with a carefully defined product per group. How would you define your product to a child and, also, to a mother. To the child, you want to emphasize just how good it tastes and how “cool” it is. To the mother, you want to emphasize the health benefits and possibly the price.
How will your product information reach your target market? How will it be presented to your target market? What will “speak” to messy kids, frazzled moms, and health–conscious consumers?
Promotion on the Internet is very similar to that of traditional processes, although the medium has its own challenges. The core principles are the same, however: where does your target audience congregate? For kids, you may want to look at advertising through popular game sites or educational sites where they do their homework. Moms, on the other hand, may best be reached through an email blast or Facebook ads. And ads with targeted landing pages are much more likely to come with a high conversion rate.
The key to promotion is to get the right information in front of the right audience, but this starts with knowing your audience. You can’t form a finely tuned campaign without a clear target audience definition.
How will your product be easily acquired? When will it be purchased? Where is the product easily accessed? Who will likely purchase it?
Placement means making the product or service available at the right physical or online location. While milk may not be purchased online, you can make buyers aware of where to find your products (part of the promotion of the proper information). Placement of milk is a no-brainer. It should be placed in a grocery store, convenience store, a school, fitness center. The how, who, and when should be studied to accommodate the target’s need.
Do you have your products in the right place? Can buyers get what you sell easily and efficiently? If not, rethink your approach and look for ways to make the purchase as easy as possible.
How much can your target market afford to pay for your product? Is your product a want or a need for this target? Are they price sensitive and likely to use a competitor with slight variations in cost? When should coupons and discounts be made available?
Pricing is a critical component of the product mix and has to be tailored to the audience. You can go overboard with this concept and make pricing too complex— financing, award programs, loyalty programs, and other techniques can be highly effective, but do they fit your audience?
Milk is likely a necessity for a young, growing family. This target market is highly price-sensitive and likely to not pledge loyalty to a product if it hits the pocketbook hard, with no incentives for paying the loftier price. For those who are health-conscious despite cost, they are more inclined to have brand loyalty, especially when there are incentives and perks.
What benefits does your product provide to your target market? Create a simple spin that sticks with the customer and reminds him why your product is valuable. The old, but timely, adage, “Milk does a body good” has stuck. It promotes the product and resonates a “feel good” for the customer.
In all of your hard work to target your specific demographic, also remember this: have something to say to your customers. Don’t just HAVE to say something. Less is more.
The final result of a well-developed strategic marketing campaign should be a clear brand position. Are you at a high price-point with a distinct value proposition that resonates with a specific core audience? Or, on the other hand, are you at a low price point with a broad audience in mind, designed to capture volume? These are the critical questions that drive the marketing mix, but don’t ever forget that the marketing mix is built around a very specific customer. Knowing your specific customer will lead you to a much more focused and, therefore, successful marketing strategy.
Read the next article in this series, Strategic Marketing for Small Businesses: Media Integration.
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