In our last post, we discussed how to set your business apart from your competitors. In this post, we’ll be moving along to our next recommended step in your online marketing plan—determining and segmenting your ideal client base, or target market.
Determining your target market means narrowing down your potential customers from the population at large to a small segment that is ideally suited for your product or service. Determining your ideal client base can be an outgrowth of determining your differentiators. Basically, once you’ve carved out your niche, you can figure out exactly who your buyers are. So, who out there is tailor-made for your product or service? Who do you want to work with? What kinds of people are most likely to buy from you?
It may seem counterintuitive at first. Wouldn’t you want to have the biggest possible pool of potential customers? The answer is actually no. Finding clients who are a perfect match for you will actually save you time, headaches, and potentially oodles of money in the long run.
Imagine that you own a gourmet pizza shop that makes veggie pizzas on artisanal bread. All told, there are 2,000 pizza shops in your town, which has 50,000 residents. Yes, you have 50,000 potential customers. But those 50,000 potential customers have 1,999 other options. That’s a lot of perceived competition. And, because you make specialty pizzas that may not appeal to all, or even most people, it could be a tough sell.
Let’s say that, to get more people in the door, you decide to try and convince all 50,000 residents of your city to try your pizza. You create and distribute enough marketing material to fill a warehouse. You spend gobs of money and tons of time handing out coupons and promoting your restaurant to everyone who will listen. Business picks up for a little while, but then tapers off again. You’re getting more customers in the door each month, but the coupon mania isn’t doing much for the bottom line.
Now imagine that instead of selling yourself all over town, you start narrowing down your focus to the people who are most likely to enjoy your pizza and appreciate your unique point of view. You do some research, take stock of who your best customers are, and try to find people like them to market to. Your research brings your target market down to 5,000 people. Yes, it’s 45,000 fewer potential customers, but the 5,000 people you have targeted are not only far more likely to try your pizza, but to become loyal customers. They’re also far more likely to tell their friends and colleagues—who probably have similar tastes—about your pizza. Now, not only will your customers increase, you’ll be able to cut your marketing costs by 90 percent. This concept is the beginning of using behavioral marketing.
Start with the clients you already have. Interview them to find out everything you can about who they are. What are their behavioral habits? Where do they shop? Where do they live? What other types of products and services do they seek out? What kind of movies do they go to? What ideals or values shape their decisions? And, most importantly, why do they choose to do business with you? Remember to be respectful of your clients’ time, privacy and feelings. Any interviews you give them should be short, insightful, caring and professional.
Use your research to find similarities and patterns until you have a general picture of your ideal customer. Then use your imagination (and some deductive reasoning) to try to guess how that customer thinks, what they read, what they do online and what their wants and needs are. From this information, you’ll be able to build a tailored marketing plan that reaches your clients in a very personal way…within their own behavioral guidelines. They won’t have to change a thing about themselves to work with you…you’ll simply “meet them where they already are and give them what they already wanted.”