Most of us think we’ve got a pretty good knowledge of our target market, don’t we?
If you are a marketing executive in a large company, you have probably got a variety of demographics, psychographics, A & U reports, and segmentation studies from the best marketing consulting firms in easy reach. If you’re employed in a smaller firm, you have feedback from the field, industry reports, and some memorable stories & observations about your customers or clients.
That is not enough- – not if your aim is to slice through a muddled, crowded market and actually connect with the people who should be buying your product or service offring.
I’d better take some time to explain.
Take everything you know about your buyers at this time and put it a big pot. Go ahead: dump in the insights, reports, stories from the sales field, and everything else you’ve learned after all of these years. Now stir it up and take a sip. What does it taste like? With everything you’ve placed in there, are you able to pick any special flavour out from among all those ingredients?
Don’t stop there- – let’s slip on over to your key competitor’s kitchen. They have got their soup simmering away too. Take a taste. Is there any defineable difference- – or have they made use of the same types of ingredients you have?
So here’s my point: while you may know lots about your target audience, doesn’t the competition know similar things? And have either of you really worked to refine your understanding of who- – precisely who- – you are trying to reach?
The answer, usually, is no. What most of us do is to take all of the info we have and attempt to create a composition of our “target audience”, don’t we? But since it’s a composite, our vision is usually too blurry to be helpful. We want to go past having just a fuzzy idea of our “target audience” to creating a focused, almost-holographic vision of our most critical customer.
Here’s what I’m getting at: if I asked you if you would introduce me to your very best friend, you could easily talk for hours about him or her, couldn’t you? You’d be able to tell everything about what he likes to do, what makes him excited, what disappoints him, what ticks him off, his weird little mannerisms, how he sees the world, what he is attempting to achieve- – and we’re only getting started! By the point you are done telling me about your buddy, he wouldn’t be just “some guy” to me any more- – I’d feel a bit like I know him, in a uniquely different way than I would had you described anyone else in the world.
Author and speaker Jill Konrath calls this a “customer persona” and highlights why it’s so important:
“Years ago I attended a conference where Phillips, the electronics giant, presented a session on how they invented their hottest products. They’d made a prototypical family that represented their target audience. Then they made a ‘ficticious ‘ character for each family member, complete with the person’s age, education level, occupation, interests, beliefs, priorities, & daily schedule. Finally, to make them appear more real, they gave each person a name. When the people at Phillips discussed new product ideas, they’d repeatedly ask, “would this be something Karl would like”, or “what are the biggest annoyances in Kristina’s life?..
Shortly after that conference, I visited the VP of sales at a global medical devices company. Walking into his office, I was welcomed by a life-sized cardboard cutout of a physician standing in his lab coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck. When I asked about it, the VP replied: ‘He’s our customer, and we need to consider him in every decision we make. I’m always thinking about his needs, issues, and objectives.'”
As you can imagine,this can seriously transform your business. Start by taking what you know now and start interviewing 5-6 of the real people who represent your ideal customers. You simply can’t “guess”: direct conversations are absolutely non-negotiable to get the information you need.
Presenting yourself as all things to all people just doesn’t cut it any more, not when we are faced with a distracted, busy audience in a sluggish economy.You need to know exactly who you are making an attempt to reach, exactly what they are looking for, and precisely how to get their attention. In today’s environment, the marketers who win are the ones who can clearly see their “imaginary” friends. You can certainly be one of them.
Several of the best branding companies in the US have partnered with Marie Elwood and Increased Results, her Atlanta marketing consulting firm.