Avoid the Kite-Eating Tree, Understanding Your Customers

Do you know your target market? I mean…do you really know them? More often than not, small businesses tackle their marketing without a real understanding of their customers. In order to create a successful marketing campaign, you’ve got to understand who you’re selling to. What pain points are they experiencing? What makes them tick? Over time, you should be able to tell me or anyone else nearly everything there is to know about your customers. Brands, like Nike & Coca-Cola, know who is buying their products. So how do you begin to understand your customers?

First, let me tell you there is no secret something I can pass onto you. I recently attended a LinkedIn training, and I was amazed at the number of people asking for a secret sauce or formula for increasing views, clicks, and calls. LinkedIn’s knowledgeable staff replied to those questions with an answer I think many dreaded…” it depends “. They’re absolutely right though. Each business is unique, and your customers are even more unique. You may have one, two, or even five different types of customers. Without a clear understanding of each customer segment, you won’t be able to deliver a message effectively. Not only that, you’ve got to deliver the message through the appropriate channels. You might get lucky once because there’s always an outlier. I don’t recommend relying on luck when you just need to understand your customers.

Without a clear understanding, you’re essentially Charlie Brown hanging upside down from the kite-eating tree. You’re frustrated and just want to soar for a change. Don’t waste your marketing dollars marketing to the wrong people. I’ve had the honor of advising many businesses, and I always ask them whom they’re marketing to. If they tell me ‘everyone’…I ask them to come back with a better answer. Not everyone is interested in what you have to sell. Do you think Dunkin Donuts is advertising coffee to people that don’t drink coffee? The answer is NO. They want to reach cost sensitive coffee drinkers in a hurry. So I must ask you again. Who is your target market?

The easiest way to begin understanding your target market is by speaking to your current customers. How did they hear about your business? Why do they shop with you versus a competitor? Do they get their information from their phone or another source? The more you know about them, the easier it will be to create successful marketing ad, campaign, message, etc. As I suggested above, you also needed to know which channels reach them. If you’re targeting students, don’t put an ad in the paper.

Another way to go about understanding your customers is through research. You may be able to find existing research on your target market. For example, there’s quite a bit of data on pet owners and their shopping preferences. If you own a pet store, you need to take a look at the data that already exists. You can also conduct your own market research, which will take more time and money. You may also have to make some assumptions and test them out. I don’t recommend this if you have no idea who your customers are, because you need to at least have a basic understanding to make accurate assumptions. Start with gender, likes/dislikes, age, and habits. Would an example help? Sure it would.

I work with small business owners, and I’ve come to realize many of them don’t understand younger audiences. I think some of them secretly hope they can target younger individuals through their parents. Good luck! As a millennial, I can tell you that doing business with my parents might actually convince me to look elsewhere. I have different needs and expectations than my parents. I’m looking for nearly perfect technology, lower risks, and someone that offers me value. You’re going to work for my money because I’ve put in long hours to earn it. If a service provider or retailer wants to reach me via marketing, they aren’t going to get far using traditional tactics. They’ll need to market where I’m looking, like Instagram and blogs. They also need to have a clear message that I can identify with. I hope that helps paint a clearer picture for you.

Do you now understand the importance of understanding your target market? You’re wasting money if you don’t have some basic understanding of your customers. I don’t want you to waste money. There are much funnier ways to waste money than bad marketing campaigns. So I encourage you to create your own secret sauce by taking the time to understand your customers. What’s the worse that will happen? You become Alexa and know them better than they know themselves. I’m pretty sure Amazon isn’t complaining.