Your business might offer the best service or product in existence, but if your marketing doesn’t target the right audience, it’s going to flop.
For example, if your business offers marketing advice, but that marketing advice is only useful for beginners, you can’t expect to be successful in trying to market that business to industry veterans. The veterans already know everything you’re trying to tell them and thus couldn’t care less.
On the other hand, newbies would obviously get some benefit from that advice, and you should be specifically marketing to them.
When considering your marketing, you have to make sure you’re marketing to the right people, and also marketing to those people in the right way. Even if you know exactly who to market to, if your marketing doesn’t reach them, it’s doing you no good.
Unfortunately, the research process isn’t easy. There are a lot of variables to consider and a lot of strategies you can use to develop your customer profiles. Also, if you make a mistake somewhere and don’t find it, you’ll carry that mistake with you in every bit of research you do, as well as literally everything else that has to do with your marketing.
In order to make this process easier, here is a guide on the most important of these strategies and variables so that you can increase your conversion rate and customer resonance.
#1 Realize That Finding the Perfect Target Audience Is an Art, Not a Science
Before any advice can be given, you have to take this fact to heart. As much as it’d be nice to provide a 100% guaranteed-to-work formula on finding your target audience, that’s simply impossible. There are too many variables to consider and they change too frequently, not to mention that these changes are rarely easy to predict.
However, there are things you can do to get a general idea of the type of customer you need to sell to, and you can adjust your demographic from there with further market research.
This is why you should engage with customers as much as possible when doing your research so that you know what kind of marketing will work best for the target demographic.
As an example, dog-owners might know about the existence of automatic dog-feeders, but if you don’t make it clear that they can be adjusted, then the dog-owners might write them off. If a dog is on a diet, the owner might shy away from an automatic feeder, thinking it’s not what they’re looking for at all.
Also, your target demographic can and will change in the future. Everyone grows up, evolves, changes, and otherwise learns of new advances in tech and other industries that completely change the way society handles certain things.
So, if you want to expand your business or if your target no longer finds your business relevant, pivoting is absolutely an option. Some of the biggest businesses in the world have grown huge because of their ability to change with the times and keep their relevance.
How could Nintendo have gotten as large as it is if it didn’t move on from playing cards? The answer is obvious: it couldn’t have, and wouldn’t have.
Playing cards are still used occasionally nowadays, but there’s a relatively large amount of competition and extremely low demand for anything beyond basic playing cards. Moving on from playing cards to more general entertainment (obviously video games ended up being their niche eventually) helped them keep their business relevant and growing.
#2 Consider the Basics
If there are any factors that you can obviously determine right off the bat, then making a list of those will help you in the future. With the business advice example, we know for a fact that market veterans won’t need newbie advice, so we can cross them off the list. We also know that our advice is found online, so we shouldn’t try to physically advertise our advice outside of the internet, which crosses off people without internet access.
These factors are pretty obvious when considering how you should market your business, but if you forget anything fundamental, your marketing is going to flop. With the marketing advice example, market veterans are clearly not the target. But if you tried to market to them, you’d be wasting your time and money for no benefit.
When thinking of these basic factors, consider the following:
What does my business do, and how does it benefit its customers?
Do any of those benefits appeal to a certain group of people?
Do any of those benefits cause a certain group of people to distrust or trust you, e.g. morally or politically, regardless of the actual benefit to them personally?
Where is my business located, and how do customers buy from it?
Will customers find out about my business by word of mouth/in person, or online?
If my business is physical, does it have an online component that could draw in the online-focused groups of people?
If my business is online, will it have a physical location that people can go to?
Are there any groups of people that would especially like or dislike my business, e.g. based on age, gender, marital status, income, education, lifestyle, etc?
Are these groups too niche, or are there plenty of potential customers?
Do these groups have any common interests that can be capitalized on?
What kinds of spending or viewing habits do these customers have, and how can my marketing be tailored to that?
What is the best way to reach these groups with marketing?
Are those groups even capable of being marketed to (e.g. because of income or lifestyle)?
If not, are there any non-traditional ways to reach these groups?
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it’ll help you determine the basic demographics of your target audience as well as any special considerations you should be making for it.
#3 Use Those Basics and Tailor Your Business to Them
Now that you’ve determined the basic demographics of your target audience, you can use that research to adjust your business to better suit the demographics. While you might’ve developed the customer profiles with your current business in mind, you can always pivot slightly to make those customers even more interested in your business.
Maybe you can offer additional services that appeal to a group that would otherwise only be somewhat interested, or maybe you can adjust the marketing to draw their attention more. However you do it, focusing your business on your ideal customer will draw in more customers than trying to cater to everyone and interesting no one.
Some adjustments are easier to think of and implement than others, but you can always get ideas from the customers themselves. You can give out surveys, interview individuals, or focus groups and ask what they want from your business. You won’t be able to implement every customer’s suggestions, but if you see a common theme among everyone’s wishes, that’s probably an area you can innovate in.
A/B testing is another common tactic used to help a business pivot. The entire idea behind this is that you give different people different options or outcomes, and see what works out the best. Maybe you find that people still buy your product when it’s more expensive, or maybe you find out that certain groups you didn’t anticipate liking your business do.
Whatever the results, you can use them to definitively pivot in a direction that your customers like. And obviously when your customers like the business more, they’re more willing to buy into it. The good PR associated with listening to your customers helps too!
#4 Take the Newly Tailored Business and Expand It Gradually to Other Relevant Audiences
The term “other audiences” doesn’t refer to any extremely different audiences. With our marketing advice example, what you could do is simply expand the advice to include an “advanced” series or two that appeals to the market veterans, or include extra content in the original articles that appeals to both market veterans and beginners.
Not all of these ideas will be feasible, but if you can add on to the list of demographics interested in your product without compromising the groups you already have, why not?
Of course, if you are sacrificing your focus to get these other groups involved, you probably shouldn’t. Losing your primary focus will hurt the business more than gaining a small subset of people will help.
Of course, there might come a time where your business is no longer relevant to the target demographic you originally tailored it for. Perhaps your original audience has grown up and still finds your business relevant but in a different way, such as with cartoons that created more adult-oriented content later on.
Or perhaps society as a whole no longer needs your business’s original purpose, such as with the Nintendo example. If that’s the case, then pivot away!
If there’s a demographic that’s close to the original that would still find your business relevant, that would be a perfect audience to go for. Just make sure you’re researching them appropriately and making sure that every factor fits.
Here’s a list of factors you should consider when researching potential demographics:
Children (1-12)? Teens (13-18ish)? Adults (18ish+)? Elderly (60ish+)?
Male? Female? Trans? Other?
Rural? Urban? Suburban? Online? Travelers?
Low? Middle? High? Top-end?
No schooling? Dropped out of high? High School Diploma? College Dropout? College degree?
Single? Divorced? Married?
There are too many to list but think about ones that might be relevant to your business.
Same as with hobbies, think about what might be relevant to your business.
White? African American? Asian? Etc.
Anything relevant to your business is a plus.
Impulsive? Logical? Rare-spenders? Etc.
Anything that can be accounted for in your marketing should be accounted for.
This doesn’t cover everything since some industries and businesses will care more about certain factors than others, but this is a list of things that almost every business will cater to when it comes to their target demographic. If your particular business or industry needs to refine the criteria or add new ones, go ahead!
A more specific target demographic is always better, after all, and knowing exactly what factors are relevant to your business will let you pivot more effectively.
If you do this, however, make sure you’ve got a solid foundation and optimized business processes so that quality doesn’t drop with the increased and varied demand. There will also come a point where you simply spread yourself too thin, and while it’s impossible to say exactly when that will be, make sure to avoid it.
#5 Consider Your Competition
If your competition is covering a demographic that you aren’t, it may be worth trying to expand your demographics to compete, even if they aren’t directly relevant to your business.
Of course, the core philosophy of maintaining your focus is still in effect here, but if you can beat out your competition, it might just be worth sacrificing some of your focus. Directly competing will usually end badly for you, since they already have an established presence in the area they’re competing in, so trying to expand to a demographic that they don’t cover is best.
If all of the competition focuses on low-income people, expand your business and provide options for high-income people! Similarly, if all of your competition is in one area, find a way to cater to other areas.
If you can morph your target demographics and customer profiles into something that the competition doesn’t have, your business will be more successful at converting people and keeping them around. After all, if someone is looking for a certain product but there’s only one product that’s relevant to them, they only have one option and that’s a guaranteed customer for your business!
On the other hand, if your business happens to be the one in a dominant position, expanding to areas already covered by your competition might actually be a wise decision. Since you have a well-established service or product, it’s likely that the people you pivot towards will have been at least somewhat interested beforehand anyway.
Take Starbucks for example.
Even if Starbucks wanted to open up a new location in the middle of a busy city that’s loaded with coffee houses, there’s pretty much no risk. They are a recognizable brand, a leader in the field, so there’s a large following that would go to this new location.
The new location might attract even more followers.
If the location were a brand new local coffee shop instead of the behemoth that Starbucks is, you can almost guarantee that it would fail since there is no following and no reason for anyone to start following.
Essentially, if your business is behind the competition, pivot into uncontested demographics and acquire a niche following. If your business is ahead of the competition, pivot into contested demographics and take over.
Pivoting into uncontested territory gives you some guaranteed customers that otherwise wouldn’t be buying anything, and taking over the competitions’ territories gives you potential access to an established customer base.
Smaller businesses can’t possibly oust the top dogs in the industry, so it needs to have a niche, but bigger businesses are already the top dogs and can attract people who invested in a less popular business earlier on.
With the Starbucks example, a small coffee house that’s already in the area where a new Starbucks pops up an already established one will have to specialize to survive, since otherwise there’s no reason for customers to go to it over a Starbucks.
#6 Evaluate Your Current Position
Once you’ve done all of this pivoting and market research, it would be a wise idea to reevaluate and make sure you haven’t gone too far or not far enough in some areas.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is my target demographic too niche? Are there enough people?
Do I need to expand my demographic or is my business fundamentally only interesting for a niche audience?
Am I appropriately benefiting my target? Will they see the benefits?
Do I need to adjust my business’s benefits to make them more relevant?
Do I need to inform my audience more in my marketing, or do they already know what my business can do for them?
Can my target afford my product or service?
Do I need to reduce the baseline cost of my business or do I need to provide alternative options at different prices?
Is my target accessible?
Do I need an online presence?
Do I need a physical presence or an expanded physical presence in other areas?
Even if you know exactly who you need to sell to, you have to consider if they can be sold to in the first place. If they seemingly can’t, you either need to pivot to a different demographic or find a solution to sell to them.
Also, don’t forget that you don’t have to focus on your primary demographic exclusively. Having multiple niches simply increases your customer count without hindering your primary audience.
This is how a lot of apps are developed, as iOS tends to be the main go-to platform, but many developers port them over to Android to tap into those untapped or less-tapped markets, as long as the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits.
However, don’t compromise your focus to expand the business’s demographics. A watered-down universal solution appeals to no one.
How can you figure all of this out? What resources are out there that you can use?
Luckily, there are quite a few. If you have an online-focused business you can use search analytics from Google to see what types of people are searching for your business and how often.
With a physical business, you’ll have to get a bit more creative. Maybe your business is mentioned in magazines or articles and those pieces have details that are relevant.
Maybe you need to conduct more surveys or interviews to make sure you’re keeping up with demands.
Regardless of the method, once you’ve found out who you’re selling to, and know for a fact that they’re interested, it’s a lot easier to cater to that group.
#7 Research Trends and Keep Those Trends In Mind
As you already know, your current target market may not be the same in the future. Because of this, knowing how the market is changing will be invaluable. It keeps your business relevant to changing times.
While it’s impossible to tell you exactly how to do this, there are a number of resources out there that you can look into and infer trends from such as trendhunter.com.
You can also try and absorb the knowledge that other people in the marketing sector give out. Marketing professionals are required to stay on top of trends and tactics at all times, so as not to fall behind. On an average day, they’re reading about new strategies or brainstorming ideas with colleagues, so you’d be wise to hire someone to help shed light on your own strategies.
Digital marketing consultants, for example, will assess all of your marketing avenues, define your goals, and then sketch a plan for meeting them in a timely manner.
Additionally, past trends might be handy to know as well. History tends to repeat itself in one way or another, so if you know how a trend turned out in the past, you can infer how a similar one will turn out today or in the future.
For example, take a look at the digital revolution. Businesses that failed to transition to digital have all but died out, such as with disposable camera businesses, and the businesses that caught on early are some of the largest businesses out there right now, like Netflix and Spotify (or one of the other similar services out there today).
As for the present, trying to launch a purely physical business for something like movies is bound to fail (just like Blockbuster!), but it depends on the focus of the business and if there’s a particular niche it targets. That niche might be strong enough to make the business succeed, such as in Minooka, IL where the internet connections are so poor that physical alternatives are valuable.
Of course, just because a trend exists doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Knowing whether a trend is short-term or long-term can make all the difference in your decision making.
For instance, everyone remembers Vine. It was a short-form video hosting service where everyone posting 6-second clips of random things. Everything from lifestyle content to music concerts, to meme-worthy hilarity. And the fact that it connected to Facebook and Twitter only made it more popular.
Of course, less than 2 years later the trend had completely died, and never really came back. If a business tried to market itself based on Vine’s widespread appeal, it would suffer a similar fate. This isn’t necessarily the same as a fashion trend or other types of trends that we normally think of, but it’s the same concept.
If you pivot your business heavily towards a trend that will die out shortly, then obviously your business is going to suffer after that brief period of relevance. Also, hopping onto a trend too early can be dangerous as well, since your relevance won’t be enough at the present time to be successful and the business may fall off before it has a chance to boom.
With all of this in mind, not every business has to rely on trends. In fact, some businesses fundamentally don’t need trends to exist at all, such as an agricultural business. We’ll always need food, so a fundamental food business won’t die off.
If you remember step 1, finding the right target audience is an art, not a science. You can optimize your methods when researching the audience, but you can’t 100% confirm that you’ve found the right one. That’s what I’ve tried to help you with today: optimizing those methods as much as possible.
Even though this is one of the most important parts of managing your marketing, it is one of the most neglected ones as well. Many entrepreneurs find a basic demographic and never try to pivot or confirm their audience, or they’ll forget the fundamentals and fail completely. As previously mentioned, you can’t guarantee that you have the right audience, but there are many methods you can use to pinpoint it as much as possible.
Also, even when you’ve pinpointed the right audience, you should still be doing research and be ready to pivot if needed. Maybe you just want to expand your business’s influence, or maybe you are no longer relevant to your initial audience, but either way, pivoting is critical to stay relevant as time passes.
Just make sure you’re following these methods in every bit of market research you do, and you should be fine. They aren’t guarantees but they’re proven to be beneficial. And what business doesn’t want more customers and more loyal customers?
What kinds of experiences have you had when trying to find your target audience? Are there any strategies that you employ that we didn’t mention here?
We’d love to hear from you guys! If you have some thoughts on the topic let us know!