Imagine going out for drinks with someone who spends the entire evening talking about himself. No matter how much he has to offer, if he doesn’t seem interested in learning about you, your life, and your values, it’s unlikely you’ll be interested in spending another evening in his company.
It’s easy for an enthusiastic business owner to immediately launch into a marketing plan based on her excitement about her products and services. She’s got something great to offer, and she wants to tell the world about it. The problem is, the world has its own problems and its own dreams. To get the world to listen, you’ve got to listen first.
To understand the people who will most benefit from your business (and therefore will be most likely to invest in it), you’ve got to shift your focus from telling them about yourself to learning more about them. When you take the time to get to know your ideal customers, you’ll be able to approach your marketing strategy with maximum confidence and minimum wasted efforts.
Start with what’s already out there
It’s time to pour a glass of wine and dig into that industry report you’ve been avoiding. Marketers spend hundreds of hours gathering data about the demographics and personality traits of diverse and distinct markets, and most of that data is available online. You just have to Google it. You can also find information on your target audience through social listening and a review of the comments on your own (or a competitor’s) company blog.
Including your competition’s website
If your competition just posted a case study on their website, read it. It’ll reveal relevant information about your target market, too. Study the website and social media profiles of your most successful competitors. You can learn a lot about your audience by how your most successful competitors are appealing to them.
Generate your own data
When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart with your favorite customer? The Mad Men-era advertisers learned about their target demographics through focus groups, and you could do the same via a cozy coffee klatsch.
More formally (and at a much grander scale), you can create surveys that allow you to learn more about ideal customers. Include a combination of quantitative, multiple-choice questions that will provide you with hard data and open-ended, qualitative questions that will offer more sensitive insights.
Create a customer persona
Once you’ve gathered enough data to give you a clear picture of your target markets, create customer personas. This will provide you with a real (fictional) avatar who represents the predominant demographics and personality traits of your various markets. Most people find it easier to target a group if they can visualize a specific person within that group.
For example, you might find that marketing to “30-something professional women who believe they should be able to have it all” is a little vague. However, if you personalize this market as Jenn, a marketing startup founder with a husband and two children, you’ll probably have a much better sense of how to approach her effectively.
Getting to know them
Gaining insight into your target markets can be time-consuming. If you’re like a lot of solopreneurs, you’re putting this step (along with other discovery process steps) off until you’ve got more time. But let’s face it — there’s never more time.
To learn more about how to grow your business, you’ve got to learn more about your market. But it doesn’t have to be painful. I developed the Business Design Roadmap to guide business owners through the discovery process at a steady, manageable pace. Let’s get started today.