Knowing your audience is the key to successful marketing. You need to know what your potential customers care about if your messages are to capture interest and entice them to buy. Scattergun marketing no longer works in a world where communication is now targeted at niche audiences. What works is being passionate about your product and knowing what your customers care about if you’re to attract their attention. Research has shown that 41% of customers interact with adverts targeted at their interests compared to random ones.
Some SMEs may be hesitant about engaging with targeted marketing. After all, a new start-up may not have the same time or resources as larger SMEs: 47% of small business owners handle their own marketing (2016). However, whatever the size or stage of your business you are mostly operating in highly-competitive markets and need to consider all options for retaining existing customers, attracting new ones and exploring growth.
What is a target market?
A target market is simply the particular group of people who could potentially buy your products or services. Due to their particular product or service, some businesses will have an appeal to a wide target market (e.g. if you sell chocolate!) and others will have a more niche market e.g. manufacturing specific machine parts. Within your target market you will also have particular segments, for example, ‘demographics’ – these are a subset or your overall target market who share certain attributes e.g. age, region, attitude or a specific time in the buying cycle e.g. Christmas. You may decide to target certain segments of your target market with certain products or at certain times of the year.
Marketing is all about how to access and influence your target market. Whether you’re a business-to-customer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) SME, targeted marketing will greatly improve your marketing effectiveness and success – it will also give you a much better return on your investment (ROI) than marketing to everyone.
Tips on strategically targeting and marketing to your audience:
- Use your knowledge – small businesses are well placed to use their knowledge about existing customers’ buying habits. Use this information to define your target market to attract repeat and new sales e.g. you may notice that certain types of business buy your product – could you identify other similar businesses and target them with an email campaign?
- Undertake customer profiling – to more precisely analyse your existing customer base, match up the products or services bought (you may have more than one) to particular market segments. This means you will have information about different target market segments rather than one generic offer.
- Use digital marketing for targeting – use of the online medium (anything from a website, social media and smartphone apps) means you can reach a highly targeted audience. For example 78% of UK adults use Facebook (that’s 32 million people) which is able to provide a really niche and targeted platform for marketing.
- Use digital marketing for analysis – using digital media means that you can collect useful data about who is accessing your messages; it will give you an excellent idea about what’s working and what’s not. For example, one small business noticed it was getting high order rates from customers it had reached via Facebook and so ensured they stayed with that platform. Marketing via apps can give you data (e.g. location) that can enhance your targeting capabilities.
- Finesse your message – customers are becoming wise to standard marketing messages. Using shouty messages might tell people you’re there but will do little to engage them. It’s more effective to influence potential customers by tailoring your message to their interests and needs. Once you know your target market you can identify words and images which will work best.
Any marketing which a business undertakes will raise its general profile. However if businesses want to reach new customers and increase sales then targeted marketing will be more effective. Without knowing your target audience you may lose business to competitors or miss out on growth opportunities.