When it comes to your marketing, knowing what you want to sell is only one piece of the puzzle. Knowing who you want to sell to is equally important so your message won’t fall flat.
Traditional marketing plans lump both internal and external considerations together. That is, your SWOT analysis and demographics for your target audience are in the same section of the plan. I think it’s better to split these into two sections, so the second section of your marketing plan is all about them.
Who would that include? Primarily, it’s your target audience(s) and target markets. It’s also your competitors and industry influencers, such as economic factors, government regulations that may be applicable, etc.
Let’s start with your target audience.
It can be intimidating to restrict your marketing to a particular audience for fear that you’ll lose out on potential customers. In reality however, marketing to everyone dilutes your message – costing you more money for minor results.
Do you know who your target customer is? Not just where they work, live and play, but what their pain points are? What they care about on an informed level?
When it comes to defining your target audience, you need to answer this question: who will benefit the most from your product or service? You can break this down in two ways:
- Geographical segmentation: Focus on the needs of your customers within a particular area.
- Customer segmentation: This one is more in-depth and tricky but it focuses on the people who are most likely to want to buy your product or service, then hits them with targeted marketing messages.
Knowing who you want to reach, what they care about, and how they will hear about you is critical to making your marketing dollars count.
Know Thy Competition.
If you don’t have competitors, you’re offering is either extremely new to the market, or you don’t have an offering valuable enough for others to be interested. If you do have competition (which of course is the more likely scenario here) you need a marketing plan because you’re both after the same audience. A competitive analysis can help you identify what your target audience needs, what they respond to, and how to ensure your messaging remains different from the “other” guy.
Your competitors will be other brands similar in size, product/service offering, and market location. Your access to specific information about them, such as how much capital they have or what resources are available to them, may be limited, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing as much research on them as possible.
Adjusting for external forces beyond your control.
This last piece is harder to anticipate but still relevant to your plan. Economic downturns, environmental factors, governmental regulations and more can put a serious dent in your business, regardless of your marketing.
For example, when the housing bust happened in 2008/09, realtors had to deal with the recession, increased regulation and access to mortgages for home buyers, etc. When I worked as a marketer in the engineering world, we factored in state and city budgets because one of our markets was building new schools, and we knew that politics was dictating a hold on new funding for a few years.
You’ll have little, if any, control over these factors. Recognizing them and adjusting to them will strengthen your marketing efforts and aid you in spending your budget effectively.
Congratulations, you’ve now finished the research portion of your marketing strategy.
Knowing your target audience allows you to tailor your message to that which they genuinely care about. It provides insights into how to connect with your audience in an emotional way and convince them to buy from you. When you combine the information from this section with the first section of your plan, you’ll be ready to begin building effective strategies and tactics into your plan.