What’s your target market? I asked this question to one of my mentors and her response fit very well with her personality. “I’ll sell to anyone! Everyone is my target market!”
I think we can all agree with that sentiment to some extent. After all, identifying a target market often feels exclusionary, as though anyone who doesn’t fit that target is being left out of your strategy. If you sell alcohol in the United States, for example, your target market is restricted by law. (The drinking age here is 21) However, deciding that your target market is everyone over the age of 21 covers a very broad base (too broad, in my opinion). Generally alcohol is marketed to either the younger market, or the older market. You can see this in the setting used in the ad (is it a dark club filled with dancing bodies, or is it an office in rich mahogany, with many leather bound books?) There is always a lot of crossover between the markets: not every 21 year old enjoys clubbing, and not every 45 year old would enjoy a lavish office setting. Trying to make an ad campaign which appeals to everyone age 21 to 85 would be quite difficult!
When you see an ad, a fun exercise is to decide who the advertiser is targeting. I saw a toy store advertisement today, but its target wasn’t kids during the holidays. This ad was talking about selection and price, with children acting as news anchors. Sure, their driving customers are going to be children, but parents make the choices of which store to drive to, and what to spend. A toy store’s job is to target parents, while appealing to children. They may run several campaigns with different targets (children, parents, family) but their largest market and target market will always be parents with young children.
When you think about your target market, you have to consider the following:
- Who USES your product?
The end users of your product are the ones who will interact with it on a day to day basis. Whether you sell tools, cereal, or vehicles, the people who are going to use your product are arguably the most important people to advertise to. This isn’t exclusively the case, but it is for the large majority of products. In most cases, the end user is going to be the person who finds out about your product, investigates the product, and makes the decision to buy the product (as well as where to purchase from!)
- Who PURCHASES your product?
There are three main cases in which the purchaser is not the user.
The first, is in our example of children. Most often, parents are the purchasers, and the child is the user. In this case, the parent has “no” power, but if they’re inclined to say yes, the child generally has free reign. In this case, you need to appeal to the user moreso than the buyer: but keep the buyer in mind.
The second example is a business environment. While many companies do allow employees to bring and choose some of their own devices, (cell phones, bluetooth headsets, and computer peripherals come to mind) the majority of items used will be made at a level somewhere higher up the chain. For example, if you sell telephone systems, headsets, or computer hardware and software, you want to be appealing to the company rather than to the users. While every call center operator will be using a headset and phone, the decisions are made in the IT/IS department, or in smaller companies simply by the owner of the company. If you spend your time courting commercial headset users, you may have some success, but your failure to identify a purchaser is twofold: a.) the people you’re marketing to don’t have buying power, and b.) you’re ignoring those WITH buying power!
The third situation in which the purchaser holds more power than the user will be in a gift scenario. For example, when a product comes in a gift pack or bundle, they aren’t really trying to get the end user to purchase. (Although at times they surely will, a deal is a deal!) They’re trying to offer a lower cost, with a greater perceived value to the gift giver. When they present a beautiful box with the product, and accompanying accessories, the gift receiver will have a greater appreciation than if it was just the item alone.
Whether you have one target or ten, it is essential to identify these markets. This is the best way to get the most value out of your advertising and marketing budget. Sometimes a broad strategy will work, but smaller, more targeted campaigns should get you a greater result. If you’re advertising fitness equipment and supplies, you may see a result from advertising in car magazines, parenting magazines, or newspapers: but you’re going to see a greater result from advertising in fitness and exercise magazines!
If you haven’t thought about who your real target is, I challenge you to take some time to think about it. You’re not excluding those outside of the target, you’re simply paying more attention to those within it!
What are some of your considerations when you think about your target market? Do you have more than one? Feel free to discuss in the comments below! As always, if you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and colleagues!