Target Market: Why you should not target everyone

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

“You have to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.  You cannot start with the technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it”                                                      

Steve p. Jobs

I once had a company leader tell me that their target was “18-65, new potential customers, current customers, and employees”.  My response was “you’ve left out tourists and prisoners?”

It took me another hour to talk them into potentially focusing their limited investment on a group of people who might be most likely to buy their product. That Brand Leader was a Bank selling first-time mortgages.  While there could be an 18-year-old or a 64½ year old that might be buying a mortgage for the first time, it’s actually not likely.  In fact, 18-65 is the opposite of a target.  I did manage to talk them into a 28-33-year-old target, which gave us the chance to build insights about all the life-changes these consumers were going through (careers, babies, need for more space) that allowed us to develop Advertising Creative around moments that the consumer goes through and we focused the media in places where the 28-33-year-olds would most likely see our ads. That would have been missed with the broader 18-65 target range–we would have spread our dollars so thin that no one would have seen it, and we would have spread our message so broadly that no one would have felt any connection to it.

A good brand strategy has four key elements:

  1. FOCUS all your energy and investment to a particular strategic focal point or purpose. Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort. Make tough choices and choose to be loved by the few rather than tolerated by the many.
  2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further. Without the early win, you’ll likely seek out some new strategy even a sub-optimal one. Or someone in management will say “it’s not working”. You don’t want either of those–so the early win helps keep people moving towards the big win.
  3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  This is where strategy provides that return on Effort–you get more than the effort you are putting into it.
  4. Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger. It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviors.  Return on Investment or Effort.

Every brand has limited resources.

Marketing dollars, people resources to carry out programs and any share in the market, whether that’s a share of voice, shelf, display, recommendations–you never want to waste these resources by spreading them so thinly on everyone.  When you turn to your brand P&L, your CEO and finance people will expect you to deliver an appropriate ROI, or that investment will start to get smaller because they’ll give your dollars to someone else that can deliver a higher ROI.  And yet, even with that, you still refuse to focus? If you had to lift up a car, would you rather 8 football players each standing 3 feet apart or a simple $89 car jack. I’d take the jack because lifting up at a key focal point gives you an early win as you start to watch that car start moving up, the leverage point of the jack holds that 3000-pound car in the air so you can change your tire without even breaking a sweat (the gateway) and you can now drive away. Those poor football players would begin shaking after a few minutes.

Spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost-prohibitive.

While targeting everyone “just in case” might safe at first, it’s actually less safe because you never get to see the full impact. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you. Be honest in assessing your brand’s assets and then match those assets up to who is most likely to be motivated enough to buy your brand. That’s when you start to define the target, and then take your resources and do your best to get them to buy.

Who is the Consumer Target and What do they want?

Try to balance the target based on demographics (age, sex, income) and psychographics (behaviors, attitudes, and values). Yes, people criticize relying on demographics, but when you go to market, traditional media usually sells their media based on demographics (e.g. TV target is 18-34 years old).  With new media, whether that’s search, display or social media it allows you to focus more on psychographics and match up to what’s most important to the consumer. In terms of the creative, I always challenge people to narrow the target down to a 5-year range (eg. 28-33 years old) to give the creative the appropriate tone and feel. For every part of the buying system connected to your brand, take a walk in the shoes of the person who is paying their hard-earned money for the brand you offer, whether that’s a customer, consumer, purchaser, contractor or medical professional. I always think of my consumer as the “most selfish animal on the planet” just to ensure I’m doing the most I can to satisfy that selfishness. After all, the selfishness is well deserved, since they have money spend. Understand and meet those needs.

What do they want?

Consumers don’t care what you can do until you care about what they need. They will only pay you money if you give them something. That sounds simple. But, keep in mind they will pay you even more money if you give them what they need. And they’ll start to do that over and over again if they get even more from your brand. That means moving your brand from just features up to benefits and all the way up to emotional benefits. Ask consumers what they want. Listen. Don’t start with what you’re selling.   Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself over and over again “so what do I get from that” until you’ve come up with something powerful. Speak in terms of benefits, not features.

And remember, no one ever really wanted a quarter-inch drill; they just needed a quarter-inch hole.  Sell the hole, not the drill.