I am so worn out by marketers thinking that their target market is everyone. If you were supposed to target everyone, the brilliant marketing minds would never have come up with the term “target market”. And stop telling me you are “afraid to alienate current customers”. Unless you are making offensive advertising, which I do not recommend, then you won’t alienate anyone. If people see you going after a new type of consumer, here is the worst thing they will ever say: “wow, it looks like my favorite brand is doing so well that they are now looking for new customers.”
Just stop it.
Who is the consumer target?
Brand Leaders always think about who they want, but rarely ask the better question: “who wants them?” As you are starting to think about the target, keep asking “who is the most motivated to buy what you do?” Next time you are walking through the airport, and you pass the shoe-shine guy, watch how they decide whether you are a customer or not. They look at your feet and if you have leather shoes on, they will ask if you want a shine. If you have runners on, they will let you walk right past. If they understand that the best customer is someone already motivated by what they do, how come marketers struggle with this question. Marketers are obsessed with size of the target because they assume the bigger the target the bigger the brand. Our whole argument of Brand Love would suggest that it is better to be loved by a few rather than merely tolerated by everyone. If you have a target that will one day love you, that is an asset you should seek out, because they will crave your brand, recommend your brand to their friends and they will defend your brand to no end.
Defining the Marketing target versus the Selling target
Obviously, it makes sense to sell to everyone and anyone who comes in the door. However, you should not apply your limited resources of money, time, people against the entire population because it is cost prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might safe at first, it is actually higher risk because you never get to see the full impact of your effort. And then you never know if your program worked. Instead of figuring out who you want, focus on who wants you! Pick the target that is most motivated by what you do.
The example I use in my speeches involves a fictional golf ball that goes 50 yards farther than any golf ball in the world. Trust me, I wish this ball existed. I will ask who the target should be, and shockingly, the answers are all over the place. Rarely does anyone say “those who really love golf and want to hit the ball longer”. Is that too simple of an answer for you? Marketers are always tempted by the size of the market, and for this example they think “this is our chance to get non-golfers interested in golf”. Increasing market size after all is the holy grail that will turn golf haters into golfer lovers. They forget to ask golfer haters why they hate golf, because if they did they would find out they hate the clothes, find it boring and embarrassing and that it takes half day of their life. Hitting the ball longer does not help any of those pain points. In my mind, the best initial target market would be the 5 best golfers at every golf club. These golfers already hit it 280 yards would love to hit it 330 yards. They would certainly pay a price premium to be first and get that competitive advantage. They would likely carry more influence in spreading the word to the rest of the golfers of the club. So yes, we would sell to anyone, but we would market to those most motivated by what we have to offer. The best marketing target market would be “the best golfers at every club” which is likely 0.001% of the general population. Now that’s a focused marketing target market that would be easy to find, highly self-motivated and an easy sale. That is the starting point to a very efficient marketing campaign.
I once worked with a bank who told me that their target market for their latest ad campaign for first time home loans (mortgages) was 18-65, new customers, current customers and employees. I laughed and said “you have forgotten tourists and prisoners”. True story. This is a classic case of a selling target that includes everyone. We will sell to everyone and we are afraid of narrowing our target. Yes, the odd 18-year-old might be wanting to buy a house, and there might be a few 64 year olds that have been renting for 40 years and tired of their landlord. But neither would be offended if there is a 27-year-old or a 32-year-old in the ad. The bank clearly needs a marketing target. The first rule is to find those most motivated by what you do. You have to matter to those who actually care the most. The only people who care about your home loan message are those that are close to buying a house. It is obvious that the house comes before the loan. And equally obvious that a house is certainly not an impulse purchase. If it is this obvious, then why didn’t the bank know it was obvious. The shoe shine guy gets the idea of a motivated target, yet the bank does not. The first narrowing of the target would be “27 to 32 and those looking to buy a house in the next six months”. With a tighter target like that, imagine how this limits where you will spend your limited resources. Where are they? Every weekend they are out house-hunting and every night and lunch hour, they are on-line looking at potential houses. That makes for a very targeted media plan with on-line banners for real estate listings and out of home signage near new home developments. What is their motivation? Well, they are scared because it is their first time and they are risk averse because it is a lot of money for them. They are fixated on the house and not even thinking about the home loan. What would move them? Due to their fear and unknown, they would want a comforting experience with someone who will guide them through the process. It is one of those first “grown up” big moments and they want to be successful. The role of the bank should be that of an enabler, providing support and advice through experts and content focused on helping people buy their first home. We can see ideas for the brand, just by narrowing the target from a general population selling target to those clear first time buyers who need help and advice, in a very comforting supportive way.
As you figure out who you are serving and who you are not serving helps provide focus. In terms of choosing target segments, you can break it out on the following:
- Behavioral or Psychographic
- Usage occasion
The most beloved brands know who their customer is and who it is not in their target. This is one of the first decisions you will make on focus because spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost prohibitive–and will always generate a low return on investment and low return on effort. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it is actually less safe to have a broad target market 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. It becomes all about choices and you will be much more effective at convincing a segment of the population to choose your brand because of the assets and promise that you have that match up perfectly to what they want.
A pet peeve of mine are those brands who conduct highly elaborate and expensive market research to determine market segments. I love segmentation, but I hate how it is used. The whole role of segmentation is to figure who is your target and who is not. However, marketers are using segmentation as their game plan for targeting everyone. And they put a game plan to each segment. For segment A, here is how we show up and for segment B, we have to show up completely different and for segment C, we will be value priced and for segment D, we will charge a premium to join our club because we know they love clubs. This is craziness. Not only are you spending your limited dollars across the entire population, you are now taking your limited people resource and getting them to alter how you show up to various segments of the market. On top of that craziness, if we believe that positioning is about managing your reputation, then how on earth will you manage six reputations at once. Plus, consumers better not compare notes on how they see your brand. Pure craziness.
Just stop it.
Focus your limited resources on those consumers that are the most motivated by what your brand does.
Here’s a presentation from our workshop on how to write a brand positioning statement
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