Sunday, December 20, 2009

What Audience Segment are You Targeting?

I subscribe to a free service called Help A Reporter Out. Three times each weekday I get an email with requests from multiple sources needing quotes for articles, blogs and books.

One question recently peaked my interest. Below is the question, my answer, and some follow-up questions & answers.

Are retailers doing enough to attract new customer segments or are they putting all their eggs into one audience segment basket?

Most retailers are putting too many eggs into one basket, and usually it's the wrong basket. The biggest mistake most retailers make is in how they define their audience. Too often they use outdated and inaccurate tools such as demographics or average customers. Defining your customer based on age, gender, income and education doesn't work in today's world. Customers are too diverse to be summed up neatly in one little box.

Describe some common mistakes retailers make in their outreach efforts.

The two biggest mistakes most retailers make in their outreach efforts is:
  1. Going after the wrong model of people (see answer above)
  2. Not making the Outreach consistent with the Experience.
Too many times the marketing message is at odds with the in-store experience. A classic example of this a couple years ago was Wal-Mart trying to get into fashion. The marketing talked about upscale fashion, but the store screamed ugly, dirty and cheap. When they dropped that campaign and went back to advertising really low prices their numbers improved greatly.

There is a big disconnect between how customers perceive certain stores and how those stores advertise and market themselves. Thus, those advertising messages are seen immediately as false hype and are discounted or ignored. The best marketing & advertising campaigns are those that consistently match the actual experience in the store. If you advertise excellent customer service, you better have over-the-top customer service in the store. If you advertise low prices, they better be extremely low. If you advertise friendly, helpful staff, you can't have lots of fine print clauses in all your policies.

With new media tools added to existing traditional outlets like print, radio and direct marketing, how do they select the most effective tools?

All forms of advertising CAN work. The key is in knowing how each form works differently and then using them in the correct way. You can't do the same thing on Facebook that you do in a newspaper. They don't work the same. The key to selecting the right tool is to first identify the objective with clear and measurable goals. Then evaluate all the options to determine which tool most effectively can reach that goal. For instance, we use Facebook primarily as a way to fan the flames of our most loyal customers by making them feel like insiders. It is not used for reaching new people. I use radio for that purpose.

Can you offer 3-5 tips on improving their marketing messages?

First, identify the true Core Values of your business. What are the unwavering principles that guide every decision?

Second, evaluate every single aspect of the business to make sure it aligns perfectly with those core values. And I mean everything! From the message on your answering machine to the odor in your bathroom, you have to be consistent enough that any customer walking through the door knows exactly who you are and what is important to you.

Third, align your marketing message with your core values. If your store is about teaching the customer how to shop, use your marketing to teach. If your store is about whimsy and surprise, make your ads about whimsy and surprise. If your store is about efficiency and accuracy, make your ads about efficiency and accuracy.

When you follow those three steps you'll immediately start attracting new customers to your store, customers who align their values with your values. That is the most important segment of the audience to own.

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Doing December Differently

(Note: I know it's already December 6th. For some of you it might seem like too little too late. But the advice is good and I didn't want to wait 11 months before sharing it.)

Today's sermon from Pastor Dr. James Hegedus at the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson was about "Doing December Differently." Would it surprise you to learn that pastors take the same approach to December as retailers?

As Pastor Jim put it, "I turned the page on the calendar and sucked all the oxygen out of the room."

Yes, big, deep sighs as we brace ourselves for the onslaught of the busy season.

Pastor Jim went on to talk about how he is preparing his way for the Lord differently this year. As retailers we need to think about how we prepare, too. Here are three things I encourage you to do differently this December.
  1. Schedule some white space
  2. Empower your staff
  3. Focus on one customer at a time
The hardest thing we face in December is the way everything seems to grow and speed up exponentially. The fires to put out, the to-do lists, and the pace of business whirl around faster and faster until we are sucked into the stress and craziness of the season. Soon we aren't eating or sleeping well, we're losing our patience faster and we become a different person than we were the other 11 months of the year. I know. Been there, done that.

But it doesn't have to be that way. You don't have to take a deep sigh as though holding your breath while you plunge into the icy waters of December. You just have to do things a little differently.

Do these three things and it will make a huge difference in how well you feel (and how well you do) at the end of December.

Schedule some white space. Just as the white space in a newsprint ad makes the message stand out more powerfully, white space in your life makes you more powerful. Schedule at least 30 minutes per day for quiet time. Use it to read, write or reflect, but don't use it for anything relating to your business. It will recharge your batteries and give you a fresh outlook on your life and your business.

Empower your people. Teach your employees how to do what you do and let them do it. Reward and praise them when they do it right. If they do it wrong, first support them, then show them how to do it right. Soon they will be doing more so that you can do less. Will they do it as well as you? Probably not at first. But if you're rewarding their behavior, they'll do it well enough to make a difference. And you'll immediately have more time on your plate.

Focus on one customer at a time. As the boss it is hard not to look and listen to everything happening around you. But the more you can learn to focus on one customer at a time, the more the world slows down for you and the bigger impact you can have on that one customer. Give her your full attention and win her over as a fan. She deserves nothing but your best. And don't worry about those waiting customers. When they see you giving your all to one customer, they'll want some of that kind of service, too.

Do things a little differently this December. Give yourself a break. Empower your staff. And take it one customer at a time. You'll see the results before the champagne pops New Year's Eve.

Merry Christmas!