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 Too often they use outdated and inaccurate tools such as demographics or average customers.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!

-Phil

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