A lot of things have changed in marketing, since the internet became the preferred method of reaching prospective customers. Defining your target audience is not one of those things. Whether you call them your target demographic, your ideal customer or customer personas, knowing who you are selling to is the first step in creating any marketing strategy. Digital is no different.
There are two parts to the process, both of which need to happen in order to ensure that your digital marketing strategy is effective and delivering maximum bang for your marketing buck.
Defining Your Target Audience
The very first step in developing your marketing strategy, including your digital marketing strategy, requires you to define your target audience. This is critically important to everything you do in marketing and sales. Everything from pricing your products and services to branding and content marketing strategy flows directly from knowing who your customers are. It affects every aspect of your sales and marketing.
That might be what makes the prospect of defining who your target audience is so daunting. Putting a real, definitive “face” to your customer is a huge step. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips to make it a little easier.
1. Focus on Customers
There’s a difference between customers and fans or supporters. The former pays you money for your products and services. The latter simply supports your goals. There may be some overlap between the two, but if you get this part wrong, it could be detrimental to your business.
Always remember that while Twitter followers and Facebook likes are nice, they don’t pay the bills. So even though they’re great for exposure, when you define your target demographic, you need to look beyond the obvious, to find the people who are going to buy from you.
2. Develop Buyer Personas
Developing an effective digital marketing strategy is a lot like writing a novel, in that you need to know the characters inside and out. In this case, your “characters” are the people who are going to follow the links to your website, and make a purchase, or pick up the phone and call your office.
Many people are scared of defining their ideal customer in too much detail. They prefer to “case the net wide” and reach more prospects. But the truth is, spending money advertising to people who are never likely to become customers, just to reach more people, is a bad marketing strategy.
Buyer personas should be very detailed. You should know the age, economic status, interests and other personal details about your target audience. You should know where they currently get the products and services, you’re hoping to sell them, and what types of media they favour. If you are marketing B2B products or services, you should also know their job type and rank, and what their “pain points” are.
Write a description of your customer. Give them a name, an age, a career and a family. Describe what they do for a living, and with their leisure time. All of these things will help you to “find them where they live.”
I recommend that you take a look at the resources available at the Buyer Persona Institute and if you really want to succeed at this, read How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business – By Adele Revella.
3. Know What Motivates Them
Even once you know who your ideal customer is, you still need to figure out what motivates them. Are they looking for the best price? Is convenience a factor? Do they make some purchasing decisions based on the perception of status they will gain? If a buyer persona is a character outline, motivation is their own personal plot line. What drives them? What do they seek out?
4. Repeat as Necessary
Most businesses have more than one type of ideal customer. It’s very rare that they have only one group that they hope to reach (and if your business does only have one ideal customer type, you might want to think about diversifying!)
Use the same process to define all of these ideal customers, in as much detail as you can. Remember that new product lines and services might also mean adding new target customers to your list of personas!
Reaching Your Target Audience
Knowing who you are selling to is a big part of the battle of digital marketing, but reaching those customers is the next important step. If you can’t execute a successful marketing strategy based on the buyer personas you develop, you will lose the whole war!
The good news is that, when done well, spending time defining your target audience will make it a whole lot easier to reach out to them.
1. Focus on Their Needs
The biggest difference between old fashioned outbound marketing and digital marketing is that while the former focused on broadcasting your message, the latter focuses on customer needs and problems, and offering solutions.
You know who your customers are, you know what their problems are. Figure out how you plan to solve them and build your marketing plan around that solution.
2. Ask Questions, and Listen to the Answers
One of the biggest advancements that digital marketing has made for companies and marketers is it has given us the tools to engage with our customers. We can ask them questions, and if we take the time to listen to their answers, we’ll find out exactly what they want. That takes a lot of the guessing and trial and error out of marketing, and that’s good for the budget! So, make sure you ask questions, and really listen to what your target audience wants.
3. Become the Expert
Another great tool to reach your specific market, thanks to online marketing, is to build your marketing strategy around becoming the go-to expert in your field. Whether you’re a lawyer or a dog trainer, or you sell widgets to mechanics, those people are using the internet to find answers. Create a content marketing strategy that focuses on giving them those answers.
Online marketing is about giving away knowledge, expertise and advice, and by giving that away, you build credibility and become a trusted expert. Eventually, the people who rely on your advice are going to need to make a purchase, and when they do, they’ll know exactly where to find what they need.
4. Engage, Don’t Sell
When it comes to digital marketing, the people who really win big are the ones who don’t focus on selling. That might sound strange, but it’s the truth. People are bombarded with advertising all the time. So much so that there are dozens of ad blockers out there. Hard sell doesn’t work anymore.
Rather than focusing on selling, tell stories. Share news. Create informational content that shows your prospective customers how your products or services can be used to improve their lives.
5. Choose the Right Channels
The internet is a great marketing tool, but it can also be a double-edged sword because there are so many options. There are countless social networks, marketing options and advertising options. No one can cover all the bases, and even if you tried, you’d blow up your budget before you saw results.
The good news is that if you have defined your audience properly, you can narrow your focus to channels that are most likely to work.
Marketing to housewives and moms? Pinterest is likely to be a great channel! Want to reach teenagers? Try Snapchat and Instagram. Want to reach businesspeople? Focus on LinkedIn. From the right platform to the right medium, the work you put in to define the people you want to sell your products and services to will also tell you where to find them, and how to reach them.
6. Stay in Touch
Perhaps the most important thing you should be doing, after you have defined your customers, created personas and developed a digital marketing plan, is to capture leads, and create an opt in email list.
As long as there have been businesses, and a lot longer than we’ve been marketing online, it’s been known that most businesses get most of their revenue from repeat customers. So, find ways to stay in touch with the people who buy from you, and keep them coming back.
Putting It Together
Hopefully, you’re a little less worried about how to define your target audience, and a little less worried about being very specific about it. We’ve given you some tips about how to go about formalising your definition of your prospective customers and given you some advice about how to best use that definition to reach out and turn strangers into customers.
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