Our previous post looked at why small businesses should use targeted marketing. If you don’t want to click away right now, here’s a super-quick summary:

Trying to market your product to everyone that might buy it is usually inefficient. In fact, if you try to persuade everyone, you might end up persuading no one. It’s often more effective to concentrate on one or more types of customer and tailor your marketing to them.

This time, we’ll look at how you get started with making your marketing more targeted. And the first, crucial stage in that is learning who your customers are.

Shouldn’t you research the market before you start the business?

Many marketing blogs suggest that market research needs to be carried out before you even set up your company. The logic is that if you know all about potential customers before you start, you’re less likely to take wrong turns and make marketing mistakes.

We think that for most people, the reality is a bit different. Most small business owners didn’t meticulously plan everything before they started selling. Instead, they jumped on in and learned who about their audience as they went along.

And the good news is that this is fine. Actually, having some customers before you start your research has a massive advantage: it’s easier (and cheaper) to find out about people that you already sold to than to research prospective customers.

All of which begs the question, ‘how can you learn more about your existing customers?’

Cost-effective ways of researching your audience

When it comes to marketing, knowledge is power. The more you know about your potential customers, the more effective your marketing will be.

One way to learn all about your customers is to engage a market research company. However, depending on the company, this can get expensive very quickly. Fortunately, it’s also possible to get useful insights by yourself. Your options include:

Using a customer survey

Existing customers are your greatest asset. After all, they already bought from you, so you know that something about your product (or at least your marketing) appealed to them. One way is the ubiquitous feedback form, in which you can invite them to comment on their purchase. Social media and review sites also offer useful information.

However, response rates using this approach tend to be low. An alternative is to incentivise the process: make it worth their while to give feedback, by offering a discount, a giveaway or entry into a prize draw.

Talk to your customers

Many businesses talk directly to their customers, either face-to-face or on the phone. Online platforms offer further opportunities for back-and-forth chat. These types of interaction are golden opportunities to understand who is buying from you — and why. Just don’t overdo it and turn every conversation into an interrogation!

You might find it useful to formalise any information you gather, drawing out relevant quantitative data.

Use online statistics

A host of online tools are available to help you understand your current and potential customers. Web analytic tools, for example, can show you vital information about visitors to your website. This includes:

  • where your customers are located geographically
  • what search terms were used to find your website
  • what pages they looked at on your site

Google Analytics is one of the most widely used tools, but there are plenty of alternatives.

Do some judicious detective work

A little bit of detective work can also provide useful insights. Let’s say that you’re selling high-protein vegan flapjacks and your company already emphasises ethical sourcing. Using easily-available research from Neilson, you can discover that consumers under 30 are more likely to care about corporate responsibility. Further research shows that vegans (unsurprisingly) veer away from processed foods, and that there’s a big market for vegan chocolate.

Once you’ve collected all this information about potential customers, it can be useful to create personas.

Start to create personas

A persona is a fictional person who represents a key part of your audience. Creating a persona allows you to humanise dry statistics — which in turn makes it easier to craft your marketing messages. If you’ve never tried this, you may be surprised how much easier it is to write for a ‘person’ than for an anonymous audience.

How detailed your personas are will depend on how much information you’ve been able to collate (and the nature of your business), but you might want to include:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Geographic location
  • Income bracket
  • Level of education
  • Interests
  • Main buying motivation (for your product)
  • Main concerns about buying your product

To make your personas more relatable, don’t neglect to give each one a name.

Craft your message

Armed with two or three key personas, it’s time to start crafting marketing messages that will appeal to each of them. That stage would make a blog post on its own, but in brief, your job is to start thinking like your persona and considering what problems you are going to solve for them.

For further practical help with understanding and reaching your audience, please get in touch with MV marketing. Backed by years of marketing know-how, we specialise in offering affordable marketing services for smaller businesses. Take a look at our services and give us a call!