Imagine a company that marketed dentures to college students. Or baby bottles to the retirement community. Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course it does. Marketing like this would be a total waste of time and money.
While these are drastic examples, many entrepreneurs, especially in startups, can't identify their target audience. As a business, being clueless about something as important as this is a quick path towards failure.
Conducting a study in demographics is a must for your overall business strategy, as it will help you hone your marketing and sales initiatives. Think of the following criteria: age, gender, location, education, income levels, occupation, marital status and ethnic background. Once you've averaged these out, it's time to learn from your target audience. When done so regularly, you can spot trends and change marketing and sales initiatives.
These next few tips have helped me continuously grow my startup, Wakanow, an online traveling agency for people traveling to and from Africa. Implementing these tactics will help strengthen your current and future business strategies too.
Know Your Business Model
Before you can learn from your audience, you must know your business in its simplest form. Be able to explain the problem it solves, the solution to solving those problems, and what extra value it adds to your customer's life.
As I analyze Wakanow's target audience, I always keep the basic principle of our business model in mind: easing travel to and from Africa. This allows me to cut through the distractions when studying the behavior of my target audience.
After simplifying your business model, remember to leave out any assumptions. Base your knowledge solely on the objective data collected during your studies.
Conduct Quantitative and Qualitative Studies
Now to the grunt work: collecting valuable data from your target audience. Ths happens to be perfect for new sales employees since it will help them learn a lot about your company.
Start with a quantitative study. Use a multiple choice survey and give it to as many people in your target audience as possible. Ask questions like, "What would make you purchase X over X?" or "What is the most important factor for you when considering purchasing X?"
Next, do a qualitative study on just a certain group of customers or clients, especially those who you know are loyal to your brand. Get more subjective and ask things like "After purchasing X, what value did it add to your life (or business)?" or "What is your immediate feeling when you visit our website's homepage?"
Pay Attention to Social Media Signals
Think about Facebook's ecosystem, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Did you know the average user spends 50 minutes a day in that ecosystem alone? And that doesn't even include WhatsApp.
With 1.6 billion active monthly users on Facebook alone, you can bet that a huge percentage of your customers or potential customers participate in some type of social media activity. Even if they're not on Facebook, they could be on Twitter, Pinterest or Google+.
Social media has become the place where many people sound off their opinions, so pay close attention to what your target audience is saying. Observe how they act and react to certain types of posts, not just related to your products or services, but your competitors' too.
These social media signals will also show universal trends within your target audience. At Wakanow, we learn a lot about our target audience by seeing when and where people are traveling and whether it's for business or pleasure. If we see a major uptick in people traveling to Jamaica every June, we target that audience months before with special deals to Jamaica during June.
Study the Competition
Your largest and most successful competitors have likely completed some in-depth audience studies of their own. The easiest way to see this is through their advertising and marketing initiatives and what they are posting on social media. If a competitor has case studies, study them. You can learn a lot about its target audience from the questions answered in these surveys.
But don't simply copycat or emulate your competitors. Instead, learn their tactics and do things better. Innovation still reigns over all. The more original an idea, the more appealing it will be.
Build a Client Persona
Now that you have all your data, create a persona of your ideal customer, taking age, sex, ethnicity, salary, location, etc. into account. Because business changes quickly across each industry, be sure to update your persona after conducting new studies. Wakanow conducts customer studies involving all the elements above and repeats the process annually. After the next persona study, we create an infographic with our target persona in the middle, surrounded by various data highlights (data you would want to hide from your competitors). Then, we share it with everyone involved in Wakanow, from executives to our outsourced marketing team. Once you have your data laid out, get it in the hands of every employee. Taking all of your learnings from your target audience and formulating them into an actionable marketing plan will yield the response you had always hoped for.
Obinna Ekezie is the co-founder and CEO of Wakanow.com, the leading full-service, online travel company in Africa. Obinna played in the NBA for eight seasons and was selected with the 37th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies after playing with the Maryland Terrapins from 1995-1999. Following his basketball career, Obinna founded Wakanow out of his personal frustration that there were no options to easily book travel online between the U.S. and his native Nigeria and Nigeria and other parts of the world.