I bet your entrepreneurial company has come up with the best idea since the iPod, and you’re ready to take your place next to Gates, Jobs and Ellison on the Mount Rushmore of creativity. Trouble is, your inventive tree will fall in a forest with no one around to hear it without a cleverly organized and astutely managed marketing strategy. Even in today’s fast paced market, nothing moves on its own and coming up with that terrific mouse trap won’t impact the world, your neighborhood, or even generate you any cash if it isn’t successfully promoted in the public domain.
Determine Your Target Market
So what is the most effective means of getting your product out there? The first and most important step is to determine your target market. To whom do you want to sell to? No style points awarded if your answer is “everyone and anyone”; sorry. This type of overreach often leads to bad decision-making, incorrect product pricing, erroneous choices and results in failure.
The astute entrepreneur recognizes that only a limited number of people will buy her product or service. You need to pinpoint as closely as possible exactly who those people are, and then focus your efforts and dollars on them and them alone. You’ll take other business to be sure, but focus like a laser beam on those customers to pursue.
Becoming a Meaningful Specific
Early stage firms should shelve the mass marketing approach with a scaled down, core-group specific plan to get best-fit customers excited and evangelizing about your product. If done right, these missionaries, through the use of social media word of mouth, will help develop the elusive buzz for your offering that will draw in less devoted followers for a look-see. Only then can a tipping point be reached.
But you have to do your homework. As a savvy marketer you must gather as much data as possible about the target market you have chosen. Statistics regarding potential customers and their buying habits are extremely important, so study them carefully. Moreover, data on direct competitor products mitigates surprises after the product or service has been introduced and helps you prepare a marketplace response.
Perform your market surgery using a scalpel, not a chainsaw. Segment your market into distinct areas to help you understand, categorize, and message your audience.
Categorize customers based on their income (low, medium, high), age (children, teens, young adults, middle agers, elderly), gender (male or female), size of family, ethnic and/or religious background, marital status (single, married, divorced, one-parent, same sex) nationality, education etc. You can find much of this information at the local town hall, library, or local Chamber of Commerce.
Separate consumers by how they value quality and at what level they are loyal to one particular brand over all others. Some companies market their products exclusively to loyal buyers. Others target customers who value their purchases and are willing to pay extra money for the more valuable articles.
Focus on goods and services most applicable to a certain region. For example, a manufacturer of frosted sippy cups should hone in on consumers in Mexico or Arizona. Fur coats, skis and woolen knitted hats can be more easily marketed in Alaska or Iceland.
Target people based on which technology they use. With the rapid advance of technology in one’s daily life, this differentiation is becoming more and more decisive.
Consider different customer lifestyles and personalities. Are they conservative? Outgoing? Economical? Homebound? What are their beliefs and attitudes? Are they worried about the environment and strongly affiliated with national causes? Are they opinionated or do the follow the crowd? Determine activities they engage in—sports, reading, jogging, shopping and the like.
The Pinpoint Payoff
Keep in mind that most consumers will not recognize your company at first and may not be able to differentiate between your product and others. Once you have defined your optimal target and determined which customers represent your ultimate ‘perfect’ customer, you can then craft the perfect pitch that talks to their needs.
Large, multinational corporations study market segmentation before launching a new product, even though they have the benefit of reputation to leverage. As a small business entrepreneur, you must start out with a bang. That means connecting with your target market with pinpoint precision. It’s the first step to getting your bust carved in stone.
Susie Brown is a FastUpFront Blog contributor and business author. Fastupfront offers an alternative to business loans and working capital solutions based on future sales.
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