Any contemporary target market strategy takes into account the enormous influence of the digital marketplace. Even if your direct mail, broadcast or Yellow Pages campaigns worked in the past, today's customer goes online quickly and definitively to help them make purchase decisions.
You've likely already heard of the value customer personas deliver in identifying and reaching the core group of people most likely to respond to your online messaging. Getting to the point of creating those characterizations involves some simple, but effective, research.
Four roads to a customer persona
Examine your product or service. A little introspection never hurts. For every product or service, list its features – then the benefits of those features. (Remember that you are always ideally selling a benefit, not a feature.) Then imagine the type of person who might be attracted to that benefit. For example, if your product is a recreational vehicle, its features may include a well-appointed interior living space. The benefit of that interior is more comfort and more reasons to take to the open road. What kind of person might find this benefit most appealing? The answer can help you begin to determine your target customer.
Use industry sources. If you don’t have a bookmark to Pew Internet yet, you’re missing out. Pew, which calls itself a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘fact tank,’” produces amazing statistics and research that delves into demographic, economic and social trends that shape America – ideal for B2B needs.
Talk to your sales reps. Your reps are at the front line of your target market strategy, and their day-to-day experiences will net you some remarkably detailed insights. Ask them about similarities among prospects they talk to: their age, income, residences. Find out what kind of resistance they have to overcome. What was the easiest and most difficult sales they made? Finding common threads among the sales force can help hone the image of your target market.
Survey your customers. If you’ve ever gotten an emailed survey, you may have seen language like “we need your feedback,” and “your input is important to us.” And it is – but you should raise the stakes to prevent getting hit with the "delete” button. Customers are busy folks, but they may respond better to your survey if you describe the benefit to them tied to taking the survey (to improve the product, or to enhance the post-sale follow-up). Then offer something of value in exchange for completing the survey – an entry into a prize drawing, or 10 percent off their next purchase, for example. The survey questions must walk a fine line between getting in-depth information and appearing too intrusive. A customer may hesitate to share his yearly income, for example, but may have no problem telling you what he paid for his car. Even questions about their hobbies and leisure time can point you toward one or more personas.
Knowledge is power!
Today's web-based target market strategy essentially lives and dies through a company's thorough knowledge of its ideal customer. Doing some legwork now can help you realize more traffic to your website, better-qualified leads and new opportunities to convert those leads into customers.