Targeting Your Best Customer Is Just The Start

Thomson DawsonSeptember 12, 20112393 min

Targeting your value proposition to the right consumer is a basic marketing function. Knowing where to aim your creativity and money is the essential first step in any productive initiative to grow the value of your brand. Yet as important as defining the right target consumer is for your value proposition, it doesn’t automatically mean that defined segment will engage with your brand. Targeting is a means, not an end.

Brand managers are passionate about targeting! Many use a variety of techniques and methods for defining consumer segments. They know it’s better to generally get the definition of their customer mostly right. Targeting is not an exercise in precision as much as it is having a navigational aid to aim the trajectory of your marketing. It’s worth noting your most perfect and profitable customers most likely will not comprise the largest majority of people who will make up your customer base.  So effective targeting needs to include those consumers who may be just outside the descriptive attributes of your high yield customers.

Like a game of darts, you can score points and win without hitting the bulls eye with each throw.

To gain a comprehensive picture and an actionable perspective on defining your best target consumer profile, consider all these criteria:

The basic and fundamental starting point, critical for segmenting the market to identify the highest potential target groups, usually defined by sex, age, household characteristics, occupation, origin, income, and education. The most useful aspect of demographics is these attributes are concrete and without bias.

These are particular psychological and attitudinal traits that can be discovered and characterized to better understand what will drive certain purchase decisions – e.g. lifestyle, interests, values, likes/dislikes, preferences, etc. How a person feels are big clues to discovering about what really matters to them. And people always buy into “meaning” rather than the perceived functional benefits.

Category/Brand Attitude Drivers
Often marketers define the attitudes of consumers of their brand by using descriptors that really reflect the basic category or “cost-of-entry” drivers that engage all people in a category regardless of any brand preferences.  The result is that there is no special attitude in the target customer profile that will be different from what all other consumers in a particular product category expect and perceive at a minimum. In effect, these are the antes to participation. Knowing what this base line is important for defining what makes your brand good and different.

Category/Brand Usage Habits
Current usage is critical to assess, because ultimately your marketing efforts should be designed to modify the current attitudes and change the expected behavior of target consumers, so a good category benchmark is critically important. This is often overlooked by many brand managers simply because certain habits and attitudes are assumed rather than confirmed.

Limiting your profile definition to psychographics, attitudes and usage habits may not be actionable enough for innovative marketing initiatives. Having a clear understanding of the exact type of mindset and behavior that characterizes the target consumer is imperative. For example, assume that the psychographic “label” for your product/brand is by itself not detailed enough. Your segment profile description is more actionable if you can visualize evidence of this profile with a specific behavior.

Emotional Needs
Once again the more compelling dimension of a target customer need is the emotional side, especially for consumers who have yet to establish a strong loyalty to brands.  In particular, one must determine precisely how the target customer currently feels about a current product, and even more critical, coming up with an insight that identifies what she/he yearns for that is the highest relational, expressive-to-self benefit that transcends product use.  Once properly defined, higher emotional needs become the basis for re-shaping your value proposition and the brand’s positioning.

At the end of the day, it takes both a macro and micro view to define your best opportunities to connect with the people who represent your best opportunity for marketing success. Having a detailed definition of a target segment is only a beginning. From there, your proposition must matter to these people in ways that the available alternatives do not meet.  Defining a group of people does not automatically translate into understanding them in ways that matter to them enough to engage with your brand.

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Thomson Dawson

One comment

  • Joy Levin

    September 15, 2011 at 9:32 am

    This is a very comprehensive list of possible consumer segmentation strategies. I would also add distribution used (how purchased?) and how they got in your door (how did they hear about you?). Furthermore, marketers can add depth to their usage of segmentation by combining categories. This can create very discrete segments, so the target market also needs to be large enough to support such refined groupings.

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