Customer targeting. Figuring out who your customers are and what the best way is to reach them. It is basically a marketing must these days.
Targeting has some mixed associations attached to it, though. The word “targeting” conjurs images of bullseyes and crosshairs – zeroing in like a sniper. Is it any wonder, then, that some people feel totally creeped out when they realize what is going on? Consumers have a touch-and-go relationship with advertising as it is, from paying to get rid of ads in apps, to pop-up blockers, to doing everything in their power to skip over TV commercials, it is clear that the average consumer has an advertising tolerance threshold, and marketers cross it all the time.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t advertise, and that certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t target customers. It just means we need to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a line. And we need to do our best to figure out where it is, what it is, and how not to cross it and veer into creepy-town.
Who Your Customers AREN’T
One of the first steps to figuring who your ideal customers are is to figure who they aren’t. These are the people you don’t want to advertise to. The people you are actively not trying to reach.
At this point you may be thinking, “Why so exclusionary? Even if we want to focus in, there’s nobody who’s not one of our potential customers!”
Double-negatives aside, being overly inclusive in your targeting is really only going to hurt yourself. You might think there is no harm in an unintended audience getting exposed to your ads, but, that might not be the case. For one thing, advertising to your non-ideal customers is likely a wasted effort, meaning that your conversions and your ROI are going to be low. But beyond numbers and data, think about the human reaction to advertising for a product or service that somebody doesn’t want or need. The best case scenario there is that the person just ignores your efforts. Worst case? They find your advertising annoying, creepy, or offensive, they express that opinion widely, and they hurt your brand.
Plus, thinking about who your target customers are not is a great start to whittling down who you are target customers are.
Who Your ACTUAL Customers Are
Another way to start honing in on your target customers is by thinking about your actual customers. What are they like? What are their interests? What problems are you solving for them? What information are they looking for from you?
Interestingly though, you may not want to get too tied to who you are actual customer are currently, as they may not be the same people as your target customers. Perhaps you are trying to expand your customer base, or attempting to move to a higher price-point. Or perhaps you’ve let your customers define your business instead of the other way around.
Whatever the case, the needs and demographics of your current customers should certainly be taken into account, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted that they are necessarily the same as the customers you want to target.
What Your GOALS Are
In order to figure out who your target customers are, you need to know what your goals are in targeting them in the first place. What is the purpose of your advertising? Are you trying to increase sales? Conversions? Subscribers? Web-traffic? Having a good idea of what goals you are trying to hit will inform which people you want to focus on, as well as what approach you want to take with them.
What Your Audience NEEDS
Who your target customers are and what they need are going to be very closely related, and thinking about the one can help inform the other. After all, targeting is just another way of saying that you are providing the most relevant ads and content to the most relevant people. Knowing what your audience needs will tell you what content is actually going to be relevant. The trick then, of course, is to follow up by then creating content that is super relevant to your audience’s needs.
Don’t SELL So Hard
Your customers aren’t dumb. They know that the reason you are creating ads and showing them content is because you want to sell them something. So, you don’t need to push so hard to be making a sale all the time. Your first job is to get your target audience to like you and trust you. If they can constantly see the dollar signs in your eyeballs, that trust will never come, and they will certainly get squeamish under the gaze of your targeting efforts.
Don’t Write CREEPY Copy
As mentioned above, customers get uneasy when they know that you are targeting them. They probably know subconsciously, but when your efforts are too transparent it gets uncomfortable. After all, everybody likes a little attention, but nobody wants to feel like they are being hunted. Especially if your targeting efforts might involve cookies or information that your audience may not be aware they’ve given out.
You can also do a lot for your own cause by thinking extra hard about your copy, both in your ads and your content. This one’s obvious, but never use the word “targeting” in ad copy. Beyond that though, you can be highly specific in your targeting efforts without being overly specific in your copy. If your ad mentions a specific place that your audience is located, or a website that they’ve visited previously, they might start to get a bit of a “Big Brother” vibe.
TALK to People
Probably the best thing that you can do to gauge whether or not your audience is feeling overly targeted is to stop doing so much guess work and just ask them.
Too often, marketers forget that they are dealing with real people, not just demographic data and “personas.” Send out surveys, do market research, test your ads – then respond to the feedback you get. Chances are, your audience is going to see something that you’ve missed. The more you talk to your target audience, the more you’ll learn where “the line” is for them, and how you can avoid crossing it.
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