Do you know who your target customer is?
Having a clearly defined target customer is critical to making your business successful. It can inform all aspects of your marketing, including product and packaging innovation, communications, channel management, pricing, and promotions, and ensure that your marketing is effective and efficient. But, many businesses (small and large) approach customer targeting as an afterthought. They wrongly assume they can (or should) appeal to everyone or think about targeting only in terms of basic attributes like demographics.
Defining a customer target does not have to be a complicated nor expensive process. Leverage what you know about your current customers, category and competitors, and past marketing successes and failures to answer the following questions about your target:
Who are they?
Think about customers’ attitudes and motivations as they relate to your category. Also, think about demographics, which are often the most straightforward way to “find” your target. As an example, let’s imagine we are selling a snack bar. Our target might be a health conscious, young consumer who is looking for ways to optimize their nutrition intake and willing to pay more to do so, or they might be a convenience-seeking woman with kids who is always on the go and looking for fast and easy food options. Even with a few basic attributes, implications for product and messaging start to emerge. If our target is the health-conscious consumer, we might want to include (or exclude) certain ingredients or nutrients they care about in the product, mention specific health benefits in advertising and on packaging, and sell at higher price points.
When do they use your product?
Think about the types of occasions or situations when your customers use your product and the characteristics of those occasions. Generally any customer will experience a range of occasions but some might be more likely for your target or more relevant for your product. For our snack bar, we might consider occasions like working out, tiding over between meals, or replacing a meal. If our target occasion is meal replacement, we might choose flavors reminiscent of meals, increase the size of the product and breadth of nutrients, and talk about the product’s suitability as a meal replacement in messaging and on packaging.
What product attributes do they prefer?
Depending on the nature of your product, this could mean thinking about flavors, textures, styles, colors, features and any number of other attributes. These preferences are often correlated with aspects of who your customers are, and they may also vary depending on the situation or occasion you are targeting. For our snack bar, we might explore palate preferences such as sweet or savory, crunchy or chewy, with or without inclusions like nuts, and with or without certain nutrients. These preferences will influence our product development and may suggest opportunities for line extensions.
How do they buy your product?
Think about the types of shopping trips on which your target purchases your product and the stores they go to for that type of trip. For example, it might be a routine weekly trip to the grocery store, a trip to stock up on a variety of items at a big box or club store, or online shopping for a single item at a specialty store. Also, think about if and how they gather information before shopping and who else influences their product choice. Our health conscious snack bar consumer who is looking for a meal replacement might stock up periodically at a big box store and also grab bars on the go at convenience stores. We would want to make our product available in those channels, and we might consider having both bulk and single serve packaging options and associated prices.
You can develop an initial customer profile with existing knowledge and data. To get even more precise and comprehensive, consider primary customer research such as focus groups or interviews, in-home or in-store observation, or quantitative surveys. Regardless of your approach, keep in mind that customer targets can evolve with changes in market conditions and your product and business. Continue to monitor and refine your definition over time to ensure that you are always going after the most attractive target for your business.