Let’s face it, a lot of people out there have a business idea. They’re eager to start work and create their new company, but they have no idea how they’ll grow it.
Starting a business requires a lot of investment – not only financially, but also a significant investment of time and energy. With so much on the line, a little reassurance that the business can grow and be successful is a reasonable expectation. But where can new business owners start with small business marketing?
Nowadays, it’s almost a no-brainer. Online marketing can be a cost-effective way to reach a large number of people. But the online world is also crowded. Millions of business owners – both established and aspiring, are looking to cement their place online. Just getting noticed is difficult enough. You’d probably be all too happy if anyone saw you at all. Actually reaching your target audience online just adds a new layer of complexity to online marketing that you might not feel ready for.
Why Identifying Your Target Audience Is Important?
Yes, targeting a specific audience through your online marketing can seem complex. If you’re just starting out with building an online presence for your business, you might feel like beggars simply can’t be choosers. You need to embrace any attention you can get, after all. Right?
No. I’m here to advocate for that you should handle marketing your business like a chooser, not a beggar. Firstly because you’re a business owner and having a decent level of self-respect is important. If you don’t respect the business you’re trying to build, who will? But that’s not even the primary reason.
Not identifying and pursuing your target audience in your marketing will actually make it more difficult to build an audience online.
You’re not trying to get just anyone to see your product. You want target customers to find you online.
If you’re a B2B business, what benefit will you get out of random individuals finding you? Their interest in your brand and company will soon fade and they’ll just bounce right off your website.
Branding Is Universal
Your business brand should be a universal thread uniting your business both online and off. Because of this, your brand is the first thing you should consider when developing a marketing strategy for your business.
Consider what your business does, then think about who your target customers will be.
Do you do adventure camps? Do you sell a premium product or service? Are you selling something specifically for children, or even pets?
You want your brand to emanate the best parts of whatever you do:
- If your customers are adventure seekers, make sure your brand looks fun and sporty
- If you’re selling a luxury product, make sure your branding shows of its exclusivity and stylishness
- If you’re selling to pet owners, your brand needs to be warm, welcoming and fun, with a strong focus on loving pets and animals
- For selling to children, make sure everything is super fun and colorful with a childlike sense of wonder
You want your target customers to see your branding and think “Wow, I like that!”. Make it your mission to develop the correct imaging and a strong brand voice – something that will resonate with your target audience.
Feel Your Brand
Feel your brand? You’re probably wondering what that even means.
I know this sounds strange, especially since brands are concepts, not tangible items. You can see brands, you can even experience brands, but how can you feel them?
But you can absolutely “feel” a brand. Here are some examples of how brands can feel:
- Elegant or exclusive
- Knowledgeable or curious
- Fun or sporty
- Cheeky or funny
- Natural or simple
- Old fashioned/vintage
Brands can also combine different “feels” to come up with something unique. A brand can be vintage and sporty, or professional and energetic for example. You can have a brand that’s stylish and cheeky, or caring and funny. Just select a few good adjectives that best describe your brand ambience.
Even though you can’t literally feel your brand and run it through your fingertips – you can sense it emotionally. You want your brand to give off the positive kind of emotions you’re hoping to transfer onto potential customers. If your potential customers like the “feel” of your brand, they’ll have positive associations with it, which will help you win over their loyalty.
Good Brands NEED an Ambience
Perhaps this advice sounds touchy-feely, but your business NEEDS a brand ambience:
- Good brand ambience is why people buy certain popular brands over lesser known ones, even when lesser known brands offer the same quality at a cheaper price.
- It’s why you’ll keep going back to your favorite coffee shop 15 minutes’ drive away and feel hesitant to try out the new one around the corner – even though it might be better.
- It’s why you walk into some dental practices and just feel at ease right away, like this person knows their stuff (or why you don’t feel that way, perhaps).
A good brand ambience will keep the right customers coming back for more just as effectively as bad brand ambience will chase them away. Harsh, but true.
Choose Your Customers
Marketing isn’t cheap. While there are some great, free things you can do to market your business, at some point, your marketing will probably start to cost money. And when that happens, bidding your hard-earned capital goodbye is sure to seem like a big sacrifice. Trust me, you’ll want it to payoff.
So, now you know where you should start. Start by defining your target customers and brand. It might seem like advice you’ve heard before, but it’s reasonable advice. There’s a lot of business advice out there that’s relative – what benefits one business might kill another one. But this isn’t that kind of advice. This advice is about as universal as saying that you need to sell something to run a business.
Fast food chains don’t target the same customers as high-profile restaurants. I’ve even seen supermarkets targeting different types of customers in their marketing. Just because you sell something as universal as food or groceries, doesn’t mean you can’t define your target customers.
How to Know Your Target Market?
You might be thinking that, sure, it’s easy to say you need to have target customers, but it’s not as easy to know who they are.
That’s true. So many businesses struggle to define their target customers. It’s easy to know who your target customers are if you serve a niche industry. There are literally businesses who sell luxury items so expensive most of humankind couldn’t even imagine buying them. Not hard to know who your target market is when less than 1% of people can afford your product!
But sometimes it’s more complicated than that. Perhaps you sell ice cream and you’re thinking to yourself that everyone LOVES ice cream.
What If Everyone Seems Like a Target Customer?
If you think everyone loves ice cream, you’re not far off. I love myself a bit of ice cream too from time-to-time. I mean, who doesn’t love ice cream?!
Still, I can assure you, there’s a way to narrow down your target market at least a bit.
For starters, what kind of ice cream do you sell? There are some types of ice cream that people almost always associate with kids. Take popsicles, for instance. For some reason they’re just never advertised for adults.
But maybe you sell handmade ice cream. The kind that’s made the good old-fashioned way. Creamy with fun flavors that aren’t available in regular stores. First off, these kinds of products do tend to be a bit on the expensive side. It takes craftsmanship and quality ingredients to make real ice cream.
Try to develop your brand to highlight the superior handmade quality of your ice cream (indicating it’s not the cheapest product). This will help you target an audience that value handmade products. Also decide whether you want your brand to come across as luxurious, fun or farm style. Whatever you feel suits the brand ambience you want to build.
Consider Who Buys from You Already
If you’re already operating a business and you want to grow it, you might actually have an advantage. Through your experience in your business, you’ll be at a point where you know what kinds of people typically buy from you.
Yes, it might seem like anyone could benefit from plumbing, but even there you might see some trends (cue the old ladies with burst water pipes who can’t fix these things themselves and know no one else who can.)
Just try to spot some trends regarding who buys from you most and you might be surprised who you should really be marketing to.
If you’re catering to old people, your brand will look different than if your target market is young. When your customers belong to an older demographic, you might even find that certain forms of offline marketing are more effective for you.
Target B2B Customers
If you have an awesome brand ambience, it will be so much easier to target B2B customers. Some products and services are almost exclusively B2B. Think web designers and office water coolers. But there are a lot of industries that lend themselves well to both B2C and B2B opportunities.
Let’s go back to our handmade ice cream example. The obvious place to start selling ice cream is directly to customers. Despite this, getting some good B2B customers can a be a great way to build the business. You could sell your ice cream to health shops as a preservative-free, natural alternative. Sure, it’s still ice cream, but it’s real ice cream made with only natural ingredients.
You can also sell your ice cream to restaurants looking to offer quality desserts on their menus.
Try to find ways to target B2B customers in your online marketing. This might mean networking on LinkedIn and Twitter and sending cold emails to relevant business owners.
Try to think of some B2B businesses that could benefit from what you sell, then get networking and pitching!