Have you heard the term boiling the ocean? It’s used to describe people in business who still believe it’s possible to market to everyone. What you should be doing is boiling a kettle, as Sage Business Expert Ola Agbaimoni explains.
I frequently come across small business owners who tell me that everyone is their customer. Everyone can’t be your customer because everyone can’t possibly have a use for your product or service. Even if you sell water, everyone is not your customer. Everyone needs water but not everyone wants to buy water from you. They may prefer water that is rich in a specific mineral and yours doesn’t have it; they may prefer their water to come from a special location and yours isn’t from there; they may even prefer it to be filtered via a gizmo that attaches to the mains and yours is bottled.
There is a difference between who your customers are and who you think might need your type of product or service. Your customers are the people for whom your product is a specific solution to their very specific problem. Your solution should instantly press the hot buttons (emotional triggers for buying) of your customers when they hear your marketing message.
To identify your customers you need to do two things
1. Define your unique selling proposition (USP) and / or your value proposition (VP)
2. Identify your target market
Your value proposition (VP) and unique selling proposition (USP) are similar in that they provide your customers with clarity about how your product/service will benefit them; why it is different and therefore a better solution to their specific problem than anything offered by your competitors. In today’s very competitive market, the market place is so crowded that it is almost impossible to stand out from the crowd, therefore, it is necessary to take your VP and USP one step further and weave them into you unique conversation point (UCP) – your brand story.
Your brand story says why you are uniquely you, doing the things you do, the way only you can do them, in a language that resonates with your customers. Your UCP means that if a customer wants what you are offering they have to buy it from you because only you can offer the specific combination of brand, product/service and experience that you do. Your UCP makes you stand out from the crowd and negates the need for you to compete on price.
Target market and customer persona
To identify your target market you need to find a group of people that have these four characteristics:
- They have a particular need, want or desire
- They have the money / financial ability to purchase your solution to their PAIN (Problems, Aspirations, Issues, Needs)
- They have the power to decide to purchase your product or service
- They have access to your business either through a physical location, the internet, mail-order etc.
The more you know about your target market, the easier it will be to identify them and tailor your marketing message, i.e. your UCP. Getting to know your customers in detail requires you to find out everything you can about them. One way to do this is by developing what is referred to as a “marketing persona” for your company. A marketing persona is like building a virtual person with specific demographic and psychographic details.
Your customer persona is made up of characteristics that typify a section or segment of your market, i.e. those of your ideal customer. A well-defined persona will help you to formulate an effective marketing plan as it is so much easier to speak to people on their level and connect to what makes them tick if you really understand who they are and what is their PAIN (Problems, Issues, Aspirations, Needs).
Also and just as important, your customer persona will provide the information you require to tailor your product or service to match the way in which your ideal customer wants to experience it. For example, is your ideal customer an empty nester or do they still have children living at home and if so, how old and how many? Being able to express the benefits of your product or service in terms of how easy it is to use by people with childcare responsibilities will automatically put them in “listen more closely” mode because this is important to them.
When people first come across the idea of a customer persona, their usual reaction is to assume that by directing their message to one person it excludes everyone else. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. The only way it is possible to speak to everyone at once is to use extremely general language and terms, i.e. speaking in platitudes. When you generalise people assume that you are not speaking to them and your message fades into background noise. When you tailor your message to a specific person it is easy for the listener to recognise themselves: “Are you a single woman in your 50s? Did you spend last night (and every night) sitting alone in front of the TV?” will get the attention of every woman in this category as well as sparking the interest of people who this doesn’t apply to. That’s because human beings are basically nosey and always on the lookout for more resources. People who are not in this category will be thinking “I wonder what I’m missing out on?” Consequently, you get more people’s attention by being specific than you do by being vague and trying to include everyone.
If you’ve been trying to boil the ocean and failing miserably, a better strategy is to boil a kettle of water. Working out your UCP and building a clear customer persona for your business is filling your kettle, which makes your marketing as easy as turning on the heat.