It’s Thursday night, and you’re at a local bar with some friends. Somehow, they’ve convinced you to sing karaoke, but when you get up on stage, you find out the screen that displays the lyrics is out of order. You know the beat and some of the verses, so you go for it anyway – and the result is not pretty.
Executing a marketing plan without a strategy can be much like this awkward situation (and is probably more likely to happen to most of us). You know what message you want to send and a few ways you can send it but, in the end, your ROI is lacking.
Why is this?
A strategy is an important part of any marketing plan – it is needed to drive the messages, the channels used to convey those messages and the metrics used to measure success. Simply put, a strategy gives you the WHY behind the WHAT.
The WHO behind the WHY
Before you can create your integrated marketing strategy, however, you have to know who will be on the receiving end of your efforts. That’s why the critical first step in building your strategy is to define your audience.
Let’s go back to our karaoke analogy. You wouldn’t walk into a biker bar on Karaoke Night and queue up “My Heart will Go On” by Celine Dion. Of course, you may have a few sensitive fans in the crowd, but chances are your song choice won’t be well-received overall.
In the same way, you shouldn’t blindly create marketing messages or tactics without knowing who they are going to.
A clear target audience drives your marketing strategy by helping you focus your message for that specific group. If you understand who you’re talking to, you can emphasize the specific benefits that will resonate with them and address any objections that particular group may have. Equally as important, a clear audience helps you know how and where to reach the people who are most likely to become your customers.
Finding the WHO
The task of defining your target audience can be a daunting one, but really comes down to answering some important questions:
- Are your target customers male or female?
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What do they do for a living?
- What is their income?
Once you’ve answered these questions, consider others that are related to your audience’s psychographic characteristics:
- What are their personalities like?
- What interests or hobbies do they have?
- What are their values?
- What attitudes do they have?
- What sort of lifestyle do they live?
Depending on your product or service, your target audience may be narrow, and so answering these questions will be easy to do. For example, a reseller of baby clothing would have a target audience that consists of mothers with infants.
For other businesses, however, your target audience may be a lot broader: you may sell sports apparel, offer low-interest credit card options or sell insurance policies. With these broader target audiences, it’s important to use the questions above to divide your audience into segments – that is, groups of people who share certain characteristics that may affect their buying behaviors.
For example, a bank promoting credit card options would divide their broad audience into segments such as college students, established homeowners and retirees. The same bank could then divide these segments even further, into groups such as college students with part-time jobs versus those who don’t work, or college students who live on campus versus commuters.
The WHO behind the WHY behind the WHAT
Once you have your segments, you can create a strategy that will help you effectively reach each one. The more specific your segmentation, the easier it will be to build, measure and refine your strategy for each group.
Think about your 2015 marketing efforts. Is there a strategy behind them? Who is the audience driving this strategy?