Do you know who your target audience is? For most businesses, the answer is yes. Knowing who will buy your product or service is a key part of creating a business that thrives.
"At the beginning, most people have a pretty good idea of who will use their product," said Lindsey Myers, founder of Concrete Blonde Consulting and a marketing and public relations expert.
Myers advises businesses to get specific early on when it comes to defining who their target audience is: "The more specific you can get [with your strategy], the easier it is to reach those people for less money… and also to find new audiences and grow."
Once you know who your target audience is, though, how do you create a marketing strategy that reaches them? Myers recommends that every business, no matter its size or industry, follow seven steps to create a marketing plan that reaches your target.
1. Have a concrete plan.
To effectively reach your target customer, you first need a definite marketing plan.
"The more specific you can be," said Myers, "the more bang for your buck you're going to get in your conversion rate."
Using your target customer profile as a guide, consider where your customers they get their information, what other interests they have, their social media use, geographic region and other demographics. Having a clearly defined marketing plan allows you not only to reach your target demographic, but to do so as economically as possible.
"The more specific you can get [with your strategy], the easier it is to reach those people for less money," Myers adds. "Don't spend money for 10 people to hear your message when only three people are going to buy it."
2. Create benchmarks.
In addition to a concrete plan, Myers recommends having clearly defined benchmarks that you can use to track your performance. "Start with your goals," she advises. "You need something to reach for and also something to benchmark against."
Set benchmarks for how well you marketing converts leads into customers, the cost of what you're spending and the revenue you earn as a result. Be sure to track, not just the overall results of your marketing, but how specific strategies convert. For example, if you run an ad, include a discount code that customers can use when they make an order. Otherwise, you won't know whether they found your company through the ad or another source.
"Track where leads are coming from so you know what is and isn't effective... so you can adjust your spend later," said Myers. "Then, if something's not working, you try something else."
3. Clarify your message.
Marketing is all about message, Myers says. But one of the most common mistakes she sees businesses make is not having a clear message.
"A lot of business owners... typically aren't great at crafting a message because they're so incredibly invested in [their business]," said Myers. "[You should] communicate in one sentence or less what you are selling and why someone should care."
Giving your audience a reason to care is an essential part of creating a marketing plan that reaches them. Go to your target customer profile and use it to identify the pain points they are most sensitive to, then create a concise, clear message that focuses on the ways your business solves those problems.
4. Bring in an outsider.
Because business owners are so personally invested and personally knowledgeable about their products, having an outsider look at your marketing plan is a key part of making sure your strategy will resonate with your intended audience.
"This is the biggest piece of advice I always give," said Myers. "You can't do everything yourself. Consider a marketing consultant to help you put together a strategic plan, or at least talk to an expert to help you come up with a strategy."
"If you can't afford a marketing consultant, ask a friend," she added. "Bounce some ideas off someone on the outside."
By speaking with someone who has distance for your business, you'll get a clearer sense of how likely someone is to respond to your marketing the way you want.
5. Consider strategic partnerships.
Part of your target customer profile should be information about where your audience can already be found: the media they consume, activities they enjoy and locations they visit. These are places where your marketing is guaranteed to be seen by your target customers.
"Think about strategic partnerships," said Myers. "The best place to start in terms of marketing is to think about where these people are already gathered together in one place."
To identify potential partnerships, think about what businesses or media channels have already effectively attracted your customers. "Look for businesses that aren't competitors but already service those audiences," Myers advised. Then, approach them with ideas for mutually beneficial partnerships, such as advertising, joint promotions or discounts.
6. Have a realistic timeline.
Though you want to start making sales quickly, a key part of reaching your target customers is having the patience to allow your marketing to work.
"The biggest mistakes I see business make is, number one, they don't give something enough time to work," said Myers. "Marketing is like using a personal trainer … You're not going to see results overnight."
To effectively reach your audience, your marketing plan should include a timeline. Each strategy should be allowed enough time to succeed or fail before you move onto the next thing. This includes being realistic about the time of year and how seasonal changes are going to affect your customers' needs and interests.
"If you see that something is failing terribly, okay, scrap that, move the money somewhere else," Myers said. "But most people don't read something about you once and then buy ... there is a frequency of impressions you need to make on one person before they move to action."
7. Focus on relationships.
In many cases, the best way to market effectively is to think less about marketing and more about relationships. Rather than focusing on how you can sell to your target audience, create a plan that builds their trust in your business and shows that you understand them.
This process takes time, which is why Myers recommends being realistic about how long you give one part of your strategy before you move onto something else. It also takes a community, including those strategic partnerships.
"Marketing is really about building relationships ... not just taking, but something you can offer them too," said Myers.
She says the most successful companies she has worked with are ones that focus on investing in that community around them, from their customers to their colleagues.
"No one ever becomes successful on their own... if you watch the Oscars, people always have a lot of other people to thank," she added. "Givers gain."