If you're starting a business, you've probably defined your "target customer." You know their age, gender, location and perhaps even their income and education levels. But demographics alone won't give you a complete picture of who's buying your products.
"Understand intimately who your customer is," said TJ Parker, CEO and founder of PillPack, an online pharmacy and medication management service. "If you don't know your customers, it's hard to ... communicate [your product's] benefits so they react positively."
So what else should you be learning about your customers, aside from basic demographics? Here are the top three things you should find out, and how to incorporate that information into your strategy. [7 Proven Marketing Tactics for Acquiring Customers]
This is perhaps the single most important piece of the customer puzzle. No matter how well you're projecting your customers' values and interests, you ultimately won't succeed if you don't show that your product or service solves a problem for them.
For example, PillPack has succeeded because it has invested a lot of energy into understanding the hassles that people go through every day while trying to order, refill and manage their prescriptions via a traditional pharmacy, Parker noted.
"How do you build relationships with customers [and] get to this place where the customer feels like [you are] like a friend?" Parker said. "You can't do that unless you understand the problems they deal with."
When you know what your target customers care about, it's much easier to create marketing materials that resonate with them. Jennifer Borba von Stauffenberg, founder and president of Olive PR Solutions, said that figuring out your audience's values and attitudes is crucial, because connecting with your customers on this level allows you to develop an authentic, long-term relationship with them.
These same core values can also help you develop your brand "voice" or personality.
"In order to communicate to your target audiences, you have to ensure you are clear about your brand by defining its personality and voice," Borba von Stauffenberg said. "[By] which voice would your target audience be most influenced?"
Their online browsing habits
When potential customers visit your website and social media pages, how are they interacting with your brand? Are they sharing certain types of posts? Searching for specific content features? Most importantly, what ultimately leads them to click through to your product pages? Tracking these browsing and search activities can help you figure out the best way to drive traffic where you want it to go.
"[Our company] sells very special works of art and luxury items that have great stories," said Kristen Yraola, vice president and digital marketing directors at Christie's art and luxury auction company. "We leverage these stories into digital content to create consideration of our sales. We look at engagements with all types of content articles — How To's, Specialist Picks, Living with Art — to figure out which content types ultimately drive a viewer to visit our online auction."
Finding and using customer information
There are two primary ways to extract this information. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is pulling and analyzing data. Modern marketers have numerous data sources, tracking tools and analytics programs at their disposal, so be sure to take advantage of what's out there.
"Data is a marketer's best friend," Yraola said. "Being able to understand who is visiting our site, what they are doing [there] and then where they go after they leave [the site] has helped us to effectively market by targeting similar consumers throughout the Web to increase awareness of our brand."
The second method — which requires a little more effort but is just as, if not more, beneficial — is to speak with customers directly to find out what they're looking for. Parker, who has a background in the pharmaceutical industry, noted that approaching his market research with a "beginner's mind" helped him figure out how to best reach PillPack's customer base.
"The longer you've been in an industry, the easier it is to think you have all the answers," Parker told Business News Daily. "It's productive to sit with customers and [have them] interact with your product, website, etc. to see how they react."
Once you've identified key traits about your customers, you need to devise a marketing plan that helps you bring it all together. Above all, that strategy should strongly, proudly and reliably reflect the brand image you want to portray.
"It's really about identifying your organization's values and aligning with a target market that shares those values," Borba von Stauffenberg said. "Through your marketing, you should be delivering consistent messaging that confirms over and over again who you are."