Defining and understanding your target market is a marketing basic but it is frequently overlooked by organisations. It is true that really understanding your audience(s) can take time and effort, but it is effort that will reap rewards. How can you effectively reach your audience without understanding who they are and what motivates them?
The starting principle of targeting and segmentation has to be that we are not all the same. We have different levels of income, live in different areas, have different outlooks, aspirations and needs, and so on. Your target customer may not be similar to you, and want what you want. Businesses also need to think differently about new customers vs. existing customers; and the segmentation of suppliers or clients. We see this strategy adopted by sales teams identifying ‘key clients’ who receive a higher level of service than the rest.
Are we generalising?
I have in the course of my career also experienced reluctance to segment and define target audiences. This is based on a misunderstanding that profiling is the same as generalisation. By defining a target segment as, say, 50-year old high-income males in the South East we are by no way stating that all men of that age and location are the same. We are able, however to define some common (not universal!) characteristics that they share and use that to adapt our product, service and communications mix to suit them.
When working on segmentation models in the past I always start with asking who the organisation is trying to reach. Invariably the answer comes back as ‘everyone’ – this is the only incorrect answer in segmentation! Your product or service may be available or open to anyone who wants it, but invariably there is a bulls-eye of one or two segments that you are really trying to reach. By identifying and understanding those you will be much more focused on product and service delivery, and your marketing communications will be more effective.
We are not all the same!
This brings me back to my earlier point, that your target market may not be the same as you. It is hard to put oneself in other’s shoes and see things from their perspective. This is where profiling comes in. A useful profile of a segment will provide you with key characteristics that allow you to think yourself into their perspective. Behavioural characteristics are extremely useful alongside the basic demographics (location, age, etc) as they offer insight into needs and wants which are invaluable to the marketeer. Experian’s Mosiac tool is probably the best known and most used profiling tool in the UK, and has provided insight and direction across numerous projects I’ve been involved in.
An example of segmentation within services – back in 2008 the Library at Macquarie University in Sydney considered their users on the basis of frequency of usage before they embarked on a website redesign. They developed a segmented audience model of five types, which were then worked up into personality profiles. Nicole the novice scholar was identified as the primary audience for their website, and hence the redesign was built around the needs of her type of student. The needs of the other segments were recognised but regarded as secondary for this project.
Sport England has taken a similar approach, providing a segmented model of sporting and non-sporting types. They have developed pen portraits of the 19 types identified based on their attitudes to physical activity. Sports marketeers across the country can identify which types are more/or less prevalent in their location, and adopt different strategies accordingly.
Based on fact, used in marketing
What these examples all have in common is that the segmentation is based on market research or data – which allowed them to identify the common characteristics and build the profiles as a result. Quantifying the size and opportunity of each segment also allows the business to focus on those easiest to reach, and/or where the opportunity is greatest.
Finally, as the population changes and society develops so will your profiled segments. Even if you have a tried and tested segmentation take a moment to review if it is still valid, or if behaviours or external factors have changed that mean you need to adapt your approach.