Do You Truly Know Your Target Market?

30 05 2014

Are you preaching to the wrong choir?

While every business owner or marketing department head certainly has heard that basic rule of advertising — know your target audience — when was the last time you stopped to ask, “How well do I REALLY know my target audience?”

Say, for instance, you run a landscaping business. You know your target audience includes homeowners in your town. But if you take it a few steps further, you may just discover that your true target audience includes homeowners between the ages of 45 and 65 who live within a five-mile radius of the center of town and who have an annual income over $55,000. Sounds pretty specific, right?

The old adage “you can’t please all the people all the time” certainly applies to your marketing efforts. Too many businesses try to be all things to all people, focusing on too broad a demographic. Narrowing your focus can result in a more effective use of your marketing dollars.

If you haven’t taken this particular commandment to heart, it’s likely affecting your marketing for the worse. Here’s how to identify your true target audience.

Playing Detective

Get out your deerstalker. It’s time to play Sherlock Holmes. Identifying your target audience involves a bit of research into demographics. Start by compiling a list of customer characteristics, including age, gender, location, income, education, occupation, ethnicity, martial status, and number of children. Now think about the last few purchases you made. How many of these factors influenced that purchase?

Narrow your focus down to the two most significant factors — we’ll call these your core factors — and then choose up to two “secondary factors” to round out your market. You’ll want to focus your research on these core and secondary factors to really get to know your target audience. Find out where they shop, what’s important to them, which businesses they frequent (both online and off), and what problems they experience that your product or service can solve.

With those answers in place, it’s time to delve deep into your audience and compile the data and information that make them tick. Resources for your research may include:

  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook Insights (analytics available if your business page has at least 30 “likes”)
  • Customer review sites (What other businesses are your customers patronizing on Yelp? What appeals to them?)
  • Your competitors’ sites and reviews
  • Surveys or interviews with your current and past customers
  • Hosting small focus groups

Keep in mind that you’re also looking for psychographic information, such as hobbies, interests, lifestyle, attitudes, and beliefs. While demographic information tells you who is most likely to buy your product or service, psychographic data tells you why they’re interested.

When you’re compiling the data, look for common threads that run among your customers. Do they work in similar industries or have similar hobbies? Does your product or service appeal to families with two kids or single professionals? Seeking out similarities makes it easier to target relevant customers.

Develop a Profile

Now that you’ve gathered your research, develop a “typical customer” profile. The goal? To create an in-depth picture of who your customer is. Your profile should contain both demographic information — age, location, marital status, etc. — and psychographic information — values, attitudes, political leanings, hobbies, and the like.

Your profile will help you determine where, exactly, to find your target audience. Do they tend to live in a certain neighborhoods — or certain streets in certain neighborhoods? Do they patronize certain businesses because those places reinforce their values? The better you understand your target customer, the more easily you can tailor your marketing materials to appeal to them.

Remember, your customer profile and your target audience aren’t static. They’ll evolve and change over time, and so should your approach. Determining your target audience isn’t a once-and-done proposition; rather, it’s an ongoing task that grows along with your business.





What You Can Learn from a Stack of Pancakes

23 05 2014

Everyone has comfort foods they view as the perfect meal after a long week at work, a stressful day, or even just to wake up to after a long night out with friends. These foods range from a plateful of pancakes to a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese or Mom’s chili. Whatever the comfort food may be, most tend to share a few characteristics on common.

  • They’re not all that good for you.
  • They’re very filling.
  • Health experts would tell you not to eat them.

Theoretically, food should be optimized to provide our bodies with nourishment. Foods that don’t provide optimal nourishment — and might actually hurt it with excessive calories, salt, and fat — should not be desired. However, as humans, most of us like to enjoy our foods. Hence, the popularity of comfort foods.

What purpose do these foods serve?

Comfort foods fill a very specific role in our lives. For some people, favorite comfort foods remind them of their mother or grandmother’s cooking when they were growing up. Others might just take pleasure in the savory taste.

These foods tend to fill us up, make us feel warm inside, and allow us the opportunity to take our minds off whatever might be worrying us or stressing us. They’re not the foods we eat every day. Instead, they’re a special treat, and that’s part of their appeal.

The next time you’re feeling stressed and decide to turn to a bowl of cheesy, carbohydrate-laden deliciousness to help take the edge off the pain, look down at that dish and see what you might actually learn from it.

What can be learned from Grandma’s pie

As already mentioned, comfort foods fill a specific role. We don’t turn to them for nutritional value or health. We turn to them for comfort. In other words, these foods have a specific niche. Your business must also determine its niche and be able to articulate exactly what it is you do for people. The same way not all food can be nutritious, easy, or cheap, not all companies within a given industry can fulfill the same needs for customers.

How to identify your company’s niche

There are two main criteria your company should examine when looking to identify your niche. The first is what your customers are looking for. No industry is so over-saturated that every possible customer need is already being met. Perhaps there’s a distinct specialization that’s underserved, or every company focuses so much on lower prices that they fail to address the quality customer service and customer assistance that’s being sought. Determine what it is that’s lacking within the industry.

Secondly, discuss what unique skill sets your company brings to the industry. Perhaps several of your founding members have a background in a particular area that could help guide your company toward a specialization. Bring these two criteria together to determine the best niche for the company.

Identifying a key niche helps distinguish your business and secure its place as an essential player in the industry. Remembering that your company cannot be everything to everyone should help you determine what exactly you bring to the table and how you can use your skills to an advantage. If you’re looking to begin identifying and advertising to a specific niche, contact us to learn more about how we can help.





Why Choose Newsletters?

20 05 2014

When it comes to business marketing outreach tools, it just doesn’t get much more venerable than the newsletter. In fact, some even describe the newsletter as the perfect intersection of tradition and technology.

Indeed, it’s hard to top a well-designed newsletter that’s filled with useful, relevant information and thoughtful graphics and images, especially when it’s printed on attractive paper. A well-done newsletter simply screams “high-quality,” an impression that rubs off on the business that distributes it.

The newsletter’s history itself is inextricably entwined with commerce and marketing. Let’s delve into the background of this classic marketing tool — and explore the new ways that newsletters meld tech and tradition.

Newsletters: The Early Days

Historians believe that the first newsletter was created in 1538, decades before the advent of newspapers, but the first documented newsletter appeared in England in 1631. Titled “The Continuation of Our Weekly News from Forrain Parts,” this newsletter disseminated news of happenings in foreign lands.

Across the pond in the New World, the “Boston News-Letter” made its first appearance in 1704. Many other newsletters followed, and the medium grew popular through the 18th century. By the mid-1800s, many newsletters had morphed into newspapers, a trend that continued until the 1900s.

In the early 20th century, businesses sought a new way to communicate with their customers, stakeholders, and other businesses. Though they’d long been placing ads in newspapers, companies needed a way to disseminate long-form information. Newsletters filled this gap.

The first business newsletter is believed to have been published in 1904. Known as the “Babson’s Report,” this newsletter provided financial and investing advice. It was soon followed by the “Kiplinger Letter,” which provided business and economic forecasting trends. It still does today.

These early newsletters generally consisted of a single, typeset page that read like a letter from a financial institution to potential investors. Over the next decades, the trend continued to grow as businesses recognized the power of newsletters to build a customer base, serve as cost-effective advertising tools, and improve brand loyalty.

By the 1930s, the corporate newsletter craze was in full swing. A range of industries, from fashion to finance to farming, embraced this powerful marketing tool as a way to drive sales. In some cases, the newsletters themselves were used as moneymakers; for instance, paid subscriptions to stock market tip newsletters still exist today. In most cases, however, marketers realized the value of newsletters in building relationships with customers.

The Rise of Relationship Marketing

For decades, newsletters have been used as an essential tool in what’s known as “relationship marketing,” a method that emphasizes developing loyalty, retention, and long-term relationships by providing customers with solutions and information they actually need and can use. In today’s marketing world — which sometimes feels like it’s characterized by an overwhelming amount of digital noise — the classic printed newsletter stands as the iconic relationship marketing tool.

Why? The newsletter offers a level of practicality and usefulness that customers value, especially in an age of “interruption marketing.” Consider that the newsletter:

  • offers practical, relevant information that customers can actually use; in other words, they see the newsletter as a benefit.
  • is long-lasting; unlike a TV or banner ad, the newsletter can be perused at a person’s leisure, placed on their desk, and taken up again when the time is right.
  • provides credibility in a way that only printed materials can.
  • melds seamlessly with digital marketing by complementing online campaigns and pointing customers to websites.

As evidenced by its long, rich history, the newsletter is here to stay. Are you taking full advantage of this powerful marketing tool?





Printing: Greener than You Think

16 05 2014

Everyone who’s worked around printing has undoubtedly heard the same mantra at least once or twice: Save a tree — don’t print. While it’s true that climate change is a major challenge facing our nation and the world, the idea that printing is contributing to deforestation is a misconception. Research indicates that the number of trees in the U.S. is actually on the rise. Tree farming — the source of most paper products — is the cause.

In reality, printing is a sustainable industry that actually benefits the environment. Let’s debunk a few of the myths surrounding printing… and discover why it’s greener than you think.

Myth #1: The Number of Trees in the U.S. is Declining

Actually, the opposite is true. Statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization indicate that forest growth has exceeded harvest for more than 60 years; in fact, forest growth volume is 380 percent more today than it was in the 1920s. That means that the country is actually home to 20 percent more trees today than on the first Earth Day in 1970.

What’s behind this growth? A few factors, including:

  1. Expansion of national parks
  2. Population shift from rural to urban areas
  3. Sustainable tree farming

Number three is especially significant for the printing industry. Every day, those who privately own and manage forests, tree farms, and tree plantations plant about 4 million trees — or three times as many as they harvest.

Myth #2: Printing Kills Forests

Only about 11 percent of harvested trees are used to make paper (while 53 percent are used for fuel and 28 percent for lumber), so that “think before you print and save a tree” saying isn’t accurate.

In fact, printing actually contributes to the increasing number of trees. How? When there’s a healthy market for sustainably grown trees, landowners are much more likely to continue using their land to grow and maintain forests, rather than sell land off to developers. The more land that’s used for sustainable tree farming, the less pressure there is on primary forests to produce wood fiber.

Myth #3: Going Digital is Better for the Earth

As it turns out, not so much. Do you know what materials are used to manufacture those iPads, smart phones, e-readers, and laptops? Let’s compare e-readers and books.

Materials: An e-reader requires extraction of 33 pounds of minerals and 79 gallons of water; a book requires two-thirds of a pound of minerals and 2 gallons of water to produce.

Manufacturing: Making an e-reader requires a heavy energy input of about 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and produces 66 pounds of carbon dioxide; a book requires 2 kilowatt hours and produces about a pound of CO2.

Health Impact: The adverse effects on human health — such as toxic emissions — of making an e-reader are 70 times higher than that of making a book.

Disposal: E-readers contain toxins that can leach into ground water if not properly recycled; a non-recycled book decomposes in a landfill, generating about twice as many emissions as the manufacturing process.

A few other facts to consider: In the U.S., more than half the energy expended on paper manufacturing comes from renewable resources, and printing is a one-time input of energy. Digital devices, on the other hand, require constant energy. Plus, Americans generate more than 13 million tons of e-waste per year. Overall, the environmental impact of one e-reader is equivalent to about 100 books, according to the New York Times.

Given the numbers, it’s easy to understand how printing contributes to a greener Earth.





What Cities Can Teach Us About Branding

13 05 2014

Quick, what comes to mind when someone mentions they’re going to visit New York City? What about Washington, D.C., Toronto, or Paris? Every city has something that makes it unique, even if it’s not far from other metropolitan areas.

Washington, D.C., and New York are only about five hours apart, yet the two cities are remarkably different. Those visiting New York for the first time might be interested in trying their first New York bagel, visiting the Empire State Building, or seeing Times Square. Those venturing to Washington, D.C., will be more interested in seeing the major buildings of the U.S. government and visiting the monuments found around the city.

No one ventures to New York and then says, “There’s no point in going to see Washington, D.C. It’s going to be just like New York.” Why? Branding.

In many ways, cities have done a great job of branding themselves to potential visitors. They’ve created an atmosphere and a ‘product’ or experience that is so unique visitors know they won’t receive it anywhere else. When people hear certain cities’ names, they already have perceptions about what they can see and do there and an idea about whether or not they should bother with such a trip.

That’s what branding is all about.

What’s distinct about a well-branded company?

A well-branded company has a strong customer presence. Potential customers know and recognize the brand name and logo. They have ideas about what the company offers and if the product is worth the investment. Advertising focuses around reinforcing that brand and helping customers create positive associations with it.

What your company can learn from the world’s major cities

Today’s major cities strive to offer visitors something no one else can. Washington, D.C., for example, is the only city in the world that can offer visitors the chance to visit the seat of the U.S. government, and they have capitalized on this appeal. In addition to government buildings, the city boasts a number of war memorials, presidential memorials, and museums. Even if these additional sites were not planned solely to market the city, they’ve created a unique and desirable environment for visitors. This is similar to what you should look to accomplish for your company.

How your company can offer a similar appeal and uniqueness

No matter how oversaturated your industry might be, your company must be able to demonstrate its own unique strengths. Just as each major city manages to create its own culture and attractions, your company must determine what makes it unique compared to the rest of the competition. Perhaps you offer unique guarantees or better prices. Maybe you provide a superior buying experience or higher-quality products. Whatever your strengths, you should work to determine where your customers are still left wanting and then fill that niche. Use that niche to create a unique experience that customers can expect when they come to you. Work to brand your company, so customers know to expect this type of product or experience when they use your company.

Just as cities around the world have created unique markets for themselves by offering experiences that only they can produce, your company can brand itself to offer something special. When customers know what they can expect from you and how your experience or product is unlike anything else, they’ll be far more likely to keep coming back. Let us know if you’re ready to start exploring what makes your brand completely unique!





How Adventures on a Playground Affect Adventures in Business

9 05 2014

Anyone who’s visited a children’s playground in the past few years has likely noticed stark differences from the jungle gyms of the 1970s and early 1980s. Today’s equipment is very sanitized. There are very few ways for children to possibly injure themselves. Signs clearly indicate the age appropriateness of the equipment and discourage smaller children from trying the equipment designed for older children. Over the past 30 years, it has been increasingly common for towns, cities, and designers of playground equipment to create playgrounds that maximize safety and minimize the risk for the children and themselves.

Those who hang around playgrounds have also become accustomed to the sight of overprotective parents. These parents monitor their children’s every movement and interfere at the slightest suggestion of a struggle or their child having a disagreement with another child.

The motivations are understandable. No one wants children to get injured while playing. However, in an effort to keep children safe, developmental professionals have noticed in recent years that children are starting to miss out on some important parts of growing up. Children lack the opportunity to challenge themselves and learn to problem solve without adult interference. Some developmental experts have become increasingly concerned that many children today are not being provided with the chance to develop important life skills, such as managing risk or resolving conflict, and this could hinder them as adults.

What this means for business

Children today are teaching us all that challenge is critical for development. Challenge provides the opportunity to grow and learn. When we embrace the chance to try something new, we can learn from mistakes while also discovering interesting and useful information and skills. Embracing challenge is the key to getting ahead in life and in business. By judging risks, we all measure what we have to gain versus what we have to lose and decide if the jump is worth making. Learning to do this wisely can take a company to new heights.

How to apply these lessons to your business

As a business leader, take the opportunity to embrace challenges when they arise. Continually playing it safe isn’t the way to grow a company. Companies are able to grow and expand when the leaders test the boundaries of what the group is capable of achieving.

In marketing, this means being willing to try new techniques or experiment with exciting ideas. The current leaders in marketing didn’t get there by following the old leaders. Instead, they got creative with their ideas and experimented to see what worked. Businesses of all sizes can run the same types of experiments. Even small businesses can test to see what customers respond to better and what generates more conversations.

As you plan your marketing, find out what makes your consumer base unique, and use that information to develop lofty yet tangible goals for your company. Get the entire team excited about reaching those goals. Set the stage to encourage team members to gauge risks and take appropriate action to see what the company is capable of accomplishing. Determine where the company has room to grow, and develop plans to get there.

Playing on sterile, overly safe playgrounds with overprotective parents hovering over them has created an environment where many kids can no longer explore and determine their own capabilities. As developmental specialists warn us all against heading too far in that direction with the next generation, we must also be careful to avoid falling into that trap with our own lives and businesses.

Taking risks, stepping up and meeting challenges, and offering workers the chance to grow are essential keys to making a company successful. If you’re looking for ways to start reaching for the stars and want to take your marketing to the next level, give us a call. We’d be happy to help you get started.





Business Card Marketing: Evolution of the Smallest, Most Versatile Marketing Tool

6 05 2014

Quick: Which single piece of marketing collateral combines two old adages — “first impressions are the most important” and “a picture is worth a thousand words” — and proves them both true?

It’s the trusty business card, of course! Given the wealth of information this compact little marketing tool holds and delivers in just a few inches of space, it’s no surprise they’ve been popular since the 1400s. Today, business cards are still evolving, with ever-more creative designs and options.

A Rich Past: The Social History of the Business Card

The forerunner of the business card stretches back to 15th century China. At that time, royals and aristocrats would send their servants to the homes of other members of the upper classes, bearing “visiting cards,” announcing their intent to pay a visit.

Two centuries later, the practice caught on in France. During Louis XIV’s reign, visiting cards became all the rage in high society circles. Proper gentlemen and ladies handed out “calling cards” as a means of social introduction and as a way to request a meeting. Over time, the practice became more formal, and many rules surrounding the use of calling cards came into play.

The practice made its way to England and across the pond to the U.S. in the mid-19th century, bringing a strict etiquette along. For instance, a married woman had to hand out her husband’s cards along with her own, in order to avoid seeming risque. Also, the way a card was folded conveyed a message. These early cards were usually engraved on glossy paper and, along with the caller’s name, often featured a design such as a family coat of arms, flowers, or hearts.

Reaching Into the Business World

Around the same time, calling cards began making their way into the world of commerce. Known as trade cards, these early business cards were used both as advertisements for businesses and as maps to point the way to stores. Trade cards were usually printed using woodcuts or engraving and used monotones. They featured the name of a merchant, their address, directions to the business, and often a reproduction of the store’s sign.

Unlike social calling cards, the use of trade cards wasn’t limited to the upper classes. After the widespread use of the printing press created a boom in print advertising, trade cards became less of an advertisement and more of a way to introduce oneself and one’s business. Most were printed on white card stock with black ink, a trend that continued until recent decades.

Today, business cards are just as ubiquitous as ever — but much more creative in design.

The Boom of the Creative, Innovative Business Card

As digital and printing technologies continue to improve, so do business card designs. Long gone are the days of monotone cards with little to no personality. Instead, many people choose to create business cards that truly reflect their business and their own unique personality. In doing so, they make their company stand out to potential customers.

Some of the most innovative and clever cards integrate functionality into the card itself; for instance, a jeweler might create a card that folds into a ring sizer, a tire company might print a tread gauge on the bottom of the card, or a tailor might choose a folded card that can be unfolded and cut into a measuring tape.

Some modern business cards are just plain fun, such as restaurant cards that can be folded to look like little menus, or cards with cut-outs in the middle to create finger puppets.

Of course, your business cards don’t have to be over the top to show creativity. Just a little something different can make them stand out in a sea of traditional (boring) cards.