Monday, February 25, 2013

Tips for Choosing a Target Market

Small business owners don’t need a million more customers right away, they need to continuously add customers over time.

The problem is that small business owners tend to define target markets in the same way the big brands do (e.g., active teens, working moms, Spanish-speaking households). Small business targeting must be much more specific, with demographic and psychographic elements.

Here are three tips:

  • Make it something you’re passionate about
  • Make it something different
  • Make sure it’s worth something to others

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I was at a breakfast the other day listening to a social media "expert" talk about advertising on Facebook. She surprised many in the audience by stating that the average age of a Facebook user is 45-55 (most in the audience assumed that the average age was younger -- and it is, but not by much).

I set down my coffee cup filled with crunchy granola and warm yogurt and thought about how advertising has changed. Good advertising tip, I thought to myself, if this had been 1995.

Back then, If we were advertising, we'd want to know things like age, race and gender. That information would have helped us get our ad in front of people that more or less looked like our target audience. 1995.

Fast forward to 2012. We still network over breakfast, but we also network online. According to Facebook, almost a billion people stay connected using their website. These 955 million users identify themselves demographically, geographically, and by their interests, activities, and preferences.

This means a fundamental shift in the way we approach advertising. If we're advertising on Facebook, it no longer matters what the overall numbers are, or who an "average" user might be. We're not looking for a specific market segment. We're looking for specific users.

It takes a little more effort because effective advertising means spending extra time learning how Facebook (and other social media networks) present their data. We cannot find the people we're looking for unless we know where and how they are hiding!

More importantly, we can't find the people we're looking for unless we know who it is that we're looking for. We need to spend extra time learning about our customers and prospects.

1995 strategies served with granola and warm yogurt in a coffee cup didn't make for a great breakfast. Next time, let's take a customer or prospect to breakfast and figure out how we might find him or her in Facebook. That's my idea of a great breakfast.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Viral Differentiation and Promotion

Here's an example of viral marketing from a theater that trusts itself and its target audience.

Sure, they're mocking an irate customer. But can you imagine how much fun the theater's true customers are having sharing this content? For that matter, can you imagine how much fun the theater had making the video?

Once upon a time, the customer was always right. Implicit in that statement was the premise that every customer was always right.

YOUR customers may always be right, but if you are properly differentiated, not everyone is your customer. Take advantage of that fact, if you dare, and create a viral video for yourself.

If you do, let me know: I'll post it on Facebook and tweet it on Twitter!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Too Much Marketing

Last Saturday afternoon, I awakened from a nap to discover a lovely rainbow in my back yard. A quick turn to the left and I discovered the cause was a high-pressure leak spraying out of my hot water heater.

I shut off the water to the house, and called my plumber. That's when things went bad. You see, my plumber had sold out to another company. A marketing company.

I knew it as soon as their telemarketer picked up the phone and said "Thank you for calling XYZ Plumbing, how can I provide you with exceptional service today?"

She didn't know too much about plumbing, but tried to sell me a new hot water heater and a service contract. I demurred.

Her response, edited for brevity, went something like this: People with service contracts get priority service. Was I sure I didn't want the contract? No? Well, we'll have someone there in an hour to give you an estimate. By the way, you'll save money on the estimate with a service contract.

Before ringing off, like any good telemarketer following a script, she asked me if she could help with anything else.

An hour later, another one of the firm's telemarketers called to say the plumber would be delayed. "Should be another hour or so."

Two hours later, I called and reached a supervisor who explained that they had a man in Downey who would come by just as soon as he finished up the job he was working on.

Later that evening, the plumber finally arrived. From the moment he stepped out of his truck, he had his marketing hat on. He hadn't seen the water heater yet, but said I needed a new one. At the very least, a heater flush, with an anode replacement. And a new shut-off valve. And a new shut off valve for the whole house. And a pressure regulator. And a few more things. And of course, a service contract.

He made the pitch verbally. He wrote it up informally, and pitched it again. He asked me to appeal to my wife. He wrote it up in contract form. He mocked me for not purchasing what he deemed to be essential plumbing system upgrades. He and his company had consumed my Saturday afternoon and were well on their way to consuming my Saturday night.

Finally, he installed two 18 inch hoses, charged me $400, and left (but not before offering me a deal on the whole plumbing package if I bought within seven days).

What did I do? The same thing any of your customers would have done: I asked people I know for referrals. Within an hour of posting my query on Facebook, I had two solid recommendations, and a new plumbing company.

Too much marketing. Not enough service. Your first marketing priority must be delivering a product or service people want at a competitive price.

Post Script:
My wife called the company the next day to complain. After being transferred four times, she was offered a 10% discount on the invoice (she declined).

The day after that, we got a call from one of the company's telemarketers, asking how we liked the service. I ended the call before she had the chance to sell me a service contract.

Post Post Script:
After writing this blog entry, I checked out the company's Yelp listing. As of this writing, they have been rated by 12 customers (7 visible, 5 "filtered"). Amazingly, every single customer rated the company 1 out of 5 stars. They'll have a perfect 13 for 13 in just a few moments.

I predict they'll be out of business in no more than two years. You read it here first. Too much marketing. Not enough service.

Post Post Post Script (1/20/11):
An attorney who found out about this post has contacted me about bringing a class action suit against the company because of their unethical practices. We declined to participate, but it's another example of how bad service costs more than ever in the era of social media.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Be Careful What You Ask For

Conventional marketing wisdom says "know thy customer."

True enough. Whether you're creating a new product or service, repositioning, or trying to improve your web page's search results, you need to know your customer (and for that matter, your prospects).

What's the best way to get to know them? Ask them, of course.

But be careful what you ask for.

The problem is, your customers and prospects don't always know the answer. When they don't, they have to figure one out.

Here's what can happen. Remember the "SpokesApple" campaign by the Applebee's restaurant chain? Yeah, didn't think so.

It's a safe bet Applebee's asked well-intentioned questions of well-intentioned customers about the spokesapple before its debut.

But here's what they overlooked: no matter how they phrased the question "will our new spokesapple make you want to eat our food," their customers didn't know the answer.

They might have thought it was funny, they might have thought it was cute, it might even have made them hungry.

But the road from those "favorable brand impressions" to having dinner at Applebee's is long, and the mental steps between the two is not as direct as it may appear. Base decisions about spending your limited resources on questions that deliver a more apparent payoff.

Ask yourself a couple of questions before you start:
  • Will this question generate actionable information?
  • Does this question ask my target about something they have direct knowledge of or experience with?

Don't ask "which charities should our company support?"
----->Ask "which charities do you support?"

Don't ask "will this advertising make you more likely to buy our product/service?"
----->Ask "tell me about the problem our product/service solves for you."

It's good to know your customers. It's good to ask them questions to learn more about them. But be careful what you ask for... or you could end up creating the next spokesapple.

And that's practical marketing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Added Value Networking

You probably attend a lot of networking events. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, cocktails, grand openings, golfing, baseball games and tree plantings... the list goes on.

It can sap a lot of your time and energy, but you do it because you think it's worth it.

Is it? Here's a test:

Think back to an event you attended more than a few days ago. Picture where you were, and the organization that sponsored the event.

How many of the people you met can you name?

Now, put yourself in the shoes of the people you met. How well do you think they remember you?


We'd like to remember everyone we meet at networking events, but it's hard to do short of pulling various Lindsay Lohan style stunts.

So how can you make it happen?

Add value to the organizations and people you're networking with. It'll take time and several meetings. Here are some ideas (if you have more, please add a comment to this blog post!):
  • Volunteer for the board or join a committee.
  • Create or host an event.
  • Help people make the right connections.
  • Provide memorable door prizes.
Bonus points if you can add value in a way that reflects the things that make you (and your business) unique.

And that's practical marketing.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Persona Worksheet

I've been working with a client to develop personas for her business.

I looked around the Internet for some worksheets to use as a starting point, but didn't find much. So, I created a persona worksheet, and have posted it here, just for you.

If you aren't sure why you'd want to use personas in your marketing, check out my review of The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Or, give me a call (562) 537-0678. We'll talk about how you can use personas to get more leads and sell more stuff.