How to Reach Your Customers

Part 4 of the “Things we wish we knew” Blog series

By: Tina Oddleifson, Business Advisor  

“If you market to everyone, you’ll market to no one”  – Famous Marketing Guru

Decorative imagery - hand with magnifying glass over wooden cutouts of people - identifying target marketAs business advisors, we review a lot of business plans. One thing we see regularly are marketing plans with vague references to social media and a website but with very few details. Not having a detailed marketing plan is a costly mistake — because marketing is the engine that drives your sales. That’s why it’s in the top five of our “Things We Wished We Knew” blog series.

Identify Your Target Market

When it comes to marketing, many small business startups don’t have a lot of money to spend.  That’s why it’s critical to understand who your target market is — so that you know what to say to them and how best to reach them.

A great example is coffee.  Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and a local coffee roaster all serve coffee and pastries.  But they are very different businesses when it comes to branding, pricing, experience, products, values, and more.  They are marketing to very different people.  Your business is just the same.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking your target market is “everyone who likes coffee” (or haircutting, or salsa, or whatever you do). 

While there can be multiple market segments in your business, your job is to figure out which ones will want your product or service the most.

Demographics and Psychographics

Demographic data is a great way to start.  For example, you may have a product that will appeal directly to mothers.  But what kind of mothers?  Younger or more mature? Mothers with babies or kindergartners? Mothers in a certain income category?  Mothers who live in rural areas or urban areas? Working mothers, single mothers? 

You also want to dig much deeper and think about “psychographics.  What are the values of your target market?  What is most important to them? For example, does saving time or saving money mean more to them?  Do they value environmental sustainability and locally-made, or is convenience more important? 

What Problem Are You Solving?

It’s critical to understand the problem or need your target customer is trying to solve or fill.  Knowing this can help you create messages that speak directly to your target market and help them understand why your product or service is the best option to solve their problem.

Customer Personas

A great exercise to help you develop a marketing plan is to start by creating “customer personas.”  These are actual people you create in your head or on paper who represent each of your top 3-5 target customers.  As a representative customer you want to give them each a name, identify their age, income, and where they live, work, and play. Where do they hang out on social media?  What shows do they watch, what publications or blogs do they read? What do they value? 

Doing this helps you develop distinct marketing messages that appeal directly to each of your personas and will help you know where to post this content.

Understand Your Customer’s Journey

It takes time for a customer to make a purchase.  Your job is to understand the decision process or journey your customers take so you can meet them along the way.  

Typically, it starts when a customer is researching a solution to a problem or a need.  Your first goal is to make them aware of your business by being in front of them when they begin the journey, whether that is offline or online.  After that you want to create opportunities for them to engage with your business in a meaningful way and to see you as the expert or solution to their problem.  This can be done by providing helpful or expert information through emails, blog posts, social media engagement, customer reviews, product samples and more.

Nurture your customers

After you’ve made a sale, it doesn’t stop there. It’s much easier and cost effective to keep a customer than to find a new one. 

Happy customers can turn into repeat customers and become your biggest advocates by spreading the word online and offline. So be sure you express your appreciation, give them opportunities to provide feedback, and make them feel special by offering them access to insider discounts and more.

Reach Your Target Market

Online Strategies

After figuring out your personas and their customer journey, you’ll have a much better idea of where to find them.  

These days having a website, even if it’s just one page, is a must. It is your storefront to the world and tends to give your business legitimacy.  At the Maine SBDC we have a YouTube channel filled with webinars to help you understand how to set up a cost-effective website, what drives search engine optimization, copywriting techniques and more.  Check out our Marketing Playlist to get you started.

When it comes to social media, different channels appeal to different users.  For example, Tik Tok is used the most by a younger audience and Facebook tends to skew older.  LinkedIn is great if you’re marketing to other businesses or professionals, and Pinterest is an “evergreen” site that helps display your products in perpetuity.  Focus on the channels where your customers are most likely to be engaged. Take a look at our Social Media Playlist for some guidance.

Identify the most important industry listings, professional associations, chambers of commerce, regional networks and other places your customer may frequent to find a business like yours and consider advertising through them.

Offline Strategies

Your target market may not spend much time online at all. Don’t forget other marketing channels like local publications and events, trade shows, sponsorships, markets and other places where your target market may see you.  Vehicle lettering, signage, and business cards may also be a key strategy for your business.

Collaborations and Partnerships

One effective marketing strategy is to identify other businesses that share the same customer base, as there may be ways to collaborate.  For example, maybe you own an inn and you host weddings, but you don’t provide flowers, cakes or photographers.  Or perhaps you provide massage and Reiki services to a similar clientele as your local yoga studio.  Is there an opportunity to collaborate in some way?  

Marketing is the engine that drives your sales, so don’t go on your entrepreneurial journey without making sure all the parts work.  It takes time to build a sales funnel that creates the leads who turn into customers. Talk to an SBDC advisor who can provide feedback and help you create a focused strategy.