How To Target Your Real Customer, Not Your Ideal Customer

How To Target Your Real Customer, Not Your Ideal Customer

Identifying and understanding your target customer is one of the most important elements of marketing, but we’re not always getting it right. Ruth De Luchi (lead image), the founder and managing director at Status Agency explains that our ideal customer personas are often built on assumptions and aspirations, rather than data…

There are so many tools and practices that we can use to identify and understand our target customer. Interviews, focus groups, customer data, search data, feedback surveys, persona analysis, and social media trends are just a few. 

But, how often are we using them?

If a product or service was new to market, ideally we would identify the target customer’s needs prior to developing it. As Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”

In a perfect world, marketers would develop a crystal clear understanding of the target market’s problems and pain points, before even trying to offer a solution to them (let alone knowing how to position, price, promote, and place it). 

However, the world is dynamic and customer needs are constantly changing. We can’t always stay in touch with them. Sometimes we just have a hunch and we feel like our great ideas are great ideas, so we rush to get them out to the market before our competitors do.

As a result, minimal market research is conducted and we end up working from assumptions. For example, we might lean heavily on insights from our wholesale network in order to go direct-to-customer for the first time. However, those wholesale customers are wholesale customers with different agendas to the real end user. We have to supplement what they say and what they decide to purchase with our own research. 

The makeup of our business and marketing team might also not be reflective of the target customer. Meaning, the way we think versus how the real target customer thinks could be very different. For example, a marketing team primarily made up of young urban dwellers, won’t necessarily understand how to reach a rural target customer effectively.

Are we dreaming?

It’s hard to escape bias and we might even idealise our customers by accident. Sometimes we assume that they really do care about the latest fashion or their health, because that’s the agenda that we’re trying to push. (How many of us have looked at a beautifully curated mood board to get a picture of the target persona?)

So, what can go wrong when we target an ideal customer profile, rather than a real customer profile? We will simply struggle to reach and engage them. The marketing budget will go to waste and revenue will decline. The AI that we’re increasingly using to reach our audiences digitally is also only as good as the data that you feed it with. So, if you’re using the wrong targeting, you won’t be able to optimise your campaigns for the right people.

Before you launch. 

Take the time to do your research.

Simply watching, observing, and talking to potential customers is a great start. Census data is also a great way to learn more about the average household income, age, and other demographics of people that you want to reach in a specific location. Remember that people’s attitudes, behaviours, and priorities can differ greatly based on where they live and who they interact with. That’s why it’s so important to account for nuances and to segment your audiences.

Look at online social media trends or search data. If people are searching for solutions to a pain point that you are trying to solve, then there’s a good chance there could be some demand for your product or service. Find out who your competitors are and how they are engaging with those customers before you decide on your point of difference.

If you are an existing business bringing a new product or service to market, then tap into your existing customer data to validate your ideas. Review customer feedback data or simply talk to high-value customers to understand their pain points in more depth.

Learning as you go.

Of course, it’s impossible to know everything about your customer before you launch a brand, product, or service. You will learn a lot along the way and your customers’ lives will change over time too. 

That’s why it’s so important to apply test and learn frameworks to every campaign. Many digital platforms are now guiding marketers to lump all their audiences and creative under one campaign and then let the AI do the work. 

However, if you pile everything and everyone under one ad set, you won’t be able to do any testing and learning for yourself. It’s great to leverage automation, but we need to add a touch of human control and segmentation in order to run our own experiments and learn along the way. 

Using a testing framework, you might find that your creative is engaging your target customer in one region, but not having an impact on ‘the same target customer’ in another region. When you can see the difference in your results and metrics, you have a starting point from which to dissect and understand the issue further. Maybe the income levels from one region to another are different, and you can’t encourage your target customers to spend their discretionary income in the same way.

Since you’ve given yourself space to identify the problem, you can update your targeting, messaging, and positioning accordingly. 

Test all of your ideas like they’re wrong.

Marketers often read the same publications, attend the same conferences, and engage on the same platforms. As a result, we can reaffirm our own beliefs – which can be risky business when we’re trying to introduce a brand, product, or service to the market. 

So, take your time to understand your customer before you launch your next campaign. Then test and measure it as though your ideas could be completely wrong. 

Author Bio: 

Ruth De Luchi is the Founder and Managing Director at Status Agency, a Brisbane-based digital marketing agency with a smart approach to driving brand growth. Believing that innovation comes with space, time, and curiosity, Ruth gives her team the breathing room to stay ahead of new marketing technologies, and the balance they need to inject their full focus and energy into their clients.

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