How to Prioritize Your Target Market
The total number of people who your business can help might be quite large, but not all potential customers are created equal. You can break your target market down into several groups, to help you better see where you’re putting your valuable time and money.
Your supporters will come with their own range. There are the hard-core loyalists, the most loyal customers who would never go to any of your competitors, and who are frequently referral machines spreading the good news about your business to everyone they know. There are your regulars who provide steady business but don’t necessarily have the same referral impact. And there are the supporters who prefer you to your other competitors but are not as reliable, and will sometimes go to a competitor under certain circumstances.
Undecideds are just that—undecided. They don’t have any particular preference, either for you or for any of your competitors. Where they will take their business is almost completely dependent on circumstances—going by a business at the right moment, seeing a special deal for one business that they can’t get with another, or the novelty factor of trying out the new option. But whatever they choose, there is no guarantee they’ll return the next time; their decision will still be subject to those same chance circumstances, and you can’t predict what they’ll do.
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It’s unpleasant, but there might be some people who don’t like you. Hopefully it’s not personal for most of them! But just as your brand has its hard-core loyalists who would never consider your competitors, those competitors have their own hard-core loyalists who have little to no interest in doing business with you. They also will have their own supporters who prefer them to you—but don’t necessarily dislike you. The inertia of that current brand preference can make them tough to woo, though.
Your first priority when looking at your target market is to lock down your supporters. Take care of the people who already love you, and you’ll get even more in return. They’ll come back again and again, and they’ll bring other people with them. They’re free marketing, and a lot cheaper than trying to get a new customer on your own. Whatever you can do for your best customers, do it.
From there, do what you can to instill a similar sense of loyalty into your other supporters. See if you can use things like loyalty or referral incentives to turn a customer into a regular, and a regular into a hard-core supporter. Again, these people already know you, and they’ve already taken the first step; it’s a lot easier and more efficient to get that customer to the next level than to start fresh with a brand new person.
A lot of businesses run into problems when it comes to the Undecideds. They see a huge group of people with no brand loyalty, and think that it is a great opportunity to create new supporters. But you have to be very careful, because it’s easy to throw good money after bad chasing elusive business in this category.
The problem is that the Undecided category is composed of a few different types of customers, and they are not all equally promising targets. On the positive side, there are people who are undecided because they aren’t familiar with you. Some smartly targeted promotions that get them through the door and start the relationship could help create new supporters if you deliver on the great customer experience they’re looking for.
But there are also those who are undecided by choice. It’s not that they don’t know enough to have settled on a brand, it’s that they’re more price-sensitive, and less interested in brand loyalty in general. Maybe they don’t see enough difference between you and your competitors (which might speak to a need for greater differentiation, or might mean that even the differentiation just doesn’t matter to them). You can get them to buy from you with a great deal, but as soon as the deal goes away, so does their business, and they’ll go right over to the nearest competitor who offers another deal, and on and on. Chasing hard after these customers is a losing battle, with a lot more effort for a lot less reward.
Finally, there are those customers who support your competitors. They’re never going to be your first priority, but you can put a little effort into turning some of your competitors’ soft supporters toward you. While you’ll have to overcome their current preference, they have proven that they willing to be loyal to a brand, unlike many of the undecided. If you can manage to get them, it’s possible to keep them as customers. Don’t go overboard, but there’s a reason auto manufacturers offer “conquest” incentives to entice competitors’ customers.
Think through your target market, and make sure that you’re using your marketing dollars intelligently. Don’t throw good money after bad; put your time and effort toward building a loyal customer base that will come back to you again and again.
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