Bart Caylor, President and Founder, Caylor Solutions. We’re a marketing agency committed to advancing brands that advance education.
At its core, marketing is a relational activity. When done well, marketing seeks to improve the relationship between your brand and your customers through well-crafted communications. It is tempting to think that everyone in the world would want to have a relationship with your brand, but it’s just not true.
When you’re able to not only accept this fact but also appreciate it, you may begin to see the results of your marketing soar. Attempting to appeal to everyone is like trying to be everyone’s best friend—it’s exhausting and often results in superficial relationships. Instead, the magic happens when brands zero in on a specific group: their niche market.
Imagine you’re invited to a cocktail party. On one side of the room, there’s a group discussing the latest sci-fi series, while another is passionately talking about gardening. Now, if you were to join one of these tables, which would you choose? Naturally, you’d gravitate toward the group that aligns with your interests.
This is precisely how consumers feel when they encounter brands. They are drawn to those that resonate with their passions, beliefs and lifestyles. By identifying and understanding a target audience on a personal level, you’re essentially selecting the right side of the room.
Digging Deeper: Finding Your Niche
Discovering your niche isn’t about limiting your brand; it’s about matchmaking. It’s discovering that sweet spot where your brand’s strengths and values align perfectly with a particular group’s needs and desires.
For example, while there are hundreds of coffee specialists, Black Rifle Coffee began by appealing to military veterans through its messaging and offers. Their branding is bold and direct, with coffee names like “Silencer Smooth.” The company also actively supports veterans by hiring them and donating a portion of their profits to veteran and first responder causes. This commitment strengthens their bond with their core audience.
Finding the sweet spot requires you to be passionate about your brand and empathetic to your target audience. In a way, you’ve got to advocate for both the audience’s concerns and wants as well as that of your brand. With this posture, you are not selling anyone on anything. You are matching one audience that you care about to a solution that you believe in.
But how do you zero in on your target audience?
1. Craft your marketing personas.
To begin, you’ll have to trust your instincts. Who do you think is your ideal customer? If you’re already doing some business, who has bought from you in the past? From this “gut feeling,” start by crafting a marketing persona.
A marketing persona is a profile of a fictional person who represents your target audience. The profile should include the different traits that you already know about your ideal customer. Marketing personas humanize data, allowing marketers to better understand the emotional triggers that move customers forward in the buying process. Putting a face to the data empowers creatives to craft messages that resonate deeply with target audiences.
Based on your marketing personas, delve into market data that you can find online, launch surveys and gather feedback through focus groups on audiences that you feel would match your brand well.
Look for patterns, trends and recurring themes that will give you insights into who they are, what they feel about themselves, how they see the world and what they are trying to do in the world. Refine your marketing personas with the data that you collect.
3. Engage with your audience.
For me, this is where great marketers stand out from good marketers. Great marketers find the places where their audience naturally hangs out, and then they show up to interact with their customers. Marketers can do this by attending events, forums, community centers or enthusiast groups where potential customers gather. In these spaces, the savvy marketer will spend time listening to their conversations.
I’ve noticed that the marketers who have the most success over the long-term are those who not only identify their target audiences but also “fall in love” with their audience. It is impossible to make authentic connections with an audience you don’t fully appreciate. Engaging with your audience can help you empathize and enjoy being with your audience.
The comradery and goodwill that comes from engaging with your audience will naturally come out in your marketing messages, making them truly compelling. Now marketing becomes less about work as you feel the need or desire of your audience for the solution that you have.
Despite having a close, intuitive understanding of your target audience, you will still need to home in on them by experimenting with different approaches. Test different messages, offers or campaigns to see which garner the best response with your marketing personas.
Embedding analytic tools into each campaign will allow you to gather customer engagement data on each campaign. Don’t know where to begin? Here are some recommendations for audience engagement analytics:
• Social media engagement: Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Meta’s Business Suite (for Facebook and Instagram)
• Email engagement: Mailchimp, AWeber, ActiveCampaign
• Website engagement: Google Analytics, Ahrefs
• Conversion optimization: Unbounce, Carrd, Leadpages, HubSpot, ClickFunnels
Staying Focused On The Relationship
Marketing is about relationships. When marketers get lost in the weeds of the communications platforms, analytics and trends, they can forget this foundational concept to their detriment. The seasoned marketer knows that any technology, trend or best practice worth its salt must promote the advancement of the relationships being formed and cultivated through the communications flow. This all begins with getting to know your target audience deeply.
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