We can’t be everything to everybody. It is exhausting and almost impossible to do. The same is true for brands. Your brand won’t appeal to all consumers in the marketplace. It can also get very expensive to try to reach everybody. Thus, you shouldn’t try to cater and talk to all consumers. You should define and select the unique type of customer that you want to attract and delight. Having a unique target in mind will help focus your brand’s efforts, such as communication and product development, where they matter most.

Defining and selecting the type of customer you want to target for your brand is a critical decision in brand strategy. Your target becomes a choice of where you allocate your marketing and research and development resources. Selecting a distinct consumer target to pursue will drive focus on your innovation efforts, your marketing efforts, and ultimately will be the source of your short and long term business growth. Having a target will help you prioritize those efforts and allocate resources where they will give you the biggest return. Understanding your target will also give a clear roadmap of what you need to do to improve your brand experience to maintain their loyalty.

Let’s walk you through a series of steps to define, refine, and investigate the best target for your brand. There are 4 steps in the targeting process:

  1. Segment your market
  2. Select your target needs segments
  3. Select your target sub-segments (if needed)
  4. Meet your target

Let’s explore each step in depth.

1. Segment Your Market

The first step in defining your brand target is to segment the market. Segmenting is a way of organizing your universe of customers into meaningful and distinct groups. There are many different ways to define these segments; demographics, attitudes, behaviors, values, or needs. Most importantly these segments or groups should be distinct, stable, and specific to your category.

There is a natural temptation to segment your market according to demographic data. In my experience this results in many indistinct groups that tend to change over time. Psychographic data, such as values and behaviours, similarly falls short in articulating the customer relationship to your product. Only a needs based segmentation strategy, can truly, and distinctly capture common drivers of consumer choice.

Needs are what consumers would describe as the main reason they enter the category of products or services you offer. By focusing on the needs of your target consumer, your brand can meet them with the benefits your product or service offers. You can then build a range of product or service offerings that will serve the distinctive needs in the market. Focusing on needs first, as it is the primary reason why consumers choose the product, is a more reliable way to select consumer segments.

2. Select Your Target Segments

With your needs segments categorized, it is time to select targets whose needs your brand can best fulfill. As a Brand Manager your task is to find the most valuable consumer segment (or segments depending on the size of your brand and your long term growth goals) upon which to focus your efforts.

Many consumers will buy your products, but the majority of the sales will typically come from a smaller, but very valuable set of customers. Many brands still experience the 80/20 rule: twenty percent of their core customers are responsible for eighty percent of their business. You need to identify who your core customers are today and who will be the core customer in the future.

3. Select Your Target Sub-Segments (if needed)

The third step in brand targeting is to determine whether you need a sub-segment strategy to further unlock growth in the short term. Once you have the model that segments the different needs in the category and select your core segments, you might still wonder if, by focusing your efforts even further, you could increase the reach of your brand.

If you are in this situation, dig deeper within each segment and see if there are meaningful differences or other defining characteristics that are not being met with the current market segmentation. If the answer is no, you are done. You can focus on delighting your current needs segments. If the answer is yes, you will likely benefit from identifying what type of sub-segments within a core segment could be addressed with more precise marketing strategies to further serve customer needs and unleash more sales potential. The sub-segment can then become the brand’s prime prospect for growth on a specific marketing initiative. However, you should only identify a sub-segment if you are planning to act on it.

4. Meet Your Target

You now know how to identify and select which need segments you want to focus on, as well as a potential a short-term sub-segment if needed. The final step is to meet your target and make it come to life.

To get to know your target, first identify a few core characteristics or questions derived from the needs segment you selected. If you did a quantitative segmentation you will likely get an algorithm (core questions and answers that allow you to assign consumers to your need segment). If you defined the segment yourself, you can create drivers questions like what is the main reason you are interested in this product/service.? If you already have a hypothesis of some distinctive characteristics e.g. age, activity, lifestyle, you can use those in addition to the category drivers.

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