This may seem like marketing 101, but truly knowing your customer is an art in itself. Going beyond ‘they’re the person that buys things’ and digging into their lifestyle, opinions, and preferences is not only hugely informative, but also transformative when it comes to your marketing approach and, consequently, profits. Many companies start out a new project or product focusing on a new idea they have formed, and then go about finding the right target market to sell it to – but they’re getting it wrong. You wouldn’t make an outfit for a special occasion without knowing if it was fancy dress, formal, or on a beach, especially if you didn’t know if the outfit was for a child, adult, or older person. So why do so many companies fall into this ‘start with the end and work backwards’ approach? Simply stating your company is ‘customer-first’ doesn’t always translate in your actions, so here are our top tips for ensuring the customer really does take top priority in your plans. Don’t try to be everything to everyone The last thing a marketing professional wants to hear when discussing a target market is “we want to attract anyone and everyone”. This broad approach may seem reasonable when trying to maximise sales, but it is a highly detrimental viewpoint which often leads to vague marketing that ends up appealing to very few prospective customers. Be brave and carve out the niche that your product truly aligns with. Thinking small in this case is not restrictive, but empowering, as it allows you to get closer to your target audience, and really begin to understand what works for them. Knowing this, you can then adapt your product and offering to better suit their needs, a win-win for both brand and customer! One of the main benefits of finding a niche to market in is that there can be little, or even no, competition within the segment you have identified for your particular offering. So, instead of targeting the general leisure travel market, could you focus on ramblers and walkers? Or maybe your city centre location lends itself to architectural tourism due to the historic buildings in your surroundings. Appealing to a niche audience with reasons to visit not only targets a more selective clientele directly, but it also gives a wider audience a better idea of what sets your hotel apart, meaning more qualified leads coming through to your channels. Segmentation You’ve found your niche and know what audience you’re working towards, but the work doesn’t end there. Simply identifying that you are looking at, say, over 50’s empty nesters does not mean everyone in this group is the same. Go deeper and think about whether it is people in a certain geographical location, or people who already own their homes. Think back to your school days when everyone in the same class was also the same age, lived in a similar area, and went to the same school. That didn’t mean they were all alike! Their interests, activities and values all differed widely, and so do your customers’. You need segmentation to best market your product and provide useful information at the right time to smaller groups within your pool. Inbound marketing specialist, Hubspot, states that a personalised call-to-action can result in 42% more engagement than a generic option will. That is an enormous difference that can lead to a welcome stream of additional sales simply through selecting the right offers or communications for your customer groups. Furthermore, 69% of senior marketers claimed they already use data extracted from loyalty and customer value programs to create relevant personalised offers (Source: Approaches to Personalised Marketing at Their Company According to Senior Marketers in the US and Western Europe, Jan 2016, Forrester Consulting). Starting from a broad position, and then fine-tuning as you discover what are the most relevant and profitable ways to segment using your available data, is a great way to start and make the change for the health of your business. “Everyone meet Sally” A great way to really understand your ideal customer, and to ensure that your whole team do too, is to imagine them as a real-life person. Give them a name, a gender, age, and address as basic demographic information, then start adding in the detail. This is customer personification in action. Think about where they get their information about the world, whether that is through social media, radio when they drive to work, or a specific newspaper. Start building up a profile of their habits and preferences until you feel you know them as a friend. Stick up a flipchart and draw all your new-found insights on to it, displaying this within your office for best effect and to quickly get everyone on board with your new ambassador. Car manufacturer Ford created a life-sized model of their inspiration, ‘Antonella’, in order to best understand her driving needs. A 28-year-old woman living in Rome, focused on friends and fun, clubbing and parties, she allowed the team to be guided in their designs for the Ford Verve, amending the dashboard instruments and functions around her interests and preferences. The more work you do now to understand your ideal customers, the better your initiatives will be to target and sell to them, leading to higher conversions and sales. It truly is worth the investment of time and resources. This article first appeared in Curious, issue one.