The first priority is to determine the primary target audience and then any secondary targets that may occur, whether they are seasonal or simply a smaller, secondary group of customers that should not be overlooked.
The first mistake that many small business owners make is to overestimate the target audience, thinking that in some way they can make meaningful claims that will please everyone.
Not true – most businesses appeal to a certain definable demographic. They may be mostly male or mainly female. They may be in a specific income bracket for the most part. The business may appeal to a mostly young crowd, or to yuppies, or even to senior citizens. The typical customer may be a laborer, a blue collar or white collar worker, or mostly professionals. Sure – not everyone who patronizes a business may fit the profile, but the majority will.
Even a business that seemingly will be used by a large range of ages will have some identifiable demographics to work with. A convenience store or drug store is used by many people in all walks of life – but no one drives out of their way to go to a specific convenience store. They use the one that is closest. In that case look at the general characteristics of the neighborhood – is it an affluent one, or mostly young families with small children? Each group may want something slightly different in a convenience store.
It helps the advertiser to know what characteristics define the primary target audience – and possibly smaller, secondary target group with slightly different demographics that have different motivations for using a business.
Interpreting the Wants and Needs of the Target Group
Knowing who the ad is aimed at helps the advertiser to figure out what the typical customer’s wants and needs are and to create ads that speak to the most compelling of those wants that his or her business can fulfill.
For instance, a dress shop may appeal primarily to professional women between 25-44, who make a good enough wage to afford the somewhat high priced merchandise. A secondary target audience may be high school and college girls at prom time. The advertiser will want to aim most of its advertising at the larger and more affluent audience, while directing ads at the college girls in May and June when the formal dances occur. Of course this also affects where ads are placed – but that is something for a later piece.
Once advertisers can describe their typical customers, they can begin to interpret the want. Why does this type of person choose to do business in this particular kind of store? What do they get out of it (besides the actual merchandise or services they may purchase?) Does it give them a sense of pride to do business in a somewhat elite shop? Do they use this type of business as a treat for themselves, or are they buying basic necessities? Does shopping at X make them feel like a smart shopper, or like they are being a tiny bit naughty and self-indulgent? Or is the big thing that the store is so convenient, saving them time if not money?
These intangible but very real characteristics of a target audience are referred to as Psychographics and are an important element in any advertising strategy.
The second mistake many small business owners make is that when asked what the customer gets from them they reply “Quality at a reasonable price.”
Problem is – everyone is claiming something similar. The goal is to look at desired customers and make them a promise that is different from and better than that which the competition is promising.
Determining the Competition
How does one determine the competition? It’s not as easy as it may seem. A bakery may see its competition as other bakeries, and if there are a couple that are geographically close that carry similar goods in a similar price range, that may be true. But the real competition is wherever a typical customer might go if that bakery (or any type of business) business was closed. They might simply decide to get baked goods from the grocery store – or even make it themselves.
Making a Meaningful Promise to the Customers
A good advertising promise is one that takes into consideration what the real competition is promising and then making a promise that takes into account what the typical customer really gets out of patronizing that business which will set it apart from any competitors. Eventually this promise becomes an ad campaign theme or slogan. But don’t worry about that just yet.
So first of all, take a look at any competitors’ ads that may be accessible. (Don’t forget the Yellow Pages.) Make a list of the promises they are making, and the image they seem to be trying to project.
Now make a list of everything the business has to offer – both tangible goods and the intangible feelings that seem to matter to the target audience.
Compare the two lists. See what promises can be made to the target group that sets the business apart from those of any competitors. If nothing really jumps out, try making two promises – one a competitor is already making plus one additional benefit. For example, a dry cleaner might offer one day service – as does their competitor, but also promise special handling of delicate garments.
With this accomplished, the business is well on your way to creating an advertising campaign with a coherent theme.
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