A marketing strategy is only as good as the audience to which it caters. If you’re able to identify your target audience by a single or group of characteristics — age, gender, location or education level, for example — you can get more out of every single marketing dollar you spend.
That’s because more targeted marketing equals more success. Plus, there’s evidence to suggest that customers actually prefer it over a randomized strategy. Personalized marketing is what sets modern advertising apart from the incredibly broad-spanning world of print ads and TV spots of the past. Gone are the days of casting a wide net; today, it’s all about personalization.
All our favorite marketing and advertising platforms have rapidly expanded audience-specific features in the past year. For example, Google recently extended its in-market audience targeting feature (a tool that lets you target audiences based on purchase intent signals) to search campaigns, and Facebook unveiled new tools that let marketers engage with specific Facebook Communities.
In other words, all the platforms you use to market your brand already know that demographic segmentation is key. And if you’re a modern marketer, there’s a good chance you already have all these tools at your disposal. But you should be applying these principles to every aspect of your marketing campaign, from your product labels to your Facebook ads to the “About Us” section on your website.
Target Market Vs. Demographic
Although you’ll often see the phrases “target market” and “demographic” used interchangeably, there are a few key differences that you should note before you hone in on a segmented marketing strategy. A demographic, specifically called demographic segmenting in marketing, encompasses the broader characteristics of your market. Observable socioeconomic characteristics such as age and education level qualify as demographics.
On the other hand, your target market refers to your actual, current customers as well as the high-value potential customers you’d like to target. In most cases, if you put a little time into identifying your target market, you’ll see that many of your customers share similar demographics. Still, some companies must market to a range of different demographics in order to reach the most valuable customers within a target market.
Identifying Key Demographics
Defining your target market should be your first step in creating a tailored marketing scheme with a high return on investment (ROI). You simply can’t waste time or money with too much trial and error. Instead, putting a small amount of your marketing budget towards defining your target market early on in the process will go a long way to ensuring that you spend your dollars wisely in the future.
- Do Some Market Research — If you’ve got the time, the best way to gather intel on your most valuable potential customers is to do some in-depth market research. Private market research firms, eCommerce store plug-ins and other tools will help you study who, what and when drives your business. Once you’ve got a good grip on who is most likely to engage with your brand, you want to create customer profiles based on the results.
- Create Customer Profiles — Where market research should provide a wide-angle view of your target market, customer profiles help you get super specific. The best way to get to know your customer base is to group audience members together by demographic criteria and psychographic criteria. The first should cover age, location, gender, education, ethnic background and other defining traits, while the second should cover hobbies, values, attitudes and other key characteristics.
- Study Your Competition — If there are already well-established brands in your arena, you’re actually in luck. These companies may have already done the heavy lifting for you, especially if they’ve been around for longer. Competing companies can provide insight on brand voice — look at their social media pages and website to see their marketing messaging — pricing, customer experience (read those reviews) and more.
Marketing to Specific Demographics
Now that we’ve covered the basics of demographic segmentation, let’s take a deep dive into the actual mechanics. How do you implement all this knowledge in a way that helps boost every marketing dollar? At the end of the day, it comes down to getting to know your target demographic and understanding how they behave, especially in terms of consumerism and digital behaviors.
But before you start to implement your strategy, it’s a good idea to zoom out and take a look at your overall goals. You’ll want to spend money where you think it’ll have the most impact, of course, and identifying key goals will help you zero-in on that. Some goals of your strategy might be to increase foot traffic in your retail store, to create hype around a specific product, to boost your social media followers or to improve customer ratings.
Marketing by Age
As obvious as it may seem, your strategy will look very different if you’re marketing to millennials than if you’re vying for the attention of the aging population. But things get even more nuanced if you have a hyper-specific target age group. For example, if you’re developing a mobile app or pharmaceutical for menopause sufferers, you have to garner a deep understanding of consumer behaviors within a very narrow age window.
But there’s a very simple method to understanding consumers at any age, and luckily, there’s tons of research to help marketers understand buyer behavior from generation Z to baby boomers and beyond. If you’re able to zero-in on a relatively broad window — say, a range of 10 to 15 years — then you can study those buyer personas closely and apply their preferences to your strategy.
- Know Where They Shop — Even though mobile shopping is at its peak, there’s still some disparity in terms of who shops online and where they do it. Interestingly, more middle-aged consumers shop online, but younger consumers are more likely to use their mobile phones to pull the trigger. What’s more, studies show that those aged 65 and older need to see, feel and touch items before they make a purchase. If you’re an eCommerce store marketing to this demographic, it’s important that you implement (and tout) a liberal exchange policy that gives consumers an in-person experience.
- Know How They Shop — Understand how your target age group shops — and we’re talking digging much deeper than digital versus brick-and-mortar — will help you tailor your marketing strategy to their needs. Some things to look into include their favorite brands, attitudes towards quality and how they prioritize customer service in terms of value. Surprisingly, more millennials shop around for the best deals. One study showed that 71 percent of millennials visit multiple stores for the best deals, compared to just 57 percent of baby boomers. Your target audience should guide your pricing and help you edge out competitors.
- Know What They Care About — Measuring your target age group’s values, ethics and principles will also help you create a compelling campaign that uses budget wisely. Different generations have different opinions about corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, over half of millennials said they checked packaging labels to ensure positive social and environmental impact, compared with just 12 percent of baby boomers. If you’re trying to reach millennials, it’s not a bad idea to prioritize and promote your CSR efforts on product labels.
Marketing by Gender
From your market research, you should be able to determine whether your product or service is favored more by men or women or that gender has no bearing on purchase intent at all. And this is a valuable piece of knowledge since gender marketing can help you make more for your marketing money. But it’s a delicate topic, and one that you have to enter with a tuned-in approach.
More than half of women believe that gender-specific ads are outdated, and female consumers have made clear time and time again: they don’t need bright pink earplugs, writing instruments or snacks… so stop making them! With that said, women and men have different purchasing habits and interact with brands in different ways. This is the research to focus on when marketing by gender.
- Don’t Promote Gender Stereotypes — Nothing sinks a brand’s positive identity faster than stereotyped messaging. And companies that overcompensate — ads and marketing messaging that they believe empowers women — don’t always succeed either. Gender stereotyping can ruin your brand image by being plain offensive, and it can also hurt your bottom line because it creates a disconnect between your product and a consumer’s genuine experience.
- Look at Their Needs — Men and women report different shopping challenges from one another. Women cite fit and sizing issues as eCommerce roadblocks more often than men, but they’re still more comfortable shopping online than their male counterparts. Interestingly, studies show that women now make more buying decisions than men in American households. In fact, they’re now responsible for almost 100 percent of home furnishing purchases.
- Consider Gender Pivoting — Even some of the most traditionally male brands (Harley Davidson, for example) have begun to “gender pivot,” meaning they’re expanding their marketing efforts to target women. Indeed, this is one of those rare cases where taking a broad marketing approach — and maybe investing in a little bit of A/B testing along the way — could actually help you rack up more sales.
Marketing by Location
One of the simplest ways to reach your target demographic is through location-based marketing. If you operate in only a select few cities — or if you know that, say, your holiday swimsuits aren’t likely to sell out in the Northeast — then there’s no use throwing marketing dollars at regions that just don’t care. You have to distribute them to areas packed with potential customers.
- The good news is most of your everyday marketing tools — Analytics, AdWords, Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms — already allow you to segment audiences by location. That makes it really easy to make impressions in specific pockets of the world. But there are more location-based marketing tips that can help you ramp up this strategy.
- Understand the Area — Especially important if you’re marketing to a relatively small area (such as a single city or state), understanding the spirit and history of a place can help you create location-specific ads that feel authentic. Consumers know immediately whether a brand is an outsider trying to look like an insider, and such messaging often comes off as contrived and inauthentic. And everybody knows authenticity is everything in modern marketing!
- Use Geo-Location — According to the Local Search Association, the click-through rate for geo-targeted mobile display ads was higher than the industry standard in almost all verticals! If this all sounds like meaningless marketing jargon, it’s actually pretty simple. Targeting consumers with ads based on their location — for example, Chipotle using geo-targeted ads in areas with a high number of Chipotle stores — is an excellent strategy for brick-and-mortar businesses and restaurants.
- Keep it Mobile — Optimizing every single facet of your marketing strategy for mobile users is undoubtedly a good move, but it’s especially helpful when you’re marketing by physical location. Some ways to integrate mobile marketing and location marketing include creating location-based hashtags and geotags on social media, providing incentive for customers to geotag your business and, of course, creating mobile ads that are targeted to a specific area.
It’s All About the Consumer
These are just a few examples of how you can use a targeted marketing strategy to grow your bottom line, improve customer satisfaction and boost positive opinions of your brand. At the end of the day, consumers no longer want — but demand a personalized shopping experience. Step number one is ensuring that they’re paired with the products that are actually relevant to them. These tips will help you keep the consumer at the forefront for a solid marketing strategy.