Step One: Define Your Market

A successful promotional strategy begins with an understanding of the people you are trying to serve. What are their dreams? What is their style? What kind of life are they shooting for? New entrepreneurs often place too much focus on what they are selling. They tout the quality and superiority of their products. They highlight their low-low prices. But they fail to illustrate the value of their offerings in the context of their customers’ lives. Customers don’t buy products or services; they buy lifestyles. They buy significance, success, security, comfort, and prestige. They buy fun. You must get in your mind a portrait of your customers’ ideal life and paint your product into it.

Middle-aged Baptists (like myself) generally don’t pay money for tattoos, no matter how high the quality or how low the cost. They might admire the art and respect the talent but they won’t be buying. It’s not consistent with their lifestyle. (Please receive the point, don’t argue the exception; there are always exceptions, like Joey, my biker friend who’s a middle-aged Baptist; he has tattoos–I think he’s actually Primitive Baptist.) Seriously, in the above case you’re either going to have to find a new market or sell a different product, like double-knit, factory outlet suits for $50. (Can I get a gray one?)

People pay for lifestyles. They don’t buy diet supplements; they buy a “skinny me” or a “healthy me” or a “buff me.” They don’t buy tiny, bitter-tasting tablets. They buy a life free from a runny nose. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t count the number of cute girls who walked away from me after I yanked out the white hanky. I would have given my Schwinn bicycle for a nose that didn’t run. Sell the lifestyle.

Though most people have similar emotional needs, they are not all shooting for the same lifestyle. Fun means different things to different people and a customer’s context can play a key role in defining what product fulfills his needs. When I lived in the Northwest, it was not unusual to see transplanted Southern Californians trading in their SUV Explosions for tiny Subarus. What they were buying was acceptance and prestige, the same things their trade-ins gave them in Southern California. Now, in a different context, they were willing to compromise on comfort in order to avoid the disapproving glares of their environmentally conscientious neighbors. Dealers who understood what these customers really wanted were the ones who succeeded. They touted energy-efficient vehicles to previous land yacht owners, declaring that the new vehicles were virtually as safe as the customers’ old ones. You must get inside your customers head and comprehend the lifestyle he is really shooting for.

Never assume that you fully understand what your customers want. Keep observing and learning. Take time to build relationships. Ask your clients what their most pressing needs are. Visualize their work habits and environment. Discover when and where they play. Take note of their major obstacles, challenges, goals and fears. Only by doing the hard work will you discover what products and services will add real value to their lives.

If you would like assistance in analyzing your market, please call me at (919) 802-4217. Initial consultations are free.

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