Do you truly understand your market?

Tracy Marlowe  |  June 24, 2009

I know what you're thinking.  Know your market?  Duh!  Of course I need to know my market!  I wasn't born yesterday.

But I'm telling you, I am surprised every day at how many marketers out there know only the bare bones about who they are hoping will buy their services or products.  How can you hope to talk with these people if you don't understand who they are?

Problem number two...companies who say their market is "everyone."  There's no such thing as having a market who is "everyone."  Your market may be huge, but you still need to understand them and why they buy, or should buy, from  you.

Whenever an ad agency starts a creative project, a document called a creative brief is prepared by the account executive.  The purpose of the brief is to distill down all of the critical, project-specific information and weed through all of the superfluous data so that the creative team can execute a strategic piece that will help the client meet the goal they are trying to accomplish with said project.

Each brief has a section dedicated to the market that this project is trying to reach.  I've seen hundreds of these briefs over the years and know that this is one of the key areas that really differentiates a strategic agency account executive from the typical order taking account executive.  Unfortunately, the order taker tends to be the norm at most agencies.

The typical market section on a creative brief will have three basic areas filled out.  Here's an example of what you might see:

Gender: 60% female; 40% male

Age: 35-65

Household income: $50,000-$75,000

Now what does this arm the creative team with about this market?  Basically, squat.

Our job as business owners, marketers and/or account executives is to really, TRULY understand our market and put together a killer brief before moving forward on a project.  As an agency, this is one of the services that we, of course, provide for our clients.  But most of our really adept clients already know this information when we first engage with them.  After all, how can you make certain that your product or service is meeting your client or customer's needs if you don't know who they are and what makes them tick.

Here's what you should know about your market:

  1. Who are they?  This is the gender, age range and household income part.  Drill down as far as you can so that you don't have just broad, meaningless ranges.  If you have a large range of ages, for instance, they may have different reasons for purchasing so you may want to break this market down further and segment them out.
  2. Who are they, part two?  This is where you really dive into what really drives your market.  Why do they get out of bed each day?  What is their top of mind concern?  Describe your typical consumer?  Describe your ideal consumer?  You need to understand both and figure out who truly is your ideal target.  You can define multiple markets, but identify your primary, then secondary and tertiary markets.
  3. Why should they use your product?  What is the benefit to them?  What problem does it solve?
  4. What differentiates your product from other products?
  5. What appeals to them as a whole?  Are they primarily business owners looking to promote their business?  Are they moms of young children looking to keep their kids safe?
  6. Where are they?  Is there a geographic nature to them?  Do they hang out at the mall?  Do they spend a large % of their work week in airports?
  7. When should you reach them?  If you understand the cycles that they go through on a daily basis, is there a point at which you can really capture their attention?
  8. How should you reach them?  What is your ideal medium?
  9. And what voice should you use?  Professional?  Casual?  Empathetic mom?  You want your market to know that you really get them so it's a good idea to use a voice that mirrors their own thoughts.

Okay, I know that's a lot.  But if you keep these things in mind when you're doing an exploration of your market you'll end up with a much better executed and successful end result, I promise you.

How do you find these things out?  Talk with your market!  Also, the Internet is a great tool.  Social media, such as blogs and Twitter, can offer invaluable insight into markets.  This ah-hah likely won't come overnight and will take time.  Plus, things can change with your market so make certain you continue to stay abreast of market trends and updates.  You want to keep your finger on the pulse of what is top of mind.

Last, go ahead and ask your agency if you can approve their creative brief on your next project.  If all it has under target market is age, gender and HHI, then you may have your answer on why their marketing isn't driving more sales.

by Tracy Marlowe

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