So you want to grow your business. The recession is still impacting your business, or you are starting a business, or a new market segment. You may have ambitions for your career, your lifestyle, want to employ more people or to have more impact on the world. Whatever your motivations, how do you go about growing your business?
Social media is the buzz now. It’s free. Great! But is it where your target market hangs out?
Before pursuing a focused social media strategy, I would suggest that you become very acquainted with your target market segment. You have a target market segment, right? You have determined your sweet spot for customer prospects? If not, we will discuss that in a coming blog. For now, I’m going to focus on getting to know your target market.
There are several ways to get to know your target market segment:
– Read key websites, magazines and blogs
– Join relevant associations
– Visit prospects and customers
– Research the market
Get a feel for your market
I recommend using all methods to have a balanced view of your target market. The website, magazines and blogs will give you the key issues in the industry and who is saying what. It provides excellent context, ensuring you are up-to-date. Until you know what your target market reads – including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – you can only make promotional choices based on your own ideas – not your market behavior.
So it is critical to ask your prospects and customers what they read, websites they go to, social media they look at, if any. What information they rely on. Of all the material filling up their paper & e-inbox, including social media sites, what do they take the time to read to get information on your product or service?
Ask your prospects and clients to let you know the associations they rely on, the ones they participate in, the ones that make a difference to them. These are the associations you want to be part of. This gives you a chance to meet more people in the industry, take part in the informal conversations on the key issues in the industry. This gets you close to your target market.
Customer and prospect visits and conversations also provide valuable insight into your market. It can let you know what they want, what they need. Responses to proposals will let you know where you are strong and weak. You can find out their buying process, and who influences that buying process — all key information for a strong marketing strategy.
Market Research Gives Objective information
Temper the subjective sources of information above with the more formal market research. If performed anonymously or by a third party, it provides an excellent source of unbiased information.
Unless you already are very familiar with your prospect and customer based needs, you will want to start with qualitative research. This consists of structured conversations with a few people representative of your target market – don’t forget to include both customers and prospects. the information provides context, market perspectives that then drives either more detailed qualitative research or quantitative research.
Quantitative research is the surveys you answer on the phone, the computer, at the grocery store. With the right sample size, such research can provide quantitative data on market segment sized, tastes, habits, etc. Surveys can be done online for free through SurveyMonkey(R). You can add market surveys to your website, e-mail them, fax them, or mail them. The delivery decision is strictly based on what your market will be most receptive to — what will generate the highest response.
I’d be curious as to your questions on how to gain a true understanding of your target market needs or your successful experiences in this area. Feel free to comment or send along your questions.
Tove Rasmussen, Business Coach and CEO of Partners Creating Growth, offers business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow, and disadvantaged regions thrive.
Photo credit: Ethorson