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Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, the famous line from Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come,” has become an encouraging motto about determination, perseverance, and being open to whatever surprises the universe has in store for you. A good marketing plan can follow this formula. By “building” your target audience—identifying your customer demographics and figuring out which tools will best attract them—”they” will come.

Rather than targeting everyone, you should focus on the ideal customer for your business. Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking that their product or service is right for everyone. For example, targeting Facebook Ads to “all” (genders, ages, etc.) when your product is clearly for women over forty doesn’t make much sense. Not only is advertising to everyone rarely valid, but it can actually hurt your marketing efforts by annoying people and wasting your advertising budget unnecessarily.
Follow these steps when identifying your target audience:

1) Determine your customer’s demographics. Unless you’re selling oxygen, not everyone needs your product or service. So who does? Men or women? Old or young? Conservative or liberal? What is their economic bracket, education level, and interests? Once you’ve narrowed the criteria down, it’s a lot easier to focus your marketing strategy on those who are most likely to need what you are offering.

2) Determine your customer’s needs. Now that you have a clear idea about the type of person you’ll be targeting to, you’ll have to identify their specific needs in the context of what your business is offering. In other words, what is the problem they are having that your product or service is the solution to? By putting yourself in their shoes and asking the questions they will have, you’ll be able to address their concerns in your answer—your marketing message—before they occur.

3) Determine how your customer will learn about you. We all have friends who prefer texting to calling, so we know that not everyone is receptive to the same modes of communication. Is your ideal customer older? Then you may want to run print ads. If they’re Millennials who have never even read a newspaper, then you may want to run Twitter ads. Is your audience local or global? Are they a trendy bunch or a niche crowd? The best way to reach your target audience is via the channels from which they get their information already.

4) Assume your customers are mobile. These days more and more people are connecting with the world through their mobile devices, whether it’s to read news, shop or communicate. In fact, tech analyst Mary Meeker found that smartphones are outdistancing all other devices, especially the desktop or laptop computer, for Internet use. Of the 2.8 billion Internet users worldwide, 2.1 billion are mobile, a 23 percent increase from last year. So however you reach your target audience, make sure you include mobile advertising.

Now that you’ve done your market research and identified your audience, it’s time to connect with them. Delivering your message to the right people isn’t always a simple job considering how many other businesses are going after the same audience, but here are some great ways to start marketing to your target audience:

1) Publish content to all social media. Social media is the new marketplace, so it’s in your best interest to market your message via the social platforms on which your target audience is already spending time. In other words, don’t waste time reaching out on Twitter if your target demographics are primarily on LinkedIn. Business Insider and LinkedIn break down the demographics of the major social networks:

  • Facebook: 1.32 billion users, both male and female, between the ages of 18-54, and interested in consumer goods more than luxury goods.
  • Twitter: 271 million users, primarily male, between the ages of 18-29, and are interested in getting their news via this network.
  • LinkedIn: 300 million users, both male and female, between the ages of 30-64, and are highly-educated professionals with good incomes.
  • Pinterest: 70 million users, primarily female, between the ages of 18-49, and interested in food, drink, and family/parenting content. Effective platform for visual-based products and services.
  • Instagram: 200 million users, primarily female, between 18-29, and interested in clothing, accessories, and entertainment-related themes. Like Pinterest, very good for visual marketing.

2) Purchase online ads. If you have the budget, online advertising should be part of your marketing strategy, but choose a platform on which your target customers spend their time. According to Rocco Baldassarre, CEO of Zebra Advertisement:

  • The Bing Network or Google is ideal for traditional service providers because their audience is already looking for them and tend to convert easily. Using highly-targeted keywords works very well with search engine ads.
  • Display ads, such as Google AdWords, are best for a market who doesn’t necessarily know about you. When they go to similar websites, your targeted ads will appear for them, and even if they don’t click on your ad, it still raises brand awareness.
  • Facebook and Twitter ads are great if you are selling lifestyle products as they work by targeting customers by their behavioral patterns and interests. Like Google ads, even if your audience doesn’t click on the link, they’re still being exposed to your business.
  • LinkedIn advertising is perfect for B2B (business-to-business) services or products as it is able to target specific professions.

3) Make use of your brand advocates. According to a Nielsen study, 92 percent of people say they trust the recommendations they receive from friends and family more than any other form of advertising. Because of this fact, it behooves you to make use of this social proof and “partner” with your most loyal customers to get the word out. Brand advocates are those people, often repeat customers, who have purchased your product or service, love it, and enjoy talking about it. Be sure to get a testimonial from them and post it on your website; these personal statements tend to naturally describe the benefits and features of your product in a way that doesn’t come across as selling. Offer your brand advocates small freebies, a discount on their next purchase, or a coupon for every referral they drive your way.

4) Co-market with similar brands. Do some research to find companies that share your audience without overstepping their business boundaries. For example, if you sell baby blankets, co-marketing with pre- and post-natal fitness centers can benefit both companies without taking business away from either of you. You can guest post on each other’s blogs, share each other’s social media posts, co-host contests and giveaways, and offer special discount coupons for each other’s customers.

5) Encourage social networking in the office. A big part of the new online landscape is based on sharing. Diamond Strategic Marketing suggests having the whole team be involved in outreach, not just the marketing people, as it can lead to genuine, personal “marketing” of your business’s product or service (assuming your employees like and use what you’re selling).

While most offices frown upon online socializing, Robert Nolte, VP of business development at EveryoneSocial, thinks that it’s a good idea since “every employee has a voice and an audience.” If they truly believe in the product, they’ll want to talk about it, so make good use of this word-of-mouth advertising.

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