Friday, June 21, 2013

Stay on target.... the importance of a target market

The other day a paid ad showed up on my Facebook news feed.

It was from McDonald's, and it showed a big picture of a burger. The ad was a 2 for 1 quarter pounder promotion.

I chuckled, shook my head, and typed a comment:

"That &$^% is poison. Have fun with that."

And what's funnier is that my post was one of the NICER ones. There were over 1,500 comments. Not sure how many were positive vs negative, but a quick scroll revealed several with a similar message as mine.

Ahem.

On my Facebook profile I have photos of myself and my wife running obstacle course races, jumping over fire, sweating, and having a great time. I 'like' and follow crossfit gyms and competitions, fitness companies, and check out nutrition and workout ideas.

I can't remember the last time I ate fast food of any sort. I am betting it hasn't happened more than once this decade. No lie.

So obviously, someone in charge of their advertising didn't really target very well, did they?

My point is not to pontificate on the merits and joys of fitness and eating right - although it's tempting - my point is that any Facebook or marketing newb should have had no problems realizing I wasn't in their target market.

McDonald's is actually not alone. How often do you hear stuff like this:

This product is for EVERYONE
This product is for ANYONE who likes sci-fi
If you like ice cream, you'll love this

And to make it more personal:

This game is for FAMILIES
This game is for EUROGAMERS
This game is for people who LOVE ZOMBIES

What's wrong with those examples?

They're too broad. That would be like McDonald's targeting an ad and saying, "we want to target people who eat meat." Okay, well, that's a start, but just this little example proves that this type of logic just doesn't work. I eat meat, quite a bit of it, actually. But I have no interest in fast food, and this isn't secret information, either.

Why? What's the big deal?

In the grand scheme, I could care less if McDonald's throws its money away.

However:

1. My Facebook news feed had an inappropriate ad in it. We all know how annoying that type of thing is. Compare this to getting spam, watching a TV ad, or just any other type of marketing noise we deal with on a daily basis. Creating more noise doesn't help anyone, it just makes all consumers angry and irritated. Give me something valuable.

2. McDonald's generated tons of bad comments. I'm pretty sure that didn't make them happy.

3. I have worked with and worked for large, global companies with millions of dollars to throw at marketing. Trust me, it doesn't matter how much money you have - you always have to spend it wisely. Big or small - setting a thousand dollars on fire every day isn't going to provide a positive return on investment. There's no such thing as too big to fail.

How do you target?

Targeting is complicated but easy if you're really listening and take some time to know the market.

You need to know the real reasons people buy and use your product. (And please don't say "because it's the cheapest").

You need to know how they buy and their decision criteria.

And then you have to know what makes these people tick, and be ready to categorize them and put them into buckets of people.

Then you have to make sweeping generalizations about each group, test these generalizations, and hone them down as much as you can.

This method will definitely get you started on the right track.

Now, a couple of things to keep in mind when performing this type of research:

1. People often don't know really why they buy things. It sounds funny, but consumers have been trained by marketing messages their whole lives, and will rattle off the first feature that comes to mind.

2. Just like with anything else, never get stuck in your echo chamber. People who know you and like you may not give you the real scoop because they don't want to give you the wrong answer. Or hurt your feelings. Or, they don't want to look like they don't know the answer.

3. Keep an open mind. One of the biggest drawbacks with someone who has been in an industry for several years is that they often already "know the answer". These folks have a wealth of knowledge, but be careful - these folks are also the first to jump to conclusions and will be skeptical of anything that challenges their "world view". Doing research and learning is shut down quickly by someone who already thinks they have all the answers. We live in a world of change. What you knew 3 years ago is probably obsolete by now, or it will be soon.

Market research is amorphous and involves speculation, guesswork, industry and product knowledge, and intuition.

As you can see, market segmentation and targeting is a big thing. But it's actually one of the things about marketing I enjoy quite a bit, and if done well, it will make the rest of your marketing a lot easier.

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