By , Scott Langdon
Published June 20, 2016
Marketing a business to a large and diverse audience may sound like a good idea, but most companies old and new know learn quickly that you’re much better off to aim for one specific demographic and then really focus your time, effort, and advertising money on that group. What isn’t often talked about, however, is that one of the best ways to get to know your target audience isn’t just by using Google Analytics or some other type of software. For many, it pays off to do things the old fashioned way -- get out there and physically spend your free time around your target audience.
I know if you’re a young guy trying to start up a business selling dress clothes to older men, the idea of hanging out at some overpriced, elite club during the week after work might not sound like the most fun you’ve ever had, but in the long run this type of extracurricular activity might be worth the large bar tab and cigar scent on everything you own. Here’s why.
Being among them helps you think like your audience because you're in their environment. First, you need to figure out where your audience spends most of their time. This in itself is a good way to help you get to know them better. If you don’t know where they hang out, you must not know them very well, so do the research, put in the legwork, and figure out where they’re eating, drinking, and spending their free time relaxing. Once you figure this out, go there often, immerse yourself in the environment, and don’t forget to listen.
You’re not going to learn anything and you’re not going to be able to improve your business if you’re the one doing all the talking. Observe your audience, listen to what they’re saying, and try to elicit feedback about whatever market your business is in. Topnonprofits.com suggests you analyze character traits such as: personality types, attitudes, values, interests/hobbies, lifestyles, and behaviors. Then at a later date, figure out how you can use this feedback and newfound knowledge to better reach your target audience and to better develop your product(s) to meet their needs. After a while spent doing this, you should start to get to know your audience well enough that instead of constantly having to ask them what they think, you can start to naturally think like them. Then, when you’re trying to problem solve or come up with new ideas, instead of having to physically go to the local watering hole, you should be able to get yourself in the same mindset as your audience and make these changes on your own.
What better way to market your business and your products than to actually, physically, go spend time with the people who could potentially be your consumers? This is becoming a foreign concept in a world where so much networking happens online, but try to remember back to a time before the Internet (yes, this time existed). There have always been businesses, there has always been advertising, and there have always been entrepreneurs and consumers. So how did businesses not just survive, but thrive, before there were computers? You probably see where I’m going with this.
People went out and spent time together, got to know each other, and became acquaintances, if not friends. Then, when the time arose, they called on each other to network for various ideas and businesses. It all goes back to a sense of community. Communities, both literal and online, can be incredibly supportive. So before you just go asking people for things, show that you are invested in the community. Why should they support you and your business? Why should they network with you and possibly become a client? What value can you add to their world?
Make it abundantly clear through words and actions that you are devoted to the community, and most likely you’ll be amazed at the rash of new clients that will be willing to work with you because not only are they interested in your product, they like and respect you as a human being. Zig Ziglar once said “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”
I can’t stress this enough -- listen to your audience! Ask them for feedback, and then be creative about how you use this feedback. Eventually your creative juices are going to run dry, and you’re going to be stuck when it comes to thinking up new ideas. Maybe hidden somewhere in that conversation is an idea that might never have occurred to you unless you made the effort to engage in a dialogue with someone who is interested in your product. Or maybe, disguised as a problem or a complaint, is a brand new idea for a product or a marketing strategy that can double as the solution your target group is asking for, and you had been looking for.
Determining your target audience is the hardest part, but learning about them shouldn’t be. Be brave and step out from behind your website, leave the online surveys and comment threads behind, and get out there and hang with your target audience. It may be a pain to spend Saturday night at Bingo, or every Tuesday and Thursday at some boring bar with expensive drinks and bad music, but in the long run your business will thank you for it.