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Michelle PW : Ask and You Shall Receive

Ask and You Shall Receive

By Michele Pariza Wacek

Once you've defined your target market, you need to start gathering information about that market.

Start with the basics. Demographic information, interests, professions, etc. Then use that information to research what kinds of mass media your potential customers are using. Look at everything — television shows, Web sites, magazines, newspapers, radio stations, etc. Mass media outlets that depend on advertisers will happily supply you with their audience information. Use it to discover other, less obvious media choices.

This information is important for a number of reasons — not only does it help you to get to know your potential customers but it also teaches you where to find them.

Now there's one other technique you should definitely incorporate into this information gathering step. It's important, obvious, yet usually overlooked.

It's called letting your potential customers tell you what they want.

Plenty of books and resources exist about this subject if you want to dig deeper, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Talk to your customers. There's no better way to get a feel for your customers than to have a conversation with them. Have a retail store? Get behind the counter and start chatting. Have a restaurant? Mingle. No storefront? Then pick up the phone. (Picking up the phone works for retail and restaurants as well). Or send them an e-mail.

It doesn't have to be anything formal, just explain you'd like to ask them a few questions because you want to serve them better. If you want more in-depth information, ask them out for lunch and pick their brains then.

Send out a survey. If used correctly, surveys can be very valuable tools. You can put a survey on your Web site (surveymonkey.com is a good one — it offers limited survey functions for free) or you can send one out, either via e-mail or snail mail. To get a better response, try offering a contest or something free if they turn it in.

Writing good surveys is something of an art form. Again, many books and resources are out there if you want to learn more. However, even a basic survey that asks for demographic information and needs and wants can be a big help.

Encourage customer feedback. I'm not just talking about a suggestion box (although that's good too) but actively ask your customers for their opinion or advice. Display it on your Web site, send it out via e-mail or even pass out postcards your customers can drop in the mail.

Now it's time for the next step. Getting to know your target markets. More on that in Connect More, Sell More, Part 3: How "On Target" is Your Marketing?

Copyright 2004 Michele Pariza Wacek. All rights reserved.

Michele Pariza Wacek Michele Pariza Wacek owns Creative Concepts and Copywriting, a writing, marketing and creativity agency. More »

Updated 1/5/14