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Michelle PW : One marketing mistake you don't want to make

One marketing mistake you don't want to make

By Michele Pariza Wacek

If you want to sell anything — whether books, products or services — then you need to know your target market.

Yes, I know this is nothing terribly new or exciting. Know your target market. All kinds of marketing articles tell you that.

But what they don't tell you is HOW.

This is the first part in a series of articles that will help you discover exactly WHO your target market is, WHAT they want, WHERE they are and HOW to reach them. 

But before we start, let's talk about why doing all this extra work is a good idea.

Creating customer loyalty is already tough. And it's only going to get tougher. There's a lot of competition out there. The strength of the Internet is also its weakness. You can easily promote yourself and your products and services, but so can your competition.

On top of that, the old ways of marketing just don't work the way they used to (more information can be found in Forget Everything You Know About Marketing — It's All Going to Change article.)

But the only way you're going to survive or, better yet, thrive is by nurturing your customers and cultivating their loyalty.

So, how do you do that? Easy — by providing products, services or information your customers want.

Okay, maybe that's not so easy. But it's what you have to do.

You can go about this one of two ways. Either find the target market you want to work with and develop products and services that market wants. Or create the products (or books) then hunt down the target market who wants them.

If you're a writer or an artist and have an idea burning within you, then you're probably looking at the second way. The problem with that way is you may end up creating something no one wants. But if your creativity is calling for you to create it, then I think you should. Just get it out there — you can always tweak it later to make it more relevant to your target market.

Okay, so let's start with finding your target market. If you're a fiction writer, start by envisioning people with similar reading interests to yours (chances are you yourself would enjoy reading what you wrote.) And if you write non-fiction or have other products or services to sell, you probably already have in mind who is buying (or would be interested in buying) your offerings.

Whatever you do, DON'T say your target market is "the general public" or "mostly women" or, worse yet, "anyone can benefit from what I sell." 

While that all may be true, not everyone is going to buy your product. You need to narrow it down to the people most likely to buy and market just to them. (Trust me, even Wal-Mart has a target market.)

You can also have different target markets. Senior citizens and teenagers may both buy your product, but chances are they're buying it for completely different reasons. Take cell phones. Teenagers buy them because they're comfortable with having access to people wherever they go. My 90-year-old grandfather bought one for emergency use only.

Remember, people don't buy products, they buy what the product will give them. They don't buy a hair dryer, they're buying a way to become more attractive. They don't buy books, they buy the experience the book will give them.

Start by defining your target market. Have several target markets? Write them all down.

Creativity exercise — Discover your target market

Here's an exercise you can try if you're still unsure of your target market or if you want to make sure you aren't missing any potential customers.

Get a sheet of paper. Write down all the features of your product. Features are descriptions of your product. If we go back to the cell phone example, features of cell phones are they're small and wireless. For a book it's a description of what your book is about.

Now change those features to benefits. For a cell phone, you can carry it anywhere and use it anywhere (anywhere there's a signal, that is.) For your book, it's the information they'll learn something or experience something.

Now make a list of who needs those benefits. Think broadly here. Maybe parents or people in certain industries or people with certain jobs. Try to come up with at least 50 markets. Be silly. That's when you're most likely to hear your muse (or genius) speaking to you.

Another technique is to ask your subconscious for help. Do a meditation where you ask your subconscious to show you someone from your target market. Ask questions and see what the answers are.

Once you come up with your list, then it's time to critique and judge. Try and narrow it to no more than five target markets. One or two are better yet. The more target markets, the harder it gets. You can always start with one, and once you've made yourself known in that market, you can move to a second and a third and so on.

Now that you've defined your target market, it's time to start the research. More on that in Connect More, Sell More, Part 2 — Ask and You Shall Receive. •

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