Marketing is a perpetual contest between what you like and what your audience likes. You want a brand that represents you, but appeals to your audience. Now, you might not believe you are very different from your customers and potential customers, but frankly, that is optimism to the point of fantasy. Have you ever asked someone’s opinion and then quickly regretted it? People’s opinions and tastes are vastly different, and we often find this both annoying to acknowledge and easy to forget.
You might argue, “But I am my target customer! My business sells scarves for giraffes and I am an avid giraffe trainer!” Even if you are part of a niche market that you’re targeting, you have to remember that you are the expert. You have delved deeper into your industry and passion than most of your customers have, and you certainly don’t want to sequester those who aren’t as knowledgeable. In all likelihood, your audience is not quite as specific as this example. Regardless, you must accept that the people you’re trying to reach are not exactly like you. That means you cannot rely solely on your own style and experiences when it comes to marketing your business.
So how do you market to an audience made up of people who are not you? Easy—you pay attention to what makes them respond.
- Find social media accounts dedicated to your industry or area and see which ones reap the best engagement. These can be competitor’s accounts, influencers in your field, or even purely interest-based accounts that are not tied to an actual business. Pay close attention not only to which accounts get the most attention, but which photos, videos, or captions generate the most views, comments, or likes. Through this, you can learn what kind of imagery and wording your audience responds to, as well as what sort of content interests them. This is valuable information to use for any type of advertisement, online or offline. Other businesses’ social media accounts essentially provide you with free statistics—take advantage of them.
- Ask current and potential customers their opinions. You don’t have to conduct elaborate formal research if you simply talk to your audience. Ask for feedback from someone who is a customer or part of an audience you’d like to target. You can do this in-person or by utilizing digital outlets with questions or single-question polls. As an added bonus, collecting feedback from people engages them and makes them feel more invested in your brand.
- Don’t slant your samples. Make sure you aren’t asking only your friends or only one group of your audience for feedback, as this will skew the results you collect, formal or informal. For example, let’s say you want to reschedule a weekly customer event for a time that will be more convenient and encourage more people to attend. If you simply poll the customers at your event one week, you won’t necessarily get a true idea of what time is best for your customers. Rather, you should ask some who are already attending, as well as some who are not.
- Measure your own marketing efforts. Some campaigns, posts, or events are going to be more successful than others. Be sure you are measuring your marketing in whatever ways are available to you. Look for patterns in what makes your audience react or gets their attention. When something is unsuccessful, try to pinpoint what went wrong and adjust your future marketing so it doesn’t happen again. You should constantly be improving your methods for reaching your audience.
- Accept that you can’t please everyone. Just as your customers are not like you, they are not all the same, either. Even an ad that is well received by most of your customer base will almost always be unappealing to at least one person. And often, you will hear about it, but it’s important not to let one person’s opinion set your marketing efforts on a completely different course. Use negative criticism as a tool to make improvements to your marketing, not disrupt it.
It’s hard to take something you’re passionate about and try to imagine it from the point-of-view of someone who is less passionate about it. But as soon as you accept that you are not the person you should be targeting with your marketing, you can begin appealing to your real audience.