Chapter Two
Understanding Your Target Market

How well do you know your customers? Believe it or not, the answer to that question might determine the success of your lead generation campaigns.

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t succeed in online marketing just by optimizing your website for search or running some ads that generate thousands upon thousands of cheap clicks. That’s because those things only matter when you have identified some segment of the market that’s a perfect fit for what you have to offer. Generating traffic for its own sake won’t lead you to the results you need.

Conversely, when you know who your buyers are and what they want, it’s much easier to focus your search, social, and advertising efforts directly to them. You have a sense of what your customers look like, and even more importantly, what sorts of hot-button issues make them choose one vendor or solution over another.

Even though it’s a commonly overlooked aspect of setting up a sales funnel, it would be hard to overstate the importance of identifying the segment of the market you need to reach. This is one small step that really deserves your thought and attention because it sets up everything else that has to follow.

Putting Buyers Under the Microscope

Although it might be a tough reality to face up to, not everyone is a good prospect for whatever it is your company sells. In fact, it might be the case that a large percentage of the people who would fall into your bigger target market aren’t even a great match.

To understand why, you should consider that customers will naturally sort themselves based on factors that are crucial to their decision-making process. Some will prioritize location, price, or expertise. Others will think in terms of personality, convenience, or perceived quality. Some people will buy (or not buy) a specific product or brand for reasons that will never be expressed, or that they don’t even understand themselves.

Again, you don’t even have to look farther than your own life to prove this is true. You probably have a favorite restaurant, a preferred soft drink, and maybe even a dream vacation destination. You might have a certain breakfast that’s part of your routine, or a brand of jeans you automatically look for in the store.

You might make some of these decisions based on your budget, and others because they are easiest. However, there is also an emotional element to many (if not all) of these choices that you probably don’t ever stop to think about.

What matters here isn’t that you psychoanalyze your own buying patterns or start wondering how your customers think on a subconscious level. Instead, the idea is to see how close you can get to identifying the buyers who you want coming to your website.

Once you really consider who they are and why they are better leads for you than a competitor, you may find the group is smaller than you think. That’s actually good news. It means you don’t have to waste as much of your time or energy marketing to potential customers who don’t match up well with your company.

Getting Past the Data

One particular quirk of the digital age is that we tend to get access to more demographic and analytic data than we ever had in the past. That’s largely a good thing, and I’m even going to tell you how you can take advantage of your web statistics to boost your lead generation campaigns in a later chapter.

For the moment, though, I want you to do something that might seem a bit strange and ignore the cold, hard facts about your buyers. Or at least put them in the back of your mind. Rather than think about statistics, age ranges, and so on, try to think of your perfect buyer as an individual.

What does that person look like? Where do they live or work, and what do they want from you? What are the things they would want to know before committing to an appointment or making a purchase?

In the world of online marketing, we refer to this as developing buyer personas. It’s a way to not only synthesize all the information we have about customers or clients, but also to personalize them just a little bit. That matters because the more you can envision your perfect customer as a specific person, the easier it gets to develop marketing messages, content campaigns, ads, and other creative elements.

If you doubt this, try writing a letter to a faceless person based on a random set of statistics. Then put together another one that will be addressed to a very close friend. You’ll quickly find that it’s easier to arrange your thoughts, and to choose the right words, when you can concentrate on a human face that you’re familiar with.

Keep in mind that you may have more than one buyer persona you want to appeal to. That’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s probably smart to remember that some of your most important customers might not be customers at all.

Influencers and Decision-Makers

Most business owners and marketers tend to think about buyers in terms of people who actually purchase their products and services. That seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? However, taking such a narrow view of your market can actually inhibit your lead generation campaigns.

That’s because there are other people involved in the process who might not have a final say but still affect the outcome. In this context, call these individuals influencers.

Influencers can take a lot of different forms. In a business, they can be the employees or mid-level managers who don’t approve purchases but nonetheless use them. They can be technical experts who offer advice to business owners or executives. Sometimes influencers are other members of a group or committee. They can be spouses, friends, or children who are affected by buying habits within a home. Or they could even be professional advisors who are helping your customer to build a bigger or longer-term strategy.

Whether you like it or not, these people represent an important part of your customer base. You may or may not meet with them when you give a consultation or presentation. Their names rarely show up on invoices. They might not even be mentioned when you’re working with a client or customer. But, they tend to have a lot of say in buying decisions nonetheless.

In fact, in many different instances, it will be an influencer – rather than a final decision-maker – who will be the one to research your problem and/or narrow down a list of possible vendors before a final call is made. So it’s important that you be aware of them and have content that appeals to their needs and knowledge level, either of which could be different from the more obvious customer personas.

Finding Your Place and Personality

It’s easy to think of your market as all the people who might buy from you, but that’s an incomplete picture. For one thing, your competitors are also in the market. And for another thing, so are you.

The point I’m trying to make here is that you shouldn’t take a one-sided view of things. Just as you need to know who your buyers are and what will convince them to give you a try, you also have to have a sense of what other businesses are trying in order to reach them. You should be able to identify ways that your competitors are ahead of you, along with other areas where they are behind. You have to be able to spell out some things that could be a bonus or drawback in working with your business instead of someone else.

Much of this will come back to the obvious factors I’ve already mentioned: price, product availability, warranties, location or shipping times, etc. Keep in mind, though, that there could also be softer and more subtle factors at play.

To get an idea of what I’m referring to, stop and think about your average Mac or PC buyer. For most readers, certain images will come to mind. Whether they are completely accurate or not isn’t the point. The reality is that both types of computers fulfill similar functions. However, some people are drawn to one or another (even when costs are higher) because it fits an image they have of themselves.

You need to be aware of these perceptions exist within your market. And you have to know how they affect your lead generation potential. How do buyers view your business? How do you want them to think about you, or your products and services?

Your company, and your competitors, are part of the market. Luckily, your place among the choices in front of your customers is something you have a lot of control over. Make sure you understand the image you are projecting, and that it fits with what you know about the kinds of customers you want to attract through your website.

Speaking of your website, your sales funnel isn’t going to succeed in a vacuum. It’s time we look at the centerpiece of your online lead generation strategy, so that’s the topic for the next chapter.

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