Target marketing is about attracting customers who will buy what you’re selling.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. After all, you’re not a magnet and this isn’t The Secret—in order to target market effectively, you’ll need to know exactly who purchases your products and exactly how to to reach them. And acquiring that kind of knowledge requires some research and planning on your end.
The evolution of target marketing
Target marketing is the most current method of marketing to consumers based on research into their interests, hobbies, and needs, and it didn’t spring from nothing. Before we got here, advertisers and marketers were using cohort marketing, and before that they were using generational marketing. Target marketing is essentially a refinement of these ideas.
Prior to the 1960s and 70s, most American adults—depending on their gender—more or less followed a similar life script. For men, it was to join the military or go to school, get married, start a career, have kids and then, after 30 years with the same company, retire with a nice pension and a gold watch. Their wives stayed at home and did the real work of running a household and raising kids.
For businesses back then, marketing was easy. If you were a small business, you knew all of your customers by name. And if your company was big enough, it had only a few marketing options: place an ad in the local newspaper, or in one of a handful of national magazines, or on one of three broadcast TV networks. From a marketing perspective, people were dependable.
Blame it on the Beatles or disco, but by the early 1980s everything had changed. Advertisers came up with what they called “generational marketing”—instead of defining everybody by gender and stage of life, they began to consider things like demographics and socio-economic factors when targeting customers.
Marketers soon realized that even generational marketing wasn’t going to be enough to keep up with the seismic shifts in American culture and attitudes. Despite coming of age at the same time, lots of people were behaving quite differently.
With advances in technology like credit cards and store loyalty programs came a solution: cohort marketing. Suddenly it was possible to market to people based on their past purchases and buying patterns, because we could track those purchases and buying patterns. And as it turns out, this is a highly effective method of grouping consumers for targeted advertising.
Today, things are changing faster than ever before, and we have access to more data on our consumers than ever before. It’s a pretty incredible time to be in marketing.
Beating your competition in niche markets
If you’re opening a bookstore or selling sporting goods, you’ve got some big-time competition. Mega-retailers like Amazon and REI aren’t just going to give up a piece of their pie to a scrappy upstart. Lucky for you, we’re living in the days of the niche market! You can use target marketing to carve out your own space in the marketplace.
Today, finding out what your competitors are (and aren’t) doing can be as easy as running a Yelp search. Studying your competitors’ customer feedback can help you identify blind spots in their businesses that you can exploit for your own gain.
Build a loyal customer base
If you’re doing things correctly, you’re asking your current customers what they like about doing business with you.The great thing about getting to know your customers is that not only will you be able to track down new customers just like them, but your tried-and-true customers will become more loyal—and spend more money!
Getting to know your customers, and giving them what they want, is a surefire way to build a loyal customer base—the kind that gives your business 5-star reviews online, and that tells all their friends about how much they love you. (You know, the kind of customers you want.)