How To Determine Your Startup's Target Audience
In every nation on the planet you would find over 90% of businesses failing or becoming stagnant in the first three years. The absolute #1 reason for this is always a lack of marketing. Most technical businesses seem to be rather stubborn about making this necessary, but unfortunately the reality is that innovation does not sell itself, you need firm marketing to just start.
The key problem with technical businesses is they are targeting the wrong audience. Not from what they say, but how they do their marketing. Marketing is about the language you speak, the image you portray and the message you send. Most IT companies say their customers are business owners, but when you speak technical to most business owners, they will drift off. A business owner usually wants to know the benefits and/or the bottom line figure. Corporate CEOs don't care about usability as much as small business owners.
It is essential to get your target audience and the messages right from day one. If you start telling a person a completely different story about your business, they will see that change and know something is up. What if you didn't plan the target market correctly and after six weeks you decided you approached the wrong people, then need to start all over again. This is actually an extremely common problem. In some cases they didn't realise until years later but struggled on.
Yes you can just jump in, but this will mean you are guessing the market.
The first thing to think as a startup business, is what problem is your business addressing. A customer doesn't have the problem of wanting software, there is a core reason behind it. The next thing to ask is whether your solution actually solves this problem. If not, change either what your problem is or what solutions you offer.
Now is the best time to use the keywords that your audience would use. Use the Google keyword tool to search on your business problem. It should tell you similar things that people are searching on. Use the terms that your audience uses from now on. If the results aren't that common, then perhaps you have no market and need to focus on another problem.
Nationwide, international, regional or local. From the first day you need to know where your market is. The larger field, the larger the costs, and the more you will need to do to bring customers through the doors. The smaller the field, then the smaller potential market. Most businesses start locally and then gradually add on areas when they get more successful. However, within IT sometimes it is more intelligent to go international.
So you have your problem and your solution. Normally this is where most IT businesses start. But hang on, there are so many questions to answer. Do you actually have a market and what makes you appealing to the market? How are you going to actually target your market?
• Firstly brainstorm on the type of businesses or consumers that has the problem you identified. Try to rank them from the most affected to the lowest. Simply pick the top few types and this is your industry.
• Next you need to know who your target area within the industry is. Most of the time for technical businesses this will be the IT manager or technical-savvy business owner. If your market is the games market, it will be 15 to 21 year old males. Most of the time it will go beyond this including females, but the chances are higher in this range. Unless of course it is a game to do with animals or dolls.
• Next think about the vocabulary, skills and experience of your target market. How do they think, and what will they understand? What are the benefits to them? Remember the example where some senior executives will not find a benefit of usability. You need in this case the bottom line results, your staff costs will be halved so they can focus on bringing in sales more. Unless you are talking to someone who needs to know what language you are using don't mention the language. Sometimes you need to say the language, such as a development manager might find the benefit that you have had 20 years experience in C++.
• Think about the most inspiring ways to explain your business and what it does. A very common saying is ''adding value'' which is not inspiring. Instead use things like ''enhancing benefits''. Everything you say from now should be the most inspiring you can think of.
• Think about how to approach the people without giving away any secrets of your solution. This is why your first point was to find the problem. You want to sit down and talk, or skype them. People remember faces better than voices. Also offer discounts or maybe things for free, if you cannot sell things for free, then you will not sell things later at a price. For example: ''Hi there, I am James Burnby from a new company and we have found a way to cheaply automate business processes. I thought you would be an ideal candidate to providing this service at a heavily discounted rate. Would you be interested in a catch up over coffee to discuss this opportunity?''
• Search for these people where you think they hang out and save your time by avoiding places they are not. E.g. don't go to a software forum if your target market is banking CEOs. Here are a few ideas of where to find people:
1. Ask your local
chamber of commerce about the networking groups.
2. Ask your local chamber of commerce about start up business networking groups.
3. LinkedIn forums.
4. Browse ''People you may know'' on LinkedIn.
5. The places they walk such as supermarkets, malls, chemists, game stores or trade shops.
6. Google search.
7. Ask your current network of friends, family and referrals.
• Many people might tell you no, but that is their problem. Once you have secured two or three people, ask them any questions and opinions from that person from now on. Remember to keep them diverse though, otherwise you are only getting the opinion of part of your market. Some questions you might need to ask them:
1. Does our solution
actually solve the problem?
2. Can you think of better ways to solve the problem?
3. What would you change on our website?
4. What is the best way to contact you?
5. What way of advertising would you look at the most?
6. Is there anything that sticks out that we need to change as a whole?
Too often across all industries people start to forget everything on their target market. Know what your limits are and do not be afraid to defend them. There are those no frills brands out there, but not everyone can be. If you pride yourself on quality then don't keep under cutting your competitors to get any sale. Company vision is important, but a tale for another time. Some marketing consultants aren't that competent and I have found some have ruined businesses more than help them.
This is a guest post by James Burnby - entrepreneur, whose passions are Marketing, Business Process Improvement and Business Software Design.
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