How understanding an individual person (not just a ‘target market’) will make you more sales.

  • Better Marketing
  • August 4, 2023

Whatever business you’re in, be it a start-up or a global corporation, the better you understand your target market, the more effective you will be. 

Accountants’ might target businesses, people needing their tax returns done, or both. A restaurant might target the high-end diner or families on a budget. Banks are required by law to define their target market for each product, for example NAB’s target for its ‘classic’ product is ‘A person that wants an everyday transaction account with online, debit card and branch access to funds to help manage money with flexible ways to transact’. 

Of course, that’s a very shallow look at who might want this product as opposed to the kind of person wanting a Macquarie Bank product, and as you can imagine, this level of target definition tells you almost nothing about the person to be targeted – yet many small businesses don’t go much further than that. 

The problem is, it gives you no insight about the buyer as an individual – what influences the way they think, what’s going through their head when the bank’s message reaches them?   

An empathetic understanding of the ‘real person’ will allow you to understand what kind of approach will appeal to them effectively.  

And that’s the difference between a sale and no sale. 

This kind of deeper understanding of the individual is done by developing a ‘customer persona’ and it’s something no business should overlook. 

Just a side note before we go on: focusing on the individual (rather than the organisation) as a target is just as valid in the B2B world as it is in B2C. Yes, you need to identify the kind of company you’re targeting – but companies don’t read your messages. Considering the person you have to persuade to buy your product or service, you’re back into customer persona territory again. 

So, how do you understand your individual customers and create a customer persona? 

In short, it requires a deep definition of your ideal customer, digging into what drives and motivates them, what their personal and professional hopes and fears are, with the aim of anticipating how and why they make decisions – and of course using this information to tailor your marketing accordingly, and make more sales. 

And how is that different from a target market? 

Your target market is more than likely defined by a range of demographics, and socio-economic factors such as age, sex, location, how much they earn, what level of education they have – factual information as distinct from personality-based information. 

To illustrate how important this is, here’s a story about a well-known brand, and the difference a persona can make.  

Diet Coke & Coke Zero, a customer persona success story

Diet Coke is the world’s most successful low sugar fizzy drink. When launched in 1982 its target was young people interested in a healthier lifestyle. It was a hit with women but, men simply didn’t go for it, despite Coke’s research showing that looking after yourself was not as gender-specific anymore.

The problem was, they’d confused their personas, and it showed, even in this famous ad. On digging deeper, they discovered that men associated the word ‘Diet’ with women, and the younger men they were targeting were more interested in ‘sports and action’ than ‘diet and health’.

Having clarified these persona insights, it was back to the drawing board, and they came up a completely different approach for men – in fact, a different product altogether.

Coke Zero launched in 2005 came in a black can, not a white one, and while it was essentially a ‘diet’ drink, it was labelled as ‘calorie-free’ instead. And this time they got their insights right – irreverent, action-oriented and looking for fun.   

“We’re positioning Coke Zero as a defender and celebrator of guy enjoyment.” 
Pio Schunker, Head of Integrated Marketing Communications, Coke.

The Australian ads captured it well: 

“Why don’t bosses, come with a mute button!” 

End result? Well, Pepsi followed hot on their heels with Pepsi Max – enough said! All from a deeper understanding of the psychology behind the customer.  

And the great thing is you don’t need to be a massive company to do this, SMEs can benefit from customer personas too.  So let’s have a look at what goes into them…. 

Understanding Psychographics

Being marketers, of course, we have a fancy name to the study of people according to
their underlying desires, attributes, hopes and fears. Psychographics is simply the combination of demographics, and psychology, and it’s an attempt to get inside the mind of a defined ‘group’ of people who you hope to help. As you’d imagine, doing so is every sales-person and marketer’s dream!

To develop your target persona, you’ll need to consider a range of psychographic elements. Use this list as a checklist to answer the question: how well do you know your ideal customer?

In general are they serious, intellectual, humorous, driven, aspirational,
social or family focussed? Perhaps your answer will influence the way to talk to them.

What’s important to them? Are they trying to be the hero? Are they anxious? Concerned not to make a mistake? What are their have hopes and dreams for the future? Think about every retirement campaign you’ve ever seen, how many have images of people walking carefree down a beach, or something with a yacht in it? That’s saying’ free to live your dream at last’, powerfully emotional stuff for a financial product.

How do they make up their mind? Are they highly analytical, or more spontaneous? Is it an individual or group decision? For example, if peer pressure and the need for reassurance are factors, testimonials and case studies may be a helpful addition to the customer journey.

How much effort will they put into the potential purchase? How steep is the learning curve? Is your product a must-have or a luxury? You can see how these three are all inter-related – how simple do you have to make this?

Do they have to change, or sacrifice something to make the purchase you want them to?
Are they ready to do so? Or do they need some convincing that it’s a good idea?

Professional factors
Are they actually required by their job to make a purchase of this kind? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve? How much pressure is there around the purchase? Do they have the final say? Are they trying to impress somebody? Does it represent risk to them?

All of the elements above and more can be considered when you’re examining your target market a little closer. It creates a fairly long list. Great, but you’ll want to prioritise things to identify the more important insights that you’ll leverage. 

Get it down on paper and show it to somebody who doesn’t know your business, asking them if they get a clear picture of a person from it. 

The end goal is creating a deep, nuanced and very human picture of your ideal customer and an understanding of what motivates their purchase decisions and behaviour. 

And once you have that, share it with everyone in the organisation, and focus on serving that person as well as you possibly can, from product design and pricing to marketing and sales right through to customer support. 

It works, I can assure you. If it looks like a difficult task, stay tuned (or get in touch) because we’ve developed a few tools to help you explore and create your own customer personas. I’ll be sharing those in another post.

Alongside your work on your personas, I really recommend you also think about your ‘Smallest Viable Market, which is the other magic ingredient in powerful targeting. Please take a look at this short article to get a good understanding how to approach that.

Best of luck getting to know your customer in the meantime.

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