The last group of people you should market to are those who have never purchased anything from you before, but can reasonably be expected to be interested.
Some companies term this the "perfect audience" because these people are those who should be the most interested in your product or service - people that will BUY.
Are you a brand new business? Did you just come up with a great idea for a product or service and dive right in? Or do you already have a growing concern - a business you've been working for a while?
Either way, you need to figure out who your perfect audience is. Perhaps it's obvious: You resurface pools, so your audience is homeowners with pools or motels/hotels with pools. Easy.
But if you sell something more generic, like jewelry for instance, where anyone may or may not be your audience, you're going to have to engage in some research to make sure your perfect audience finds you in perfect time.
Researching Your Own Invoices and History
Sometimes, finding your perfect audience is as easy as researching your own business. For instance, let's say you already have a jewelry store. If this is true, you've already sold lots of jewelry. Who comes into your store and buys? Think about it.
Think about yesterday or last week. Now think less - and look more. In particular, look at the invoices. Take all those invoices and make categories with them: one pile for women over 50, one pile for men over 50. Which pile is bigger? Which adds up to more income? How many invoices were put in neither pile? Maybe most of your clients are under 50. What does that mean for you? How should it affect your promotional efforts?
Also, separate orders by the amount spent. Look at all invoices over a certain amount - say $1,000+. Now go through those invoices and see if the age and gender of the purchaser can be determined. If you keep track of the customer details of who purchases from you, you can figure out who buys most often and spends the most money with very little investigatory work.
Be aware of your misconceptions and fight them with cold, hard facts. Perhaps most of your browsers are women over the age of 50. Do your invoices tell the same story? It could be men between 30 and 50 are doing all the buying. If so, and you've been targeting women over 50, you've been wasting your money. If you can't look over last week's invoices to get an idea of who bought what, start keeping track today, so a month from now you can do a little analysis.
Even if you are not directly involved in selling, don't despair - put your sales staff to work. Have them fill out a form answering certain questions with each sale they make. You'll find most people won't mind answering a few questions. People like talking about themselves, and it will help your sales staff build relationships.
The form can include a little speculation, too. You can have the salesperson fill in what they think the approximate age of the customer is and what that customer's gender is. If the customer uses a credit card, they can ask to see the driver's license and make a note of the date of birth. It's a little sneaky, but doable. It is perfectly acceptable for the salesperson to say "We're conducting a brief marketing survey" before asking:
- Who are you buying this for?
- Is it for a special occasion?
- What type of piece is it? Ring, bracelet, necklace…
- What do you do for a living?
- What's your zip code?
The more information you have, the better armed you will be later when creating your postcard campaign. Salespeople are usually pretty friendly anyway. They don't have to pull out a form to fill out if it makes them uncomfortable, either. They can just ask casually and fill it in the minute the customer leaves. As long as you get the data and keep a running tally on a spreadsheet - mission accomplished.
This will get you all the important data you need to analyze your customer base. You will discover the truth about who is buying your product so you can target those folks.
NOTE: if all you have is their name and address, there is a fantastic product that will help you pinpoint your ideal customer that you may want to check out. I will discuss it later when we get into mailing lists.
Researching from Scratch
If all this talk of spreadsheets, invoices and receipts leaves you scratching your head and asking, "What about me?" don't worry - you're not alone. Let's say you're a jewelry designer and you are opening your very first boutique and you have no idea who will like your jewelry designs.
Consumer Lists, Subscriber Lists, Affiliate Companies: Sharing, Business-to-Business, Opt-In Lists
Creativity is the answer. Well… creativity and a pair of comfortable shoes. In other words, you are going to have to hit the street - to survey complete strangers (I know!). Go to a busy area with photos of your work or, better yet, bring the actual jewelry with you.
Ask questions and keep very good notes. Which pieces were attractive to which age group? Record that response. What piece stood out the most? Why? Write those answers down.
You also want to know what price point is most acceptable. Come up with lots of valuable questions, and ALWAYS record the response. You don't want to have to do this too often, so the more valuable you can make each "scouting trip," the less of them you'll have to make.
Nowadays you can even use Facebook to perform surveys quite easily. The point is that you need the data to move forward. Any way you can get it will work!
When purchasing a mailing list, the easiest demographics to isolate are age, income, gender and whether or not they are a homeowner. Replicate these responses in your own questionnaire. I, personally, would be so bold as to ask some of these questions specifically.
You could say something personal like, "Hello. I'd like to ask you a few questions. Do you have a minute? Please be honest with me, I'm not seeking any compliments…" Then make the best use of the following Q&A:
- Which piece do you like the best? _____________
- Which piece do you like the least? _____________
- What would you pay for that piece? (the one they like the best) _____________
- Do you buy jewelry as a gift for anyone in your life? ______________
- If yes, who? _____________
- May I ask your age? ____________
- Gender? ___________ (Hopefully, you won't have to ask this one!)
- Do you own a home or do you rent? ___________
- How far would you drive to shop in a specialty boutique if you really loved what they had to sell? ___________
I know it can be daunting to walk up to complete strangers and ask for their input, but what's the worst that can happen? Some people won't like your jewelry. Some people will rudely ignore you. Some people won't want to answer all the questions.
BIG DEAL! You need this information to successfully market.
Who compiles the list data?
Insist that the data is fresh and accurate.
Think of it this way: the more effort you put in now, the less money you'll waste later.
In both examples above - the existing store with receipts to study and the new store canvassing strangers on the street - you'll have to tally up the results of your survey. You are NOT looking for any averages. What you are looking for is the greatest common denominator. If, in the first example above, you find it after 35 sales 15 of them are to women between 50 and 60, 5 are women over 60, 10 are men between 40 and 50 and the rest are quite varied, what would you do?
I'd ignore the varied responses for now. I'd definitely target women 50+ in age. I would also check the zip codes they live in to see if there are similarities there. Next, I'd add up my 10 invoices from the men and compare them to the 20 invoices from the women. Who spends more? If it's close enough, you may want to target both demographics.
The key here is to do the research now to save time later. Knowledge is not only power, it's profit. The more you know, the smarter you can spend your money on not just your postcards, but the list of who to send them to. As I've shared with you thus far, both are equally important.
I Don't Have a Store
Let's say your particular situation doesn't jive with either example above and you still find yourself with the question, "Who should I mail to?"
No worries; I'll give you another example: say you have a product that only goes into American-made cars. And say you notice the customers you have are between the ages of 40 to 60 years old. Well, find out from a list company how many people living in a five or ten mile radius fit that description. Specifically, 40-60 year olds who own an American-made car. You can absolutely get a list that specific. Or, look at your own customer base and find out where they live. Then find out how many others in their area fit that demographic. That is your list!
Okay, so you get a count of all the records fitting that demographic in the area from a list company and there are 20,000 identities. The catch is you can only afford a fraction of that whole amount to start with. What do you do? Give up because it's too much to do it all at once?
Not a chance. Rome wasn't built in a day; nor will your company be. Simply take 5,000 identities from the 20,000 and start from there. Divide your campaign into three-week segments. Mail out one-third the first week, one-third the next week, and one-third the following week. You can mail the same postcard to all segments of the list.
This strategy makes the best use of your time, money and information. You have successfully targeted a potential perfect audience for your product, identified their numbers and begun a systematic and specific approach to reach them through an initial mailing. Even though it only reaches a fourth of your 20,000 potential prospect list, that's not at all bad for three weeks of work! And you know you have room to grow.
Another audience for your specific product might be distributors of car paraphernalia that sell to auto parts stores. Some of those may want to pick up your product. You'd probably have to sell to them wholesale and there's the chance the product sits on the shelf for a while and you don't get reorders. So, you may want to hit both audiences. You raise awareness with your mailings and maybe the prospect buys at the auto parts store. Or, maybe they order directly from you and you get the retail price. Your list company should be able to tell you how many of these distributors there are nationwide.
A local HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning) business will probably have a pretty easy time getting a solid list of potential clients. Basically every address in their area has heating and A/C, and that particular universe is most likely small enough to warrant using the whole list. The biggest question for this business will be how much to mail (and that is something we'll get into in Section 4: Campaigning and Tracking).
However, some businesses won't have it that easy. Take, for example, an online retailer of indoor blinds. They have a situation similar to the HVAC business in that almost every house is a potential customer. BUT, every house in the country is far too big a list to hit at once. So this company is going to have to find out which particular groups of homeowners they get the best response from.
There are basically two ways to do this: 1) Pay a research company a lot of money (could be around $10,000) to perform a nationwide survey of potential customers, or 2) Perform test mailings and track the results.
You can probably guess what I'm going to tell you to do.
Test mailings! Of course.
What if you could take your very best customers and clone them? Cloning is not going to happen, but there is a next best thing.
Most of the time surveys are pretty darn accurate, but not always. Test mailings are your actual results, pure and simple. There's no arguing with cold, hard results.
If you contract a research company to perform a survey for you, the value you are getting is the information you need to construct your ideal list. If you test mail, the value you are getting back is actual customers responding to your mailings AND the information you need to construct your ideal list.
Both have the same end result, but only one gets you money and customers while you do it. That's a pretty clear decision if you ask me.
Do you want another example? Maybe one more? How about two? Three? I can go on and on, but the important thing to remember from this section is creativity. You have to get a bit clever when figuring these things out.
Aside from postage, your list is typically the most expensive part of the mailing. If you're promoting to consumers it's not too bad, but if you are a B2B (Business to Business) marketer, narrowing down the list to the exact right specifications can get pricey.
Don't worry, though. We'll go over how to evaluate list companies in the next section so you can make an educated decision when buying.