Whenever I ask a potential client who their target market is, I often hear “everyone.” While it may be true that everyone could be a potential customer, not everyone will buy. So it is important to build the profile of your target market into one that is most likely to purchase.
I feel the reasons why most business owners try to market to everyone (when they really don’t have the resources to do so) is that A) they are afraid to lose any business B) they want to emulate the big brands. I will address both issues by talking about how the big brands reached mass market appeal. We see where the big brands are today, but what we don’t see is how they started. It is very important to know how the big brands started so you can emulate that.
Coca-Cola was originally created as a non-alcoholic version of French Wine Coca (nerve tonic) and was sold at soda fountains as a patent medicine.
Nike founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman initially started as a shoe distributor for Japanese shoe maker ASICS, making most of their sales out of Knight’s automobile at track meets.
Gatorade was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Florida in 1965 to benefit the school’s football team. After the team started seeing more wins as a result of being properly hydrated, other college teams started to demand the product.
These three big brands started out targeting a small and specific target market. As they saturated their respective markets, they were then able to expand into different ones until they started to have such mass market appeal that “everyone” was demanding their product. In other words, they started small and with focus, and grew from there.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Let’s say you are producing a new line of high protein, organic, fruit juices to sell at $3.95 retail for a 20 oz. bottle.
The target market for a product like this would be someone with:
- An active lifestyle
- A college degree
- Age 25-45
- An income above $50K
- A gym membership
- A white collar job
Like many business owners, you might be thinking that I’m shutting out a bigger audience. Yes, people outside of this demographic profile would purchase this product, but as a start up, I need to focus my resources and marketing dollars on an area that I feel will have the biggest chance of success. Once I’ve established myself and built considerable brand recognition within this target market, I can expand into other markets.
How did I select this demographic profile?
It all starts with a little bit of research into who buys organic products. This is a very important step that most business owners don’t bother with. But with the internet, it is easier and easier to get some very good research information about your potential market.
- Dettman and Dimitri, 2010, found that consumers with higher levels of education were the most willing to buy organic products.
- Howie, 2004, found that half of U.S. consumers who frequently buy organic foods have household incomes above $50,000.
- Thompson and Kidwell, 1998, showed that households with children under the age of 18 were more likely to buy organic products.
This bit of research took me all of two minutes with some basic Google searches. I merely typed in the search box, “demographic profile of organic juice users.”
By building this profile of likely purchasers, it starts to give me an idea of how and where to market my new high protein, organic fruit juice. In this example, I would look to get my product into select high end gyms, athletic clubs and organic grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. These are retailers that reach my ideal target market.
I would then promote in select parenting, fitness, golf, and tennis magazines with banner ads on their corresponding websites. With the limited distribution of my product, I would negotiate for regional advertising as opposed to national exposure. From a social media standpoint, I may use Pinterest as the primary site to reach a significant portion of my target market. Why Pinterest and not Facebook? One, it is a visual medium and I can create some great visuals with the types of organic produce that go into my new fruit juice and even post recipes. Plus, women are usually more concerned about the quality of the food that goes into their mouths and their families’ mouths.
So define your target market and work to build your brand within that market. Once established, the demand for your product will go beyond your initial target and you will then start to reach the wide audience you dreamed of. We call this the “halo effect.” People want what others have if they believe it would benefit them as well, even though they may not be the target market.
If you want to create mass market appeal, start with a smaller focus and grow from there. It worked for the big brands and it will work for you.