A common misconception is that successful companies market to everyone. Marketing is sometime lauded as ‘one-to-many’, while sales is ‘one-one’.

There are plenty of blogs at the moment that debate ‘to target, or not to target.’ My view is simple: great marketing starts with great targeting. Knowing who your target market are, and what they value. The debate for me is, at what level do you target which messages.

Consider NIKE. Their mission is statement is:

To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the World.

* if you have a body, you are a athlete

(the asterix clarification was reportedly added by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman)

NIKE are deeming everyone with a body to be an athlete – which is everyone in the World. So they are marketing and targeting 6 billion people on the planet? Well yes, and no.

They certainly invest a huge amount in brand building endorsements with superstar Athletes. Interestingly, this level of advertising rarely shows NIKE products. This is clearly a one-to-many exercise. You associate NIKE first and foremost with great athletes. So if you want to be an athlete, you’re likely to want to wear NIKE.

At the next level down NIKE have 6 divisions. Each one targets a different broad customer need, and customer type. Now their marketing starts to get more targeted.

NIKE target each product range carefully

Within each division are product areas. Let’s take football for a start. NIKE target their marketing mix around people who like or play football. Which is still a lot of people. Look into the product portfolio and there are some products targeted at supporters, and others at players. There are high-end boots for professionals, down to entry level models for occasional players or those on a budget. Some are styled for the young, others for the more mature player. Each product has a different look, feel and price point.

Moreover each outlet selling Nike football products will pick the parts of the product portfolio that suit the type of shoppers that visit their stores. Compare for example the range of NIKE football boots on offer at the NIKE store in London, to JD Sports, to Sports Direct, and to your local independent sporting specialists. No one store will stock more than around a third of the range. Other than NIKE online, where the entire range is stocked. NIKE online is also the only place you can buy their flagship product, NIKE ID.

The point is, at a high level, yes NIKE market to everyone. However they do it by targeting each element of their offer very carefully and meaningfully.

Just because you buy a brand, it doesn’t mean you are necessarily their core target

Another misconception is that just because you may sometimes shop at Asda, it doesn’t means you are their target market. Asda target mums on a budget. Everything they do is with them in mind. They know everything about them and what is important to them. They build their whole marketing mix around mums (funnily enough at one meeting with Asda an executive told me they focus entirely on ‘mums with kids’. I resisted the temptation to ask ‘what about mums without kids’.

Clearly Asda attracts many other types of shopper, because some of the things that mum’s like (low prices and large pack sizes), other people also like and are also attracted to. Also the single biggest motivation for a shopper to choose one retail outlet over another is distance from home. Nonetheless, so important is the target market to Asda that if you try and sell anything to them, the first question they will ask is: ‘how does this product fit with the Asda mum?’. If it doesn’t then they aren’t too interested.

Aldi and Lidl are equally as focused on their target market, and what they value. Compare the recent performance of Asda, Lidl and Aldi to Tesco in recent years. For me the core issue Tesco face is trying to be everything to everyone. They have lost sight of their core customer and they no longer stand for anything.

Appealing to the masses is dangerous when one size fits no-one

Appealing to the masses is dangerous, because the only thing that really appeals to the masses is cheap. Brands can sometimes be so keen to try and attract every potential consumer that they develop offerings teaming with features and benefits. This is certainly my experience. One of 2 things happens. Either a potential customer can’t decipher the benefit that appeals to them from the noise. Or the product does nothing particularly well, which means that for each target consumer need there is a competitor that does it better.

Who is your perfect customer? What do they want & need? Why will they choose you?

Ask yourself this simple question: who is my perfect customer? Describe them – their age, sex, lifestyle choices. What do they do, where do they go, who do they spend time with? Live a week in their life. Live a year in their life. Understand what makes them tick. The rest of your business plan always comes back to the people who are going to put their hand in their pocket and give you their hard-earned money in return for your product or service. Your business plans have to add value to those people.

Why is it so important?

1. You will design the features & benefits of your product or service to meet the exacting needs of your target market.

2. You will promote and market your product to your target market in the places you will find them. Facebook marketing is not a marketing strategy. Facebook is a channel. A marketing strategy is to market to mums groups in North London on Facebook. So to do that you need to know that mums in North London are your target market.

3. You will distribute & place your products in the places your target market shop. It’s quite easy to find out where mum’s in North London shop.

4. You will develop your pricing strategy aligned to your target customer. You can easily find out the demographic of your target market, and consider how much of their income they would be prepared to part with for your offer.

Top tip: Female, ABC2, aged 35-50 is not understanding your customer. The best brands know where she lives, what magazine she reads, what brands she buys, what films she likes, where she shops and her favorite color. If you don’t, your competitor will, and they will convert her to their brand. If you are struggling with market share right now, then that is almost certainly what is happening.

Start with your customers and what they value

So the next time you are making plans, start with your target customer and what they value. You can then easily identify the right features and benefits that will engage them. You’ll know how to price your offer to be attractive to them. You’ll know where to find them to tell them about it, and be able to do it cost effectively. And you’ll know where to place it so they can purchase it conveniently.

About Andy Shambrook

Hi I'm Andy. I used to be a finance director, then I became a sales director, and I'll show you everything I learned in sales that I wish I'd know when I worked in finance.

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