Strategic Planning

Get to Know Your Target Market

know your target marketYesterday I spent 75+ min. on the phone with a rep selling a very cool product for our business.  And I absolutely bombarded him with questions about how his product could solve a challenge I face right now.

There was a trainee on the call as well.  “Shadowing,” I was told, and true enough, he didn’t utter a word.  I hope he was awake, because that call was full of valuable info about our business, plans, procedures and pains.

We all know most companies have an ugly chasm between the sales and marketing functions.  Fortunately, those of us who live and breathe marketing are finally gaining traction in helping businesses chip away at this fundamental barrier to our collective economic success.

Today I want to pose a challenge to executives, entrepreneurs and marketers who, unlike sales reps and trainees, don’t speak with your target markets on a daily basis.  Do you really know your target market? Do you understand

  • The pains your prospects and customers feel every day?
  • How much they really care about your product or service?
  • Why they buy (or avoid) your product or service?

You may be answering YES, I know these answers and my sales team talks with the market every day.  But when was the last time you personally spent quality time with your prospects and customers?  Last month?  Last year?  2004?

There’s nothing like a direct chat with a confused prospect or an angry (or happy) customer to help you gain true insight and breathe new life into your products, services, messages and campaigns. A firsthand discussion (not an impersonal survey) gets you much closer to the emotions, opinions and experiences of your market.   And it’s far more memorable and real to hear it yourself than to get it secondhand from your sales team.

If you’re a marketer or executive, why not pick up the phone or set up a meeting with a random sample of prospects and customers?  You could also shadow a sales rep – you’ll learn exactly what s/he goes through to qualify and close deals in 2007.

Questions to Ask to Know Your Target Market

If this sounds like a great idea, here are a few questions to get you started.

For customers:

  • What would your life be like if you no longer had our product/service?  Would it be any different?  Would you care?
  • How strongly would you recommend us to others (if at all)?
  • What could we do to get you to recommend us to everyone you know?

For prospects who didn’t buy:

  • What solution did you select?
  • Why did you choose that solution over ours?
  • What could we have done differently to win your business?

For existing prospects:

  • What kind of problems could our product/service solve for you?  Are they important?  Do you care?
  • Who in your organization will use this product/service on a regular basis?  Will s/he care?
  • How else could you solve these problems?

A professional market research consultant or firm could give you a wealth of additional tips on this subject … for example, how to stay neutral and how to probe to get accurate answers.

If you have access to someone with this experience, great.   If not, just jump in and get started.  Your methods don’t have to be perfect to be effective.

After all, you’re in business to generate revenue.  And with more firsthand knowledge of the market’s wants and needs, your team can find it easier to work together to identify, qualify, close and service the human beings who buy from you.



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