Try this test.

Visit with any business owner in the next few days.  Ask one simple question.

“Who is your target market?”

Allow me to save you a little time.  The answer will be provided in terms of age and sex:

* Men 18-24

* Women 21-54

* Adults 18-54

Business leaders have learned to define their customers and prospects only by demographic classifications.  Is a TARGET really defined on such limited terms?

Isn’t age and sex of a customer a DESCRIPTOR rather than a target?

This notion of demo-based descriptors began with the A.C. Nielsen Company in the 1960’s as the company was commissioned to measure media habits of audiences.  Nielsen ratings are based on sampling techniques that measure, for example, television viewing.  At the time, consumer respondents kept a diary of their viewing habits and submitted completed diaries on a weekly basis during a sweeps period.

Nielsen reported viewing habits by day-part (and programming) with age and sex of the diary keeper.  A television show may have been heavily watched by the over 40 crowd awhile another program did well in the Mad Men fave of adults 25-54.  Media buyers were trained to define audiences in terms of age and sex.

A simple column heading for reporting media habits became a filter for defining a target market.  Consumer need for a product or service was not measured for targeting purposes.  If my class of age and sex match a profile…I am a target customer.

Buying intentions are much more important than the amount of grey in my hair. A luxury purchase to one group of customers is likely a shopping good to another demo.  Consumers purchase and consume products in difficult to define norms in today’s marketplace.  I may know your age and sex but have no clue about what you may purchase next.

A view of better targeting:

  • Measure buying intentions.
    • Do you intend to purchase new furniture for your home within the next 6 months?
  • Define current customers in quintiles of purchase frequency
    • The top 20% of current customers will have certain characteristics well beyond demographic descriptors.   Define your best customers in every way possible and develop strategy to reach similar prospects.
  • Lifestyle studies
    • The way we spend our free time provides key information about how and what we buy.  Qualitative factors are often better predictors than hard numbers.  If we know how customers FEEL about a product we have advanced 2 steps toward GO.

The sad truth is a growing number of businesses subscribe to the strategy of “Ready, Fire, Aim.”  Targeting really doesn’t matter much to a decision maker bent on launching an arrow prior to aiming it.

A strategy in search of a target is impotent.

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