This blog is about understanding the target audience for a product or service and advises businesses to diversify.
My company has always been proud to work in a niche marketplace. When people questioned whether folks wanted to read about cranes, we broke the crane down into a cab, controls, jib, hook, wire rope, rigging, counterweights, and transportation and started writing about that. Niche is something to be celebrated yet many scoff at it.
First, let’s look at demographics
I was at a conference recently and the owner of a small business asked a panel of experts how they can get national media to cover their product. I guess they were hoping for the response to outline tactics the business could adopt to get the editor of a red top or broadsheet on the phone. Maybe both. Imagine if even 5% of their readerships bought our product; we’d be rich, they might have been thinking.
It emerged that the business manufactured a niche product targeted at a particularly small group within society. As the panel pointed out, national media coverage might not be the best vehicle to target such a specific, niche demographic. After all, what percentage of any national media product’s audience is made up of these folks or those making purchasing decisions with that market in mind? It’s probably quite small.
Further, I thought, imagine the redundancy in all the recipients to whom the message would be irrelevant. One panelist suggested the business looks at media that targets the age-range directly and another urged them to look at where that audience goes to get their information to see if there was a way to access them there. Another asked: “How does the supply chain work for other similar products?” And another: “Can you give presentations or tailor your literature?” The ideas kept coming.
For so long had the business owner been campaigning for national exposure that they almost questioned the panel’s response. They asked: “So national media might not be the way to go?” Err… no. I mean no disrespect; I’m sure the product is great and I wouldn’t criticise any small business owner, first, for making a living and, second, for standing up to ask a panel the question in the first place in front of a room full of people.
Quality over quantity
My point is that, while the importance of addressing a specific audience sounds obvious, many still don’t get it. I often hear people boasting about how many Twitter followers they have when really it should be about who is following them. 10,000 followers is great but if 9,000 are irrelevant, it’s not so good. Does the target demographic even hang out on Twitter?
The smaller and more niche the business, the more this blog applies, but there is always an audience to consider, even if it is a mass consumer marketplace. That’s why savvy marketers will target certain vehicles. It’s why influencer marketing is now so popular, particularly among those looking to engage teenagers and young adults, who follow a new age of idols who vlog (video blog) on channels like YouTube. The majority of us wouldn’t have heard of many of these influencers but in the corridors that they roam they’re incredibly powerful.
As alluded to, our business is built on a portfolio of clients from the lifting and material handling equipment marketplace. The plan was to work with market leaders in the myriad of component and product sectors that make up the industry so we had a group of non-competing businesses buying into our services. At the outset, our marketing was very consultative and selected. What would have been the point in borrowing a shed load of cash to address a much wider audience?
Ok, many would say it would be a good problem to have but say a massive marketing campaign or national media exposure did generate interest from thousands of ‘potential customers’. Small businesses would need to be equipped to deal with enquiries, process orders and deliver the service.
Go back to the questions that were probably asked at the conception phase of the product: Is there a market for it? How big is it? Can we fill it and do so in a way that’s profitable to our business? Is there a shelf life on the audience? How will it change / grow / swell / shrink? Etc. Revisit one’s earlier answers and target the demographic accordingly.
Now, let’s look at diversification
When a business understands demographics and the power of engaging an audience, it can set about diversifying, growing and safeguarding itself. I’ve learnt a lot from our own clients about this, many of which have applied their technologies, expertise and services to multiple industry sectors by doing the research and tailoring their marketing accordingly. It’s been challenging and rewarding to go along for the ride.
Put simply, if a business wants 1,000 customers it might be better advised to find 200 in five different markets rather than trying to get the same volume out of a market that isn’t big enough to provide or sustain that level of business. In an ideal world, these marketplaces will be independent of each other and influenced by different cyclical trends, yet the product or service will be largely the same. That way, costs are limited while peaks and troughs can hopefully offset each other.
They say practice what you preach and we’re diversifying our own company. Where the lifting industry has yielded a collection of clients, we’re looking to apply the same theory to the packaging sector. Our expertise is in lifting (we used to manage trade journals in the sector) but we have diverse skills and can apply certain sciences that have worked elsewhere. We can research a new marketplace, look for synergies and build relationships.
If the cap fits
Have you been trying to grow a business by chasing a mass audience when diversification might be a better strategy? What do you provide or make that could be used somewhere else? Do you do something related to quad bikes that could be applied to other off-road equipment? What additional markets might be able to use protective casing? If something is dropped anywhere it breaks, right. You get the idea.
Each time the product or service is diversified, support it with a targeted marketing campaign and content that engages the audience. Have some fun with it: delve deep into each niche to discover the enhancements that will lead to its widespread uptake; consider colours that relate to those marketplaces; ask influencers in the sector if a new brand or product name will help it gain traction (gripping products are probably inherently diverse!); examine the potential for further diversification within each niche.
Depending on the size of the companies, markets and products this guidance is applied to, maybe there will come a time when a recruitment campaign needs to identify influencers and experts within each of these niches to head up the expanding division. If the enlarged quad bike seats have taken off in the monster truck sector, who knows everything there is to know about those giant machines? Think of the impact such a marquee recruitment could have. When you make the announcement, don’t tell the world, tell the monster market.
I wonder if the product that prompted the question to the panel at the outset can be tweaked slightly and marketed to another audience. Greater growth could be achieved that way than by a few column inches in a newspaper.
Follow the business on Twitter @BridgerHowes
Director, Bridger Howes Limited