It is true that virtually everyone with windows could buy your products. So, it also seems logical that you should target all of them with your advertising and promotion. After all, you don't want to exclude any potential business by limiting yourself to a specific type of customer-right? Wrong.
First of all, how much money would you have to spend on advertising and promotion to attain all the business that's out there? How many of your large competitors have deeper pockets and can more easily outspend you on such a massive marketing strategy? It's far better to select a niche market where you can win customers and outperform your competitors in fulfilling their needs.
One way to begin selecting a target market is to ask yourself, "Who is my ideal customer?" Think carefully about your existing customer base. If you had a choice, would you keep all your current customers? If not, which ones would you keep and why? Are they pleasant people who are hassle-free to work with? Do you feel fulfilled when you sell to them? Do they purchase the products and services that define the marketing mix you want for your business? Do they allow you to do what you do best-in terms of design, installation, quality, and service? Are you able to fulfill their needs with your particular skills and expertise? Do they provide you with a fair amount of profit?
Trust your intuition and experience when you define your ideal customer. At the same time, make sure you are realistic in terms of your current business situation, the economic conditions in your region and the competitive environment. You may have to continue doing business with some of your least favorite customers for a while because they provide the sales volume or profit you need at a particular time, but you still can work toward expanding your business to attract more of your ideal customers.
In addition to selecting the most ideal customers that you want to sell to, it's important to select a target market where you have an advantage. Select niches in which you can shine and where you can satisfy your customers far better than your competitors.
Select a target market that most values your unique skills and the special features that your business offers. For example, if your expertise is in full-service, high-end interior design, pick a target market of high income home owners in an expensive neighborhood. Or, if your expertise is in value-priced goods for home improvement buffs, choose a target market of lower-end, do-it-yourselfers. Pick a target market where you can win!
Also, focus on selecting target markets that are less demanding in terms of price and discount. As we all know, most customers view price as an important consideration in buying, but only a few rank price as the most important factor. Look for niches that demand the best you can offer in personal service, design and expertise. This will help remove you from selling your products as if they were commodities, and help you to not attract the type of customers who are shopping only for price.
LEAST FAVORITE CUSTOMERS
If you have difficulty visualizing your most ideal customer, it's likely that these potential buyers also will have trouble identifying your business as the best place to buy when they see your advertising and promotions. If you can't define your ideal customer, how can you devise advertising and direct mail that includes the benefits, words, graphics and offers that will attract him or her?
Regardless of the ideal customer you choose to target, it's also critical to your long-term business success to stop attracting the type of customers you don't want to do business with, those who result in little profit or use up the valuable time you could be spending with more pleasant customers.
In addition to asking yourself questions about your ideal customer, spend time to determine who your most "un-ideal" customers are, so you can avoid attracting them with your limited advertising and promotion dollars.
Once you've defined your least favorite customers, you probably will be less upset when one of your competitors steals them away-it's actually a blessing in disguise. Let your competitor spend his or her time working long hours to satisfy difficult customers who result in little profit. Instead, you can spend your time serving the type of customers you like to do business with.
If you're already successfully targeting your No. 1 type of ideal customer and are looking to expand your business, consider looking for segments of your local market that other retailers have ignored or are not doing a good job servicing.
If you live in a seaside community, this segment might be window coverings for boat owners. In a community with a high proportion of older Americans, seniors could become a specific target market. Maybe your locale is mostly very high income home owners and all of your competitors are fighting for these premium customers; then consider targeting middle-income townhouse and condo owners.
Once you've determined who your ideal customers are, your next goal should be to devise a promotional strategy that will most effectively attract these ideal customers (and, you would hope, not attract your least favorite type of customer). Some tips to attract your favorite customers are the following:
• Determine whether they are from a specific geographic area (or several specific areas) that you can target closely with advertising, direct mail and other promotions.
• Think about their demographics: age, income level, lifestage, home location, home value, gender, educational level. Then work hard to attract potential buyers with these demographics when you purchase mailing lists, select publications to advertise in, participate in home shows, or choose locations for a consumer seminar.
• Figure out if they have common psychographic characteristics or lifestyle types such as active athlete versus couch potato, home entertainer versus someone who is out partying every night. Focus on these lifestyles in your advertising and promotion.
• Determine the features and benefits they are shopping for and promote these benefits in your advertising. Examples would include the best prices in town, full-service measuring and installation, design expertise, product variety, in-home appointments, and a beautiful showroom.
• Get to know these customers and their needs better than any other company in your community, then work to serve them better than any other business by fulfilling their needs more effectively than anyone else.
A couple of other benefits will occur when you define your target market well. First, you'll actually have less competition than ever before because not all the other companies selling window fashions in your community are targeting the same niche as you are. Second, a closely defined target market will help with word-of-mouth advertising and will assist you in gaining "warm" referrals (who are not as price sensitive) because people within your closely defined target audience tend to know each other and will recommend you to others who are similar.
Many businesspeople are afraid to target a small niche market; they want to appeal to all users because they think they can sell more! However, when you appeal to too broad a market, you can't address the benefits important to all people in that market; you spend more money advertising, sell less and attract customers who you really don't want to do business with.
Instead, do a good job determining your target market and you'll attract the type of customer you want as your ideal customer, not just whoever comes in your door looking for the lowest price on a cut-rate product.
Kay Pegram is
founder of Kaymar Communications,
a Playa del Ray,
CA-based independent marketing services firm for companies in window fashions and other industries. Pegram's previous window coverings industry experience includes serving eight years at LouverDrape and as director of marketing for the Tempo companies.