Why Understanding Your Target Customer Is Key to a Successful Food Brand

Imagine sending out a social media campaign where every post reached someone who then bought your product. That’s the goal of every good marketer.

Management consultant Peter Drucker put it well when he said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

It all starts with knowing your target audience. And identifying your target customer. Then you can spend your marketing budget much more effectively and reap the rewards.

Many businesses get in a muddle when trying to define a target customer. So let’s look at what a target customer is, why you need to understand them and how to find out who they are.

Who Is Your Target Customer?

Think of your ideal customer. What do they like? Where do they spend their time? Do they have any specific values? Answering these questions helps you identify those most likely to buy your products.

Defining a target customer has become easier in recent years. The rise of social media means that (nearly) everyone puts their lives online. Businesses can now delve deep into the habits, characteristics and values of their customers. Targeting a niche audience gives you an even clearer picture of these traits and behaviours. And you can zero in on people who exhibit these characteristics and pay to send them highly targeted advertising across a range of platforms.

But this brings us to an important point. How niche should you go? It used to be enough to target someone based on their age, location, and possibly their job role. There’s now such a wealth of data, this targeting is no longer detailed enough.

If you can clearly picture your target customer in your mind, then you’re almost there. If you can write them an email that speaks to their exact desires and pain points, then you’ve nailed it.

Get your targeting right, and your customers will feel like you ‘get them’. Take Linda McCartney Foods, for example. Linda McCartney had a passion for good food, but vegetarian meals at the time weren’t quite up to scratch. She wanted to make vegetarian and vegan food that was tasty and good enough to be a main feature of a meal. Her target customers aren’t only vegetarians or vegans. They’re people who enjoy and appreciate eating quality food.

Linda Mccartney

Who Your Target Customer Isn’t

That leads us onto what a target customer is not: everyone. If you try to target everyone, you’ll end up reaching no one. Targeting by gender or age isn’t enough. On any given day, the average consumer sees up to 10,000 brand messages. We’re over saturated with offers and deals. Attention spans are reaching goldfish level. The only way to grab someone’s attention is to speak directly to their needs, wants, and problems.

Consider Red Bull for a moment. Red Bull doesn’t just target young males. They target young active men who want to push life to the extreme. Thrillseekers, who need that extra pick me up to live beyond the normal. Red Bull “gives them wings”.

This filters through 100% of their marketing. From their sponsorship of the Cliff Diving World Series. To its lifestyle publication The Red Bulletin. The company constantly pushes its own boundaries by looking for the next big thing.

It’s recently announced a partnership with esports influencer ‘Ninja’. Between them they’ll be running a Fortnite event based on the popular game. It’s likely that most people who pick up a can of Red Bull have never jumped off a cliff or out of a plane. But they are tapping into the aspiration of the adventure lifestyle regardless of whether people take action or not.

Having a small target market might seem counterintuitive. It might seem as though you’re limiting your options. But when first starting out, your business probably won’t have the kind of marketing budget that can make enough noise in a large market anyway.

Don’t try to compete with big brands like Red Bull. Instead, focus your efforts on a niche audience with very specific needs, wants, and values. Create a loyal customer base from this group. Then you can expand your reach to other markets if appropriate.

Why It’s Important to Know Your Target Customer

Now, there’s more and more competition for attention and ad space. This means an increasing need for marketing to stand out. But there’s also a tightening of marketing budgets. Only 8.6% of companies raised marketing budgets in the last quarter of 2017. This is the lowest rate since the start of 2016. Marketing now needs to be smarter to provide more return on investment.

An extra challenge is ad fatigue. People are becoming aware of, and annoyed by, ads that are spammy or irrelevant. Poor offers, crappy copy and sleazy marketing will turn people off of a brand in a flash.

Thanks to a plethora of data and advertising algorithms, targeting customers is now easier. But it only works if you have a well defined, target customer.

Know your target customer

The Benefits of Targeting Customers

There’s many benefits to identifying your target customers. The messages you send out to your customers and prospects become more personal. You can also pick and choose the channels where your customers actually spend time. There’s no point spending thousands on a Facebook campaign if your target audience are all on Twitter.

Knowing your customers better also improves your product development. You can design products that your customers ‘need’ in their lives. Things that they simply cannot live without. Becoming essential to your customers’ lives is a surefire way to attract repeat business.

It can also inform your pricing. Are your target customers are scrimpers and savers? If so, developing a premium product is likely to fall flat. Equally, knowing what prices to charge can then tell you how much you have to spend on your marketing.

Putting the customer first in all aspects of your business will result in a much better understanding and relationship with them, and will have them returning time after time to buy your products.

Defining Your Own Target Customer

Before embarking on any kind of marketing campaign, you need to find your target audience. A great way to start is to develop one or more audience personas to bring a picture of your target customer to life.

Defining your target customer begins with understanding the characteristics that make them unique. Discover what platforms they use, what they love and hate, and their unique beliefs and values.

Where to Learn About Your Target Customers

Getting information on the behaviour of your customers doesn’t have to be complex or costly.

Meeting your customers face-to-face can provide an invaluable insight into their motivations and desires. You can carry out a simple survey at events. Or gain qualitative information by chatting and making notes on what was said.

If attending events isn’t possible for your business, try online surveys. Analysing your marketing data will also give valuable information. If you send out emails, look at what content had the most clicks and what subject lines performed best. On social media, record what posts had the most engagement and shares. One-on-one meetings with select customers can also work well. Or you can send out samples of your product to customers and prospects and get crucial feedback.

You can also get third-party information from Government agencies and trade bodies. Or from market research firms such as Mintel. Sometimes the press might also share something useful. So it’s always worth scanning relevant articles for insights.

Competitors are another good source. Consider what marketing is working for them. Then think what parts of it would work well for your own business. Be sure to look at competitors of a similar size instead of copying the Big Food giants.

Meet your target customer

Always Track Your Target Customer

Understanding your target customers isn’t a one-time exercise. You need to constantly listen and learn from your customers and the market. Needs change over time, so your business must always be a step ahead. Set up processes that allow you to refine the picture of your target customer.

Great marketing anticipates and meets customer needs. The only way for you to understand this is to identify your target customer. Once identified, keep monitoring their behaviour and adapt your marketing to their evolving needs. Targeting customers isn’t rocket science. But it will make your marketing out-of-this-world.

So, to recap:

  • By identifying your target customer, you can spend your marketing budget more effectively and get better returns.
  • Having a target customer means you can adapt your products to their exact needs and budget.
  • Targeting everyone means you target nobody. It’s better to have a niche, especially when starting a business.
  • When you can write someone an email speaking to their exact needs and pain-points, you’ve identified your target customer.
  • Events, marketing data, trade bodies and competitors are good sources of customer information.
  • Keep monitoring your target customer as their needs change and keep your business one step ahead.

If you’d like to hear more about getting to know your target customer, listen to podcast episode 38 where we’re talking all about your audience, your customers and how to get a really clear picture of them so you can best serve them.