Category Archives: Target marketing

Marketing Lessons from the Shark Tank: Get your story straight

Thanks to my new Hulu subscription, I’ve got thousands of hours of TV shows at my disposal whenever I want them. With all those options, I’ve found myself hooked on one show: Shark Tank. The premise is probably familiar to you: entrepreneurs go before a panel of “Sharks” (read: venture capitalists) to try to convince them to fund the entrepreneurs’ fledgling businesses.

I’m hardly the first to pull marketing lessons from the show, but it truly is a fascinating look at how businesses start and grow. Aside from the fact that every entrepreneur needs to read Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start before going on the show, I’ve noticed a common thread among people that don’t do well with the Sharks: they don’t seem to have gotten any outside perspective on their business idea.

So many fledgling business owners are savaged by the sharks when they go on the show because it’s the first time they’re telling their story, and they are under the mistaken impression that they’re in control of the message.

They almost certainly think they’ve told their story before. Indeed, most of the show’s entrepreneurs have the patter down, have little quips and anecdotes they’ve woven into the theme of How Their Business Came to Be. But to truly tell your business’s story, you have to have a conversation – not perform a monologue. You need to understand what your audience cares about, why they came to you, what they want to get out of the interaction.

Most people quite naturally start out with a new business by discussing the concept with family and friends. But telling your story to family and friends gives you the illusion that you’re in control of your message. They won’t ask you the hard questions, and they’ll always take whatever you say in the best possible way. After all, they already know that everything you do is just great. They love you and want you to be happy and to succeed.

Too many companies approach their marketing materials as though they were still speaking to an audience composed of their friends and family. They recite their polished story, complete with smiles and self-deprecating jokes for a softer touch. What they don’t do is think about the questions a skeptical audience might bring to the table.

In the real world, when prospective customers encounter your story for the first time, they’ll be skeptical. They’ll have questions. They’ll have baggage from businesses like yours that they have encountered before, from the bad apples in your industry, from all their experiences, good and bad. If you don’t begin to counter those objections even before they raise them, your prospects will simply walk away.

You see it all the time in the Shark Tank. The entrepreneur contestants have never even considered that someone might not love their breakthrough product. When the sharks start asking the hard questions, they sputter and cough and try to evade the issue. And what happens, every time? The sharks walk away from the deal. Even a good business can be capsized by a bad story, when the business owner forgets that the story is not the thing.

How to Write Etsy Product Descriptions That Will Attract More Sales

Just about everyone with a passion for handcrafted goods and one-of-a-kind finds is familiar with Etsy. For buyers, the massive indie marketplace represents a nearly limitless opportunity to find products to suit every taste. For sellers, the chance to get your wares in front of an appropriate audience of potential buyers is huge – but it also means that the competition is intense.

Luckily, Etsy shop descriptions, about pages, and item descriptions are all indexed by Google, so well-written and properly optimized item descriptions can go a long way toward boosting your shop’s views – and sales. So how do you figure out which keywords to use and how to write your item descriptions? It’s all about understanding your target market.

Think of Etsy like a matchmaking site for crafters and buyers. Because it offers such a large marketplace, it’s important to think about your customers in terms of niches and subcategories. Some people are on there looking for fun, geeky science stuff; some people are looking for vintage bridal accessories; some people are looking for classic nursery décor; some people are looking for useful organizers for the home. You just have to get inside their heads and think about what they’ll be searching for.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you make hair accessories. A super-broad term like that gives over 95 million results on Google, and over six hundred thousand on Etsy. So you have to narrow your terms. Think about adjectives that describe your hair accessories, or the people that would wear them: vintage, playful, colorful, bright, glam, dramatic, classic. Think of materials you used in the creation of your hair accessories: plastic, lace, ribbon, sequins, bows, glitter, gemstones, wire. Think of occasions or events where a customer might want to wear your hair accessories: weddings, parties, clubbing, Easter, brunch, Kentucky Derby. Once you’ve done this quick exercise, you should have a list of keywords that describes your item much more clearly, which will help you write great titles and item descriptions.

You started your shop because you were passionate and excited about the things you were making. Now you just have to make it easy to find your items, so that people who will be excited to own your crafts can find them.

Need help coming up with good keywords and descriptions for your Etsy shop? I’m happy to help out by writing custom item descriptions to help bring more customers to your shop!

Target marketing: If you’re talking to everyone, then no one is listening

One of the first things I do with every new client is walk through a pre-project questionnaire, which gives me a lot of insight into their business in general and their goals for the specific project I’ll be working on. Most business owners love talking about their business and what they do well, and I love listening.

The problem arises when we get to talking about their target market. When I ask, “Who is the intended audience for this project? Who is the ideal customer?” The answer I get back is, almost invariably, “Everyone.”

It’s easy to see why this is a tempting answer. No one wants to feel like they’re turning away business or limiting their market. But if you think your target market is everyone, then you’re confusing “who you would accept money from” with “who you want to spend your time and money marketing to”.

Imagine you’re selling a line of skincare and cosmetics – something like Avon or Mary Kay. Both of these companies sell a huge range of products, from perfumes to lotions to lipsticks to aftershave. Because of that, independent resellers will often tell you that their ideal client is – you guessed it – “Anyone with skin!” In other words, everybody.

But is it really? Avon lipsticks range from $7 to $10; Mary Kay from $12 to $14. Both companies offer great products, but the teenager running into her local Walgreens to pick up a $2 tube of Wet N’ Wild lipstick is not likely to be a good customer for either one. And what about the woman who never wears makeup? Or the man who is currently using Dial soap to shave with? All of these people have skin, but does it make any sense to spend time and money trying to sell to them?

It’s a lot more effective to focus your efforts on marketing to your true ideal client – the person who is out there right now, desperate for your product or service (and able to afford it). Think of everything you can about the person who is the absolute best fit for what you’re offering. Is it a man or a woman? How old? What does he do? Where does she live? What keeps him up at night? Where does she go to find information about new products?

Let’s look at one more example of target marketing in action. Imagine you own a tutoring company, and you’re trying to market to local parents. With such a broad idea of your target market, you could have an ad that reads, “Do you want your kids to do better in school? We can help!” Or you could get a lot more focused: “Parents: Do you want your high school sophomore or junior to get into a good college? Our ACT tutoring is guaranteed to raise your child’s score by at least 2 points, boosting their admissions rate and likelihood of getting a scholarship.”

I’ll leave it to you to decide which ad offers prospects a more compelling reason to give you a call.

Curing advertising ADD: The power of single-message marketing

As a freelance copywriter, it’s my job to help companies turn leads into loyal customers. In the course of my networking activities, I meet a lot of small business owners who are going it alone, trying to act as a marketer, sales person, accountant, and CEO all in one. With limited time and budget for creating marketing pieces, they often commit the cardinal sin in advertising: trying to market to everyone at once.

It all starts out innocently enough. You decide to create a simple business brochure, maybe do a little bit of email marketing. You want to tell prospective customers about what you do and hopefully drum up some new business.

Unfortunately, it goes wrong quickly. You’ve only got the cash to create a single brochure this year, so you want to make sure it covers everything you do and everyone you want to market to. There’s so much material that you end up with nothing but a giant list of bullet points, with no elaboration or benefits in sight.

The key to creating more effective marketing materials and campaigns is market segmentation and message differentiation. That sounds far more complicated than it is: all it means is that people only care about what’s important to them. If you want to show prospective customers why they should do business with you, you have to focus on the benefits that they care about.

Let’s say you run a catering company. There are a ton of potential markets you could serve: weddings, corporate events, private parties, annual conventions. But if you create a single brochure to try to address all these markets, you’ll end up with something so broad that it won’t appeal to any of these audiences.

Instead, think about where the customers spend their time, and how you want to address them. Most young brides these days are doing the majority of their wedding planning and research online, so that’s where you should focus your efforts to market to that segment. Create a great Pinterest profile with lots of enticing wedding design and catering pictures, and link it to a blog filled with keyword-rich wedding content with a local focus, and you’ll draw who understand exactly what it is you do and why you’re a great fit for their wedding.

For your business customers, a piece of printed collateral like a brochure or sales letter is a better bet. Focus on why you’re a great fit for their events (good value, flexible menus, simple ordering system, available on short notice, etc.). Send it to prospects within a company who will make the actual purchasing decision on caterers for business events, and you’ll be able to follow up in person or by phone with a prospect who already has a solid grasp of what you can offer their company.

No business, small, medium, or large, has an unlimited marketing budget. We all want to do the most we can with what we have. So make the most of your advertising dollars by creating a focused message for a clearly defined audience. And if you need help figuring out what to say or who to say it to, give me a call. I’d be happy to help.

What Facebook can’t teach us about target marketing

If you’ve missed out on all the hoopla surrounding the recent Facebook IPO, then allow me to offer a brief and extremely general one-sentence overview (and I hope your under-rock vacation spot was lovely!): Can Facebook leverage their massive database of user information in order to improve the site’s currently dismal advertising ROI and more effectively monetize their platform? In other words, can Facebook get people to buy what their advertisers are selling?

Allow me to demonstrate the problem. Facebook is currently showing me four ads when I’m logged in to the site: one for Applebee’s new Sizzling Chicken Fundido, one for Verragio engagement rings, one exhorting me to “Grow Roses Like the Pros” with Drift roses, and one for the Nordstrom’s Half-Yearly Sale for Women & Kids. Unfortunately for those advertisers, I’m a married vegetarian who doesn’t garden and has never once bought from a Nordstrom’s.

That’s 0 for 4 on ad relevancy and usefulness. I’m a heavy Facebook user with lots of info on the site, so basically one of two things is happening: they haven’t yet figured out how to use the data they’ve gathered about me effectively, or they’re not using it at all and are just showing ads at random. Either one of these options turns their ad sidebar into essentially wasted space.

Facebook is, of course, a huge and powerful company, and despite some concerns about over-valuation, there are clearly a lot of people who are betting that they’ll figure out how to advertise more effectively. There are a lot of challenges to work out, but they’ve certainly got enough money to throw at the problem.

The real question is, do you? When Facebook shows random, untargeted ads to their users, they know that they’ll get terrible response rates. But with 150 million users in the US alone, even a response rate of half a percent could net the advertiser 750,000 clicks. But if your small business makes 1000 cold calls this year – five calls a day, every working day of the year – that same half a percent response rate will net you only 5 interested prospects. That kind of return on investment can kill your motivation – or your business – before you can even get it off the ground.

Before you begin any kind of advertising project or campaign – and that includes everything from setting up a website to attending a networking event – you absolutely have to understand your target market. Who are your ideal clients? What are their characteristics: age, gender, location, occupation, income, marital status, etc.? What keeps them up at night? How can you help them?

The better you understand the people you’re marketing to, the more effective your advertising will be. You’ll know where to go to be able to speak to your ideal clients. You’ll understand their fears and desires, and can show them how your company helps avoid the one and achieve the other.

The first thing I do with every new client – and do again every time we begin a new project – is sit down and walk through a target marketing questionnaire to make sure that the copy I create will deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. If you’re handling all your own marketing, make sure that you’re not wasting time and money. Figure out who you’re trying to sell to before you start worrying about what and how you’re going to sell to them.