Yesterday I did the unthinkable. I replied to a ‘spam’ email to set up a meeting!
OK, so to understand why replying to a spam email is unthinkable, we need to go back to study the problem…
Let’s start by defining what we mean by “marketing”. Marketing is often thought of as how you position a product or service to get more people to buy it. What is the story you want customers to believe about your brand or product? Marketing can help you tell that story and connect with your customers.
As consumers, we tend to dislike being marketed to — in part because we usually experience marketing as commercial advertising interrupting our TV shows, junk mail going straight from the mailbox to the trash bin, or spam emails clogging our inbox. In fact, terms like “spam” and “junk” have arisen because these marketing experiences are so negative for consumers — and almost all of this marketing content fails to resonate with its audience.
But despite consumers’ aversion to it, marketing is a valuable tool for businesses (as evidenced by the $1.4 trillion U.S. companies spent on marketing in 2021).
A seller uses marketing to:
- Find the right buyers.
- Help the (potential) buyer understand the value of what the seller offers.
- Encourage the (potential) buyer to become a buyer and to choose the seller over a competitor.
Qualification can improve the marketing experience for customers as well as companies. The process of determining a match between a buyer and seller is called qualification. Qualifying a potential buyer doesn’t mean a transaction will occur but it does increase the likelihood that it will. It also increases the likeliness that a customer will be interested in marketing content rather than frustrated by it because the qualification process considers the needs of the buyer in addition to the needs of the seller.
Here’s how qualification works: The seller creates a profile of their ideal buyer. Age, interests, income, and geographic setting are a few things the seller may consider. By identifying the ideal buyer, the seller is able to determine whether potential marketing targets are likely to fit into this buyer profile or not — which roughly correlates to likeliness to buy their product.
In short, when a seller knows what their buyers look like and also knows something about potential customers, an evaluation can be made about whether potential customers are likely enough to buy the product to justify further marketing to them.
Here’s an example: Budweiser beer knows their product is purchased by football fans more often than it’s purchased by horse riders. With this knowledge, Budweiser might choose to market their beer to a football game’s audience instead of at an equestrian event. This strategy is called “Target Marketing” and although it’s not perfect, it’s more accurate than nothing and can yield a higher return on marketing expenses.
Why is it important for a seller to qualify buyers when marketing?
As mentioned above, qualifying buyers has a positive impact on both buyers and companies and reduces frustration by both parties.
Brand Reputation – Focusing marketing efforts on qualified buyers leads to an audience that is likely to be more receptive to your message. Even better, a tailored approach like this can feel more authentic and relevant to consumers. Today’s customers often want to feel understood by the companies they support — they seek a connection with brands based on lifestyle, philosophy, or other identity markers. Showing customers you understand where they are on their “buyer’s journey” can build long-term loyalty.
Cost of Acquisition – Marketing and selling can be expensive. A metric often used by sellers to determine the value of their efforts is Cost of Acquisition. In order words, how much does it cost on average to acquire each customer? The lower your cost, the more efficient you are. When you focus your marketing efforts on qualified buyers — potential customers who are most likely to buy your product — you basically get “more bang for your buck.” Your content will resonate more strongly because you’ve preselected the audience. For example, if you sell surfing accessories, you don’t need to waste your time marketing to senior citizens in South Dakota; you’d likely see more sales with the same marketing budget if you marketed to people in beach towns. (Sure, there’s probably a silver-haired surfing senior citizen or two in Sioux Falls, but not as many as in, say, San Diego!)
Is target marketing a new fad?
No. Although the tools and techniques behind target marketing have become more fine-grained, the basic premise of qualifying your audience has been around pretty much since the beginning.
Take early TV advertising, for example (like you see in Mad Men). Ads focused on appealing to stay-at-home-moms would be broadcast around the early afternoon; ads focused on appealing to professionals would air early in the evening after the news. Why? Because they knew something about their audiences’ behavior — their schedule and daily habits, as well as what they were likely to buy.
So what does this mean to me?
Accurately qualifying a buyer is actually hard work. It might be easy to have a reasonably clear idea of the type of people who would be the right buyers, but how do you go out there and apply marketing tactics that neatly get to your profiled buyers and filter out those who are unqualified?
Spending time to identify your audiences and how to reach them is key to effective marketing and optimizing your cost of acquisition. Understanding your buyers is crucial: their industry segments, their typical behaviors, their common interests. Where do your buyers spend their time? Do they frequent industry events and tradeshows? How do they obtain their information? Do they read industry journals, engage on social media, participate in interest groups?
Being able to profile your buyer enables you to know who your buyer is and understanding their behavior gives you clues for how to reach them.