Good marketing is all about focus, which is why task number one in the marketing playbook is often: ‘Can you define your target market?’ Not just in broadly descriptive terms, but in ways that differentiate your market from the common herd – that give you a proper target at which to aim?
But having defined them – who they are, what they are – do you know where they are? Do you know where they live, where they work, where they shop, where they holiday? Because if you don’t know where they are, then everything else you understand about them as individuals won’t help you reach them.
After all, you’re fishing for prospects. And you can have all the information in the world about fish – what they look like, what their eating habits are, their lifecycle – and all of that will help you, for sure – but if you don’t know where they are, which part of the ocean, which stretch of the river they like to hang out in – you’re still not going to catch any. And – let’s be honest – that information is pretty critical (whether in fishing or marketing) and guesswork isn’t going to help much.
But maybe you’re thinking… this is old hat isn’t it? We all live digital lives now! Location doesn’t matter any more! We all hang in the metaverse now, boomer!
Well… yes and no. Like it or not the physical world will be with us for a while. We will all continue to occupy physical space, very often at the same time as we’re occupying virtual space. So I might be exclusively working and socialising in the cloud, but whether I’m doing that from my home or from a Starbucks in Manchester or a train between London and Birmingham could be of great interest to businesses that want my custom – such as Starbucks (or Costa!) or Avanti trains. Their marketing, and that of many businesses, depends on understanding where people like me are, and how we’re moving around.
To put it another way, the old mantra, ‘location, location, location’ still counts for something. And not just in terms of targeting individuals.
For example: I sometimes daydream about opening a cafe. This isn’t going to be an old style caff (though there will always be plenty of room for those!) I’m thinking of something pretty fancy in terms of the environment, the quality of the coffee I offer, the patisseries that I stock and so on.
I have a pretty good image of my target market – through the day it’s people who have plenty of time on their hands, who want somewhere to dawdle over a good coffee and some nice cakes and snacks, and who don’t mind spending in exchange for quality and a nice environment. Maybe I’ll open in the evening too, and offer nice cocktails, craft beers and small plate meals.
So I can visualise my market very clearly. I fancy I could make a decent fist of defining it in terms of social class, disposable income, gender mix and so on. But where are they? And is there a way of visualising my market in such a way that I can build some ideas about where I might locate my business? And where it might be worth promoting it to increase footfall and spend? That’s knowledge and insight that’s not so anecdotal. But it’s important!
Because if I can get an idea of where my target market is, then I can start planning the rollout and promotion of my business in a way that best secures my investment – where I‘m most likely to maximise that return, while minimising waste on (for example) advertising that will never hit my target market. I’ll be in business! (I’m already rubbing my hands!)
But wait… there’s more to be considered here… maybe I’ve found (superficially at least) a great location for my fancy-pants cafe… but there’s other context to be considered. Maybe it’s so great that there’s one (or two, or three) there already! So can we modify the picture to show competition too? And if there’s no competition, is there a good reason for that? Is it a social and commercial desert with little in the way of pedestrian traffic? Is it a dormitory area that empties during the day? All of these factors are physical but will contribute greatly to the likely success of my business and are the kind of insights that will help develop my ideas about how I want to roll it out – particularly if I can access and visualise them in an easy and intuitive way.
In the rush to digital, important though it is, the physical hasn’t gone away. For many, in fact, the amount of time they spend online has made them value their offline experiences all the more. But meeting that demand requires a close understanding of not just market preferences, but market location and movement – solid factual data, but importantly, data that will ground an airy marketing concept and go a long way to proving its likely value before too many dollars are spent.
Take a look for more on understanding and accessing market and location demographics.