Target market research: put your customer first

target market research

For the next few weeks we’re working our way together through creating a marketing campaign for a personal goal. The series began with How to choose a goal for your back-to-school marketing campaign.

If I’ve learned anything at all from studying marketing it’s that the process is not random. The thousands of ads we’re exposed to every day are specifically designed to push the buttons of the demographic those marketers have decided to target — you.

The problem with many of our attempts to influence ourselves is that they’re much more generic than that. We exhort ourselves to eat less, exercise more, or save money without putting nearly as much thought into who we are and why we would do that as the people who sell us bathroom tissue. We try to change ourselves instead of understanding ourselves.

Social marketers — who apply the principles of commercial marketing to behavior changes in populations — would never operate that way, because it wouldn’t work. Instead, they’ve learned to pay very careful attention to what customers want, what they actually do, or what is keeping them from acting:

Social marketers are fanatically customer-centered in their strategies and tactics. They do not seek to persuade target audiences to do what the marketer believes they ought to do…Rather, they recognize that customers only take action when they believe that it is in their interests. Social marketing persuasion strategies therefor always start with an understanding of the target audiences’s needs and wants, their values, their perceptions. Social marketers do not start out with an assumption that their job is to change the customer to conform with the marketer. They recognize that they must often change their social marketing offerings and the way these are presented to meet target customer needs and wants.

–Marketing Social Change (Andreasen 1995)

Some of the techniques market researchers will use at this stage are interviews, focus groups, psychological testing, and brain imaging (seriously!). All of them are designed to find out who you are and what motivates you to do stuff. However they go about it, both commercial and social marketers meticulously study the population they believe to be their target consumers prior to launching an ad campaign to find out what drives them, inspires them, scares them, and motivates them; in other words, what makes them tick. If our messaging is going to have any chance to compete in this environment, we must try to do the same thing.

The market research hack

This week we’re going to throw out the shoulds — the things you think should motivate you — and get real honest about the kind of things that actually do get you moving.

First ask yourself questions about the big picture. Who are you? What do you care about? What makes you happy? What do you worry about? What do you fear? What do you enjoy? How do you like to spend your time? What do you do instead? What and who are important influences on you? What do they want you to do? What kinds of things make you feel good about yourself? What makes you feel anything at all?

Now focus in on the specific goal you’ve chosen to work on. Why did you identify this particular goal to work on at this time? What makes it important to you? How would your life be better if it came true? How will it be a problem for you if it doesn’t? How will accomplishing it (or not) affect the people you care about?

It’s also very important to identify the barriers you see to achieving your goal, so that your marketing campaign can address them. Why do you think you have not done this thing so far? Why don’t you want to do it? What are the problems? What makes it hard for you?

Finally, what strengths and weaknesses do you bring to the process of working on this goal? What are your super powers? (And, of course, where is your kryptonite?)

Your action steps

  1. Observe yourself compassionately and non-critically for a few days and think about the questions in this article. Suspend judgment; just notice who you are.
  2. Also read the article Target market research (It’s all about you) to learn more about how and why to do market research on yourself.
  3. Then focus your attention on the specific goal you’ve chosen for your fall marketing campaign. (You have chosen a goal, haven’t you?) Ask yourself the questions above in relation to your goal.
  4. If you’re inclined to journaling, write down your answers.
  5. Check back Monday for your next step

Other articles in this series

  • Week 1 – Choose a goal
  • Week 2 – Do market research on yourself
  • Week 3 – Write a slogan for the campaign
  • Week 4 – Take a picture of yourself having the outcome you want
  • Week 5 – Analyze the competition
  • Week 6 – Decide how to position your behavior change
  • Week 7 – Choose a prop to enlist the people around you to talk about your goal
  • Week 8 – Look for opportunities to simulate the experience/outcome you want
  • Week 9 – Make and deliver your personal ad
  • Week 10 – Project wrap-up

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