The number one rule in marketing

The number one rule in marketing (IMHO) has to be to put yourself in your customers shoes. Fail to do this and your marketing will not work.

Do it well and you can get the product, price, message and content correct.

Little Girl in Mums Shoes

Putting yourself in your customers or audiences shoes is about understanding everything to do with their interactions with you from their perspective. You may have heard the phrase to ‘map out your customer journey’ and this is without a doubt a key element of the process, but you also need to understand why they buy from you, why they engage with you and what they value about you.

Segment > Target > Position 

One of the common themes in marketing education is around segmentation, targeting and positioning. This concept has been around since the 50s and is about grouping your customers. 

The aim of this grouping (or segmentation) is to identify people who have a need or specific needs in common that are all met by your product. You are identifying groups with similar needs, interests, behaviour, and values. Once you have segmented your potential market, you then need to choose which of those segments you are going to target. That isn’t to say you won’t serve the other groups, but it means that your marketing is talking specifically to your target segment or segments. 

You can do this by working out which ones have needs that are best met by your products and services. You will then find it easier to target these than a broad range of potential customers with very little in common.  

The positioning part is then how you place your brand in the minds of your target segment (or niche) which relates to their perceptions of your brand and the services you offer. It is easier to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience if they are more targeted, making your messaging and potentially the products and services you offer easier to develop.

Girl dresses up as mum

How can you do this?

Start by looking at your current customers, or even the ones you want to work with most. Firstly, understand the problems you think you solve for those customers, then look at why you think they use you rather than anyone else. You can thereafter assess other elements they may have in common such as shared values, behaviour or demographics.

You then need to make sure that your assumptions are true. This involves having conversations with current customers (or even past customers who don’t buy from you anymore) to sense check if the assumptions you’ve made are correct, or if in fact there is another reason why they choose you and your products. You could do this as a survey online, in an email or by picking up the phone.


Moving this into your marketing

The first thing is to look at whether the products and services you provide meet the needs of your audience or whether they could be refined to better meet those needs. 

Your brand personality also needs to reflect your audience – by that I mean that the tone of voice you use and the values you hold – these key elements of your brand need to resonate with your audience. Not everyone is going to buy into what you say and not everyone is going to agree with you, and that’s okay. The idea is to make sure the way that you behave, what you say and the products you offer resonate with the people that you want to connect with.

Think of it like a relationship

Think about the places you go (or want to go) most, the shops you buy from most and the services you use most.  The product is important, but it is more than that. It’s an emotional connection – a relationship. 

So putting yourself in your audience’s shoes is seeing the relationship from their perspective. This needs to feed into everything from that first interaction as they become aware of you throughout the buying process and even post sale if you want to build customers you are loyal and go on to become advocates. 

If you want to be fun, build something fun to entice people in, use gamification in your communications and do not take yourself too seriously.  Want to be conscientious? Ensure you are transparent about your supply chain, partnerships and don’t be afraid to take a stand on ethical issues.  If community is your thing, get involved with local schools, charities or events. Show your customers what you are about. 

Take Pukka Herbal Tea as an example.  They are big on sustainability, ethical behaviour and overall wellbeing. This comes through in the packaging for their products, in what they put out on social media and in their website. They are also able to use their brand to influence their audience, the people who buy their tea and get involved in important topics that matter to them, such as sustainability. This doesn’t mean getting involved in every political conversation, but it does mean you can raise awareness of certain issues and signpost your audience to other places to get more information. You could also partner with other organisations that have the same values and audience. 

Emails that resonate

One area where I think it’s particularly important to ensure you put yourself in your audiences’ shoes is with your email marketing as this can be such a hugely powerful channel. If you are not thinking about what is going to be important to your audience, the values they hold and what they’re going to be interested in, you will lose both them and the ability to communicate with them on this one-to-one basis. 

So when you sit down to plan your emails, ask yourself, how can I add value? Why should they care about this? What’s in it for my subscribers?  Think beyond promotions and offers – consider how you can get involved in the conversation, how you can engage with their values and deliver something which gives them that warm fuzzy feeling about your brand .

starbucks personalised cups

In summary 

If you don’t know who your target audience is and you don’t know why they buy from you, you must establish this first. You have probably heard of audience personas – these are a great way to understand which segments you are targeting with your products and services. Use this information to inform and position your brand and services in a way that resonates with your audience, that matters to them and that ultimately creates a connection that will last.