So you decided to start a business.
How we look at The SHOP right now.
That’s awesome! Seriously, forget all that crap about work history gaps and interviews that end the second ‘military spouse’ flops onto the table.
Be the boss. Hire yourself. Get that money. Right?
Well yes…and no.
Before all that can happen you’ve got a bunch of loose ends to tie up. Becoming an entrepreneur is a lot like relocating as a milspouse. You’ve got to consider every single aspect of your household, make decisions on what stays and what goes, make sure things are marked and labeled, coordinate with movers and schools on both sides, get the proper documentation and…and…and…
The list goes on and on. It can be a nightmare (I’m a milbrat. I’ve lived it.) if you don’t have some sort of system in place.
Enter PCS packouts.
Do a search and find countless checklists, made by other milspouses, that walk you through herding all those moving pieces together in an orderly, efficient way. When done correctly, it’s a beautiful thing.
Your brand is the same way. You’ve got to break the construction phase down into key pieces, then break those pieces into smaller, more manageable bites. When you do this, making the move from ‘employee’ to ‘boss’ can actually be a pleasant experience.
Whether you brand packout or not, you’ve got to create one.
See, you can have the greatest product to sell. You can even have the skills to elevate you to superstardom. You can be the best at what you do…
…and you can STILL fail. Miserably.
In nearly fifteen years of professional experience, I’ve learned a very simple truth. Success is determined not by who you know, but who knows you.
Meaning, if nobody knows you exist, no one’s going to pay to keep you in business. They literally can’t. Which is why marketing, the act of communicating with your customers, is so important.
But here’s the thing. If you speak to customers, but aren’t speaking to the RIGHT audience in the right way, what good are you?
Let’s look at it another way. You’re a doctor. The best…hmm…cancer doctor on the planet.
Only no one in the cancer community has ever heard of you.
Oh, you also live in a small village in a tropical rainforest that has never been in contact with the rest of the world.
On the weekends you style hair while giving relationship advice.
What good would you and your skills be to the people suffering?
Guys in order to build a business that succeeds you need a cohesive brand. One that knows the problem it needs to solve because it was designed for a particular group of people. Your brand needs to know what makes this group tick so your marketing can deliver the proper message.
What’s their daily life like?
What motivates them?
These are the things you’ve got to find out.
To do that, you need to define your target audience. And as always, I’ve got a few simple steps to get you started.
Now it’s important to remember that you can go as deep as you want into the research of your audience. The hard thing is figuring out where to start.
But starting is essential. Starting is the only way to get where you want to be. Since my mission is to build the best milspouse brands on the planet, I’m going to walk you through this sometimes overwhelming step.
Step 1: Who’s gonna’ use your product or service. Find your User Audience
This one might seem strange, but you really need to take a second and think, “What person/s are actually going to consume what I create?”
This does two things. One, it helps identify your ‘User group. From there you can figure out what features they want or need in your product or service. Product development depends on finding this audience.
The audience we’re trying to find, however, is your brand audience. Simply put, your brand audience is the group that’s going to put the dollars in your bank account. They’re your Buyers.
Sometime Users and Buyers are the same group. Often they aren’t. This concept is the killer of many startups.
Now, like a lot of other sites, I could cut it off here and leave you with ‘what you need and conveniently skip ‘how to get it’. That’s the easy road.
I don’t intend to be like other sites.
So, ya, I’ma tell you the how to find both types of audience. We’ll stick with our User Audience for now
Step 2: Get comfy with Demographics
Big words. Simple ideas.
To understand a particular group, know what makes up their life. The quickest way to begin is with demographics.
Demographics are the characteristics of your audience that determine their ABILITY to purchase. Use the big indicators of age, location, occupation/income, race, religion, gender, family size, ethnicity and education.
Think about it like this. A forty-five year old male, computer science engineer that works in Silicon Valley making $120,000/yr has greater ABILITY to buy than a seventeen year old male in high school who works at the same company sweeping floors.
What if that computer engineer had seven kids, two of them in college? What if the seventeen year old had no responsibilities like rent or bills? Who potentially has the greater ability to purchase on a regular basis now?
What if we get rid of the seventeen year old and compare two forty-five year olds, both engineers, same education, no kids, but one lives in Altus, Oklahoma? More tornados than tech in the Okie Doke, ya know?
Also quakenados are a thing. Just sayin’.
Basically, yeah, demographics are kinda’ important.
Now there’s several ways to find demographic data. I like to start with gender and age because both will drastically narrow your audience down. Great bang for your buck.
With gender, pick which sex will use your stuff most. Pretty easy, right?
*Note: If your product is for both genders equally, it can’t be one of your leading indicators.
Once that’s done move on to ages. You’ll look specifically at Generational Profiles.
You’ve heard the titles; Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, etc. There’s a ton of research out there but a quick overview looks like this:
- Gen I (Born 1996 and later): Also ‘Gen Z’ or the internet generation. These are the children of young boomers. Demographics are still in the works for this new group. What you need to know is they are the only ones born fully in the internet era. Their parents are way more accepting of this technology than previous generations.
- Gen Y (Born 1977 to 1995): Children of boomers. The US has migrated to higher costs of living in their day, leaving many to live at home. With a whopping 75 million large population and disposable income to burn (thanks mom and dad) they are a marketing goldmine right now. Also, because they were raised with computers, internet campaigns work incredibly well. Brand loyal, Gen Yers like fresh marketing approaches and quirky humor.
- Gen X (Born 1965 to 1976): Perhaps the most overlooked, 44 million Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1975 are pushing into their best buying years. Tech-savvy, they love to shop. High values are placed on education and knowledge. Gen Xers don’t care about brands. They want quality and value. You’ve really got to sell the value of your work with this group.
- Boomers (Born 1946 to 1964): The buying power of this 76 million-strong group is insane. On average boomers spend $400 billion more per year than any other generation. They’re lives are diverse. Some are empty nesters. Some are grandparents, single or married, etc. What binds them is the drive and ability to see through advertising gimmicks and discover the true value of a product. In the next decade or so, Boomer populations will grow by 80 percent. Be careful how you label them. ‘Old’ (they will be majority over 60) is not a good term to use. Give em’ the Peter Pan syndrome.
“And my tights are LulaRoe!”
Figure out when your user audience was born and plug them into one of those generational profiles.
Sweet! You’ve just done your first bit of market research.
Once you’ve figured out which generation your users belong to you can move on to the other indicators. Use the Census Bureau’s website for detailed demographic info. Most of your initial research can be done here. Clicking on “State and County Quick Facts” for instance, shows you county-by-county demographic information.
Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Consumer Expenditure Survey (click “consumer spending”). This is an annual sample of 5,000 households to find out how families and individuals spend their hard-earned cheese.
He’s got a name, babe. It’s Andrew. He’s focusing on his art at the moment.
What’s the point of all that data though? How do you read it?
Glad you asked! Basically, make mini stories. If you live in a county, look it up. Find out the population and which industries are the top dogs. That’ll let you pull together a small piece of your story.
If a county has a large technology industry then you know many folks are probably employed by a tech company. If that’s true you can then find out the average salary for your area in that field. If those tech employees end up being your target audience, then you can make a more stable assumption about their income levels, education (most jobs have an education requirement), marital status, where they eat regularly (think popular lunch spots) etc. You start to get a sense of their everyday life.
You can use a variety of methods to start filling out your demographics. Use them to slowly start painting a portrait of your user audience and the things that make up their power to pay.
- SimplyMap: Use it when you need demographic and marketing data for a specific geographic region in the U.S. (city, county, census tract, or ZIP code).
- Competitors: Chances are, if someone else in your niche is doing well they’ve figured out their demographics. Look at similar businesses and see who they’re talking to.
- It’s okay guys. Be a creeper. Stalk their social media accounts, read their blogs and especially the comments. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
- County Business Patterns: Provides info on areas with large numbers of specific businesses
- Nielsen MyBestSegments: Understand an area’s demographic info and lifestyle. You can find out which places are receptive to a campaign or launch or trends in the area that have shifted.
- Social Mention: Social Mention is a real-time social media search engine. Learn what your prospective customers are talking about online.
Step 3: Learn what motivates your ‘User’ audience
Okay, so you’ve figured out the demographics. They told you WHO the audience is. Your next move is to find out ‘why’ your audience makes decisions. What makes them tick in the mind and in the heart?
This is called Psychographics.
Psychographics is the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. There’s no hard formula here. These are intangible characteristics that need a bit of…creative thinking to work out.
When you’re just beginning to build a brand, or if you’re rebranding, the best way to start finding the psychographics of your user audience is through interest and attitude.
Understanding interests and attitudes is easy.
Example: If I spend every day after work visiting the aquarium, logically there’s a good chance I’m INTERESTED in marine life.
Or your name’s Liam and you’re using a very specific set of skills to find this dude.
Why? Because most people have a choice of after work activities. Assuming the person doesn’t have a second job at the aquarium or some kind of necessity to be there, then they are visiting the facility to satisfy an interest of pleasure.
Attitudes kinda’ follow the same path. If a person says they hate long sleeves and warm clothes, they probably have a negative attitude about warm seasons and locations. This can be extremely important for many businesses, like clothing and tourism companies.
I mean really, would you make sweaters your business if your target audience lived in scorching Florida (demographics) and absolutely hated winter months (psychographics)?
“Alright, Reggie, good info. Psychographics are the bomb,” you might be saying. “But how do I find this stuff?”
Well, it ain’t easy folks. I’ll say that. But you don’t have to be a marketing guru to start. Basically you’ve got to do some stalking and relationship building.
Yes, entrepreneurship makes you a creeper. And the best place for creepers is…yup. Social media.
Listening to the conversations of your User audience is essential to really digging into your potential customers. Use demographic indicators as keywords to search for Facebook groups and pages to join. Their interactions can be a goldmine of interests, attitudes and opinions.
Interviews and surveys are also key tactics to pry open your psychographics. The trick is to move from lurking on those boards to participating. Start commenting on posts. Offer valuable tips or advice. Let them know you’re there but…
Trying to sell without understanding this group, having a relationship with them or even knowing if they’re your target audience is just stupid. Guys, don’t do it. Focus on listening first and then being valuable.
When you’ve gained their trust start asking the leaders that emerge in the group boards for interviews. Ask questions that will deliver psychographic answers about interests, hobbies, opinions on current events and lifestyles. Be patient and be honest about your intentions.
Do the same with surveys. Make sure it’s okay to poll the members first.
Step 4: Learn who your ‘Buyer’ audience is.
Okay now by this point we’ve got some serious data to work with. Like I said, you can get as specific as you want but this is to get ya’ going.
So far, we’ve been looking at User audiences; the group that will (duh) use your service or product. That’s for a reason.
Earlier I mentioned that your users can be the same as your buying audience. If they are, then guess what? You’re done. Move on to Step 5.
If your buyers aren’t your user, however, then you’ve got to dig a little deeper to find them. The only way to do that is by having something to dig into in the first place. That’s why we worked out the Users first.
See, Users determine who your product is for and what features it needs. You won’t make money without satisfying them. But by researching the demographics and psychographics of those users, you can also find out who your product’s buyer will be.
Look at everything you’ve collected. It’s time to ask some questions.
- Does your user want to buy for themselves?
- Does your user have an ability to pay for what you offer?
- If not, who can/will purchase for them?
- Why would this group buy for your user?
- Are there people who influence this group? If so, what do THEY want?
Any educators out there? Here’s a quick example.
Do you have an awesome educational resource that will resonate with high school students? Great. But who cares about what you’re selling? The students forced to consume it or the parents who want the best opportunities for their kids?
What if you make children’s action figures? Research reveals that kids tell parents their wants and parents buy for them. In that case, target the kids and their desires with your marketing. Parents might open the purse, but they won’t research anything about the item except price. They simply don’t care. All they want is a satisfied child. It’s the kids who do the marketing for you, raving about how happy your newest ninja-flippin’ robot turkey would make them.
In this case the user actually is your target audience. No, they won’t buy from you. They have no income to spend. But they INFLUENCE the buyers who otherwise could care less about what you have on offer.
If you find out you’ve got a different Buyer Audience, then you need to repeat the research process done for the User Audience. Find their demographics and psychographics.
That will lead you to the final stage in the target audience identification process.
Step 5: Build your Customer Avatar
Inside joke for my nerds out there. Yip, yip.
Stay with me here. If you skip out on Customer Avatars you’re shooting your own foot.
An avatar is a representation. That’s all it is. In the world of branding and marketing, an avatar is a representation of your ideal customer.
What you want to do is take every piece of relevant information from the research above and create a person. Yup, an actual (fake) person.
Seriously. Give em’ a name. What’s their hair color?
Write out where they live. Include what state, city, county and neighborhood they reside in. Remember, this isn’t just guess work. Use what you’ve collected.
Are they married? How long? Are they happily married?
Kids? Tell how many. List their ages.
Where do they work? Did they need a degree to start?
You can really start seeing a person emerge in this stage. That’s exactly what you want. When you’ve got a good avatar, you’ve given yourself someone to ‘talk’ to with your marketing voice. You become comfortable, authentic and impactful in your brand’s tone and speech when you know who your avatar is, what their issues are and how you can solve them.
And your audience will learn to accept and trust you as ‘one of the tribe’.
Don’t worry about selling to them. Focus on their problems and how to communicate your solutions in a language they understand. The money will follow.
Whoo! Guys I know that was a lot. But I truly, truly believe no brand will work if the target audience is wrong.
As a Military Spouse entrepreneur you need to become very comfortable with this type of market research. With the constant relocations you all deal with it needs to be common practice to peep the scene of your new residence.
The habits and makeup of your customers will change when you enter a new city, state or region. Interests and activities change. Opinions and attitudes vary. Don’t assume you can pack and carry your old audience profiles with you and be as effective in the next locale.
Research. Work. Dig deep.
The life you want is right around the corner. Are you ready to go for it?
See ya next time, guys.