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We all need more customers. Growing top line revenue is survival. Without setting the table, you have no chance to make a profit, or even just stay in the game. With so much hype around the internet and social media, more established forms of marketing are being discounted. Yet the elevation of social media, which is a tactic, as an end all, be all strategy to reach your customer, does a disservice to those who must plot the direction of their company’s marketing efforts.

No where is this more apparent than in small business where owners and managers are bombarded by sales pitches for different types of tactics. Some owners will be swayed by a good pitch and buy the tactic. Others will not feel comfortable and will not do anything. If neither of these persons has identified their customer, neither choice is helpful to their business.

People Buy on Emotion

Who is your customer? That is the single most important question you will ask in your business life. If you’re smart, you’ll ask it again and again because the answer is always changing. Most owners never ask it. The majority answer ‘anyone’. You can’t market to ‘anyone’ or everyone. When you try to do that, you’re really marketing to NO one. That is because people buy for emotional reasons, not logic. It’s not enough to find your customers, you have to give them reasons or at least know the reasons they buy. Without knowing them deeper than income and marital status, it’s hard to know what their reasons are.

Who is your customer? This is the real place to start in setting your strategy. Choose your customer. Understand their demographics. Learn what they like. Do they watch American Idol or Frontline? What generation are they? What entertainments do they like? Collecting this information is another puzzle piece in the picture of who they are. The more pieces you add, the clearer the picture becomes.

As an Example

In this regard I’m reminded of the late Charles Lewis, also known as ‘The Mask’. He built his business exclusively by learning what his customers wanted. He was part of their culture and understood, at his core, what they thought was cool. It was a short step to making things that they would buy. Before his death, Mr. Lewis was running Tapout, a $100 million business.

Salespeople push Facebook pages and social media as if they are displacing everything else. Remember these tactics only make sense if your customers are on Facebook. A good SEO ranking only helps you if people are looking for you on the internet. What if your customer likes to get information about your kind of business from their friends? What if they only use the internet for e-mail? These preferences are knowable. To the extent that you take the time to educate yourself about them, you are stacking the deck in your favor.

Traditional Media Still Works

And don’t count out traditional media. Generation X likes mailers and coupon books. They like to learn about new things on the internet, but they’ll read advertising sent to them. Many don’t trust the internet or Facebook. If they are your customer, Facebook is a waste and anything beyond search engine optimization for your website is probably not warranted. It all depends on the habits and preferences of who you’re trying to reach.

Dig for information about your customers on the Internet. Learn about their habits and tendencies. Find out what your customers read. If they read People, you should read it too. If they read Lancet, there should be a copy on your desk. Find out the gadgets they buy and the types of vacations they take. What do they respect and love. All of this information will help you build a common currency with them. With this understanding, you are ready to set strategy and select your tactics.

Now your message will be written just to them, regardless of the medium used. Show you understand who they are and what they value and they will hear it.