In West Virginia, fishing is a popular pastime. We have a lot of great rivers and lakes with an abundance of fish. Trout, bass … you name it, there are trophy fish hiding somewhere in one of the myriad nooks and crannies nestled in between our beautiful forested mountains.
Many of us grew up on a lake, river or stream, with a fishing rod in our hands. We learned from our fathers and grandfathers — or like me, from my father-in-law, Terry — how to pick the right lure or bait, the weight of line we needed and, most importantly, where we were most likely to find the kind of fish we wanted for supper that night.
Fish are a lot like people. They have favorite food and favorite places to hang out. They act in specific ways and respond differently at different times under different conditions. Every type of fish is unique, and if you want to catch bass, for example, then you have to know where bass are and what they like to eat. If you don’t use the right lure, in the right place, at the right time, then you probably aren’t going to catch bass. You might end up with a carp. And chances are, you don’t want to catch a carp.
The same is true for people. Different types of people have unique habits, likes, dislikes, needs and desires. They congregate in unique, specific places. They get information from distinct sources and spend their money on certain things that others may not.
If you want to catch a certain type of person, the kind of person who would make a great customer for your business, then you have to know what they like and don’t like, where they go and don’t go, what they want and don’t want. In essence — you have to know your audience.
Why is Knowing My Audience Important?
When I talk with most business owners and ask them about their audience and their target market, I usually ask them this — who are the people their business can uniquely meet the needs of?
Often, the owner will reply, “Everyone!” And that’s understandable. Every business would like to believe that every person on the planet would benefit from the service they provide, but the reality is that this is just not the case. “Everyone” is not your audience, and, in fact, the more general your target audience is, the less likely you are to attract any customers at all.
Let’s return to the fishing analogy for a moment. If I set out to catch “fish,” my target is quite broad. And therefore, I might use a lure that is attractive to bass but end up in a place where only trout hang out, at a time when the only fish around are blue gill. The result is I don’t catch anything.
However, if I know that I want bass, then I can choose the right lure, line, place and time. My chances for success go way up. But none of that is possible unless I narrow down and identify my target.
This illustrates some of the reasons why knowing your audience is important as a business owner. The most important reason is that if you know your audience, you will be in a better position to catch them. If you know their likes, dislikes, the things they care about, where they go, how they communicate and get information, then you will be able to position yourself in such a way that they can’t help but be “caught.” If you want to catch the right kind of customer, then it is vital that you know who they are, how they act and where they live, among other things.
The key take-away here is this: Don’t waste any of your limited resources on customers you don’t even want to catch. If you know your audience, you won’t waste money talking to people who don’t need what you have to offer.
When we are more on target, reaching the right people, with the right message, at the right time, then everyone wins.
I hope this article challenges and encourages you to think about how you’re targeting your ideal customers. Give it a try! As always, be sure to keep your message clear and simple so your message cuts through the noise. And go fishing in one of our great West Virginia waters this weekend. Better yet, take a kid fishing!
Until next time …
Parts of this column are adapted from Matuga’s book, Rocket Fuel.
Jim Matuga is founder and CEO of InnerAction Media, a marketing agency in Morgantown. He is a graduate of West Virginia University and is a 37-year resident of West Virginia. He has extensive experience in leadership positions with media companies in newspaper, TV, cable, direct mail, radio and digital.