Take Cues from the Big Guys, Target Your Marketing to the Proper Clients

Currently there are about eight pounds of targeted marketing examples piled on my kitchen counter. We’ve had a steady stream of house guests over the last several months. When it comes to care and feeding of guests, mine are pretty much free-range until we all come together at dinner. Most of them bring in their own breakfast, lunch, and snack staples for their visit and leave the food behind when they go. I spent yesterday afternoon rooting through the kitchen cupboards, hauling out the duplicates, the expired, the stale, and the what-is-this. The prevailing overstock was quick-cook oatmeal. I don’t know if my guests had concerns about their glycemic index or what. But I was struck by how all this oatmeal could be divided into three distinct categories. Which, of course, made me think of you.

Yes, I am equating your practice to oatmeal. Seeing the boxes and bags of oatmeal all together made me think seriously about how marketers talk to their customers and who they are talking to. You are marketers for your practice. Pay attention to the big guys; they’ve had a lot of practice.

Here are the three groups I was talking about:

  1. Quaker Oats
  2. Grocery Store Brand
  3. A lonely, much re-used plastic bag of oats from the local co-op bulk bin.

Looking at these groups, I can tell you exactly which of my guests bought what:

  1. The massive canisters of Quaker Oats were purchased by 60+-year-old women who have been buying that brand their whole lives. They ate it as children and they fed it to their families. It’s an automatic, instinctive purchase. They don’t even think about it any more. They care about their families, they care about comfort, and they feel all right spending a little extra money for it.
  2. The store brand was bought by folks who believe oats are oats. They all taste the same; they all come from the same place. Why should anyone pay extra for a brand name? They care about value and don’t want a lot of folderal.
  3. The bag from the co-op bulk bin is from someone who thinks that if oats are oats, they may as well be bought from a local business. These folks want to avoid paying for excess packaging. They usually care about how their money is spent and who it goes to. They are willing to spend a little extra time and/or money to get products that have less impact on their environment.

So who does Quaker Oats target when they market? Moms. Nostalgic moms. They have ads at wintertime evoking memories of oatmeal warming you up before you went out into the cold to walk uphill to school both ways. Don’t you want the same protection for your kids?

Store brands are all about value. There are big signs when you enter a store talking up the store brand and little signs by many of the individual items. The signs tell you it’s the same stuff as the national brand; it’s just as good. The store’s is less expensive. “You could pay more, but why?”

How bulk bins are marketed is hard for me to define. Now that I come to think about it, I was strong-armed into buying bulk by a rabid environmentalist housemate. Perhaps it is mostly word-of-mouth. And peer-pressure. “Who brought in the box of individually packaged servings? Shun! Shun!”

People who sell items even as innocuous as oatmeal think really hard about who they are trying to reach. They do concentrated studies of purchases in every region. They know exactly what their customers want to hear and how they want to hear it. These marketers are so good, they can point to a market shopper and say, “That one will buy our brand.”

When you know who your clients are, you can be as effective — both time- and money-wise — as these multi-billion dollar companies. Take some time to write down who your ideal client is. Really. Make a list.

My ideal client: wears jeans and t-shirts, hikes, gardens, tries to eat well, demands a good cheeseburger and beer on occasion, drives a fuel efficient car, is educated, has a sense of humor, works hard, will splurge on fabulous karma-free chocolate, shops at the local market, etc, etc.

Once you know who you want to talk to, you know how to talk to them — what words to use, where to place your marketing, what they will want from you. Make your list. Talk to the people who match it.