One of the best pieces of advice any business owner can receive is to specialize. Be it in the medical field or as a chef, it’s really the niche markets that prove to be profitable. Yet so many places try to please everyone only ending up with a few mildly happy individuals instead of a strong, multitudinous collection of brand champions.
As it turns out, finding this niche is more about understanding your customers and the stories that would ultimately drive them to you. Known as the customer journey, these stories are how you better market to the audience you know will be a solid foundation for your company, be it the mom that forever needs dependable detergent or the young adult looking to fit in. Isolate these, and you’ll isolate your core market.
Becoming the Customer
Before spending whatever you can on a full marketing campaign, sit back and envision the numerous customer journeys that would ultimately lead customers to you. Why would they ever need your brand? Keep in mind that the answer doesn’t have to be a single event. This brainstorming period should bring in every moment you and your team can think of that would result in the purchase of your goods. Only after you have a complete list should you whittle down rarer instances in favor of those that are more common.
Let’s imagine you sell Chapstick. While it certainly is plausible that someone had their Chapstick taken from them by airport security on their trip down to Florida now leaving them mildly upset, such a situation is rather specific and won’t apply to everyone. Instead, a better choice would be going with the story of a person that is forgetful and has misplaced their Chapstick. Rather than wasting time searching, it would be much easier to simply buy another one.
Going further with this idea, you’ll also want to verify that the story you pick also matches the purpose of your product. Continuing with the Chapstick idea, following a customer journey of someone losing theirs would be a perfect fit if your Chapstick is then marketed as a revolutionary new design that lessens the chance it will be lost in the future. If that’s not your angle, a forgetful customer isn’t going to be your ideal niche audience.
It could also be that perhaps that person isn’t a Chapstick user but maybe they have dry lips because of something they’re experiencing (nervousness, transition from humid weather to a dry climate, outdoors all day for any number of reasons). Is there a package that meets their needs during their journey that would be something they would consider?
Apart from collecting anecdotes from your coworkers, it’s always a great idea to reach out to the community itself. If you have an idea of what angle you might want to shoot for, find out if it’s viable by questioning current and potential customers. If you’re coming from a blank slate, simply ask for stories. Once collected, you can sift through everything to try and pinpoint a common thread that the current market is failing to optimize. By taking advantage of this by building your brand to fill that gap, you’ve found yourself a specific purpose that will drive business. From there, you can expand safely.
The stories you go after don’t have to be in the form of complaints. They could come from a simple, “why did you choose x brand?” or “what made you go with x instead of y?” This way, you can gather a plethora of emotions, as well. Not every brand wants to fear monger and not every brand wants to paint the world as an always happy utopia. That being said, like the stories being able to potentially point out a weakness, these stories can also potentially point out an emotional state that the customer base lives in. Though you don’t have to use this exactly, it can be a great compass and give a starting point to even consider looking at what the “opposite” of that situation is and how that draws in or is a part of your customer’s story.
Like most great businesses, to know your audience is to know yourself, and to know your audience, you must first figure out their motivation to seek you out above all other brands. Once discovered, this tiny message is enough to build an entire ad campaign off of that uses emotions and shared experiences to drive company success. With the major brands already using these customer journeys to stay ahead of the curve, it’s not impossible for a smaller brand to head in the same direction in a quest for prominence.