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Ask the experts: Create messages that resonate with customers

By Virginia Bridges
vbridges@newsobserver.com
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  • Video online

    Wendy Coulter explains what small-business owners should consider when they start identifying their target market at http://bit.ly/LwffO0.



Identifying and understanding your target market is a significant step in establishing a strong marketing message that resonates with customers, said Wendy Coulter, CEO of Hummingbird Creative Group, a full-service branding firm in Cary.

“Target market is not anyone who will buy your product or service,” Coulter said.

A target market is an individual or company that is going to benefit the most from your products or services, she said.

Owners first need to identify their customer base’s demographics, she said.

Business-to-consumer companies should look at the average age of their customer base, along with gender, marital status, number of children, income, education and occupation. Business-to-business company owners need to look at their customers’ location, industry, how long they have been in business, the number of branches and employees, and their annual revenue.

Coulter said while she loves working with startups, they sometimes need extra help that they can’t afford, so her company started targeting businesses with higher revenue brackets. That effort helps Hummingbird pay its bills while still working with young companies and nonprofits, she said.

Owners should also look at the attitudes, emotions and beliefs of their customers.

“There are things that you have to ask some more in-depth questions,” she said. You should also include customers’ hobbies and interests, how they spend their free time and where they hangout, she said.

A few years ago, Coulter said she learned that 98 percent of her customers were members of the Capital City Club in Raleigh.

“So, guess who joined the Capital City Club?” she said. “That was me.”

Business-to-business firms should note the values of the clients they serve, how they want to be seen by their own customers and whether they support a casual or formal work environment.

“When you walk in the front door, do you need to have your suit on, or do you need to be a little bit more casual?” Coulter said.

Bridges: 919-829-8917; Twitter: @virginiabridges
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