Where Are Your Customers?

Recently we were listening to an organization talking about how they wanted to reach out to a younger demographic. They had some ideas about how to make their product more appealing to younger consumers and they had good reasons for thinking that this would be a good move for them.

When the conversation turned to tactics, they suggested a couple of channels they thought would work well: newspaper ads and brochures.

The Pew Research Center has been tracking newspaper readership by age for the entire century so far, and this is what they’ve discovered:


No matter how you interpret the data, it’s clear that newspaper ads are not the best way to reach out to younger consumers.

This is a very obvious example, but the principle applies in more subtle ways, as well. For example, we’re working with a biotech company. A significant percentage of their website traffic has come from Facebook. Look closer, and you’ll see that this traffic is friends and family clicking through to see the details of a personal win on a single day… not users of biotech checking out biotech companies on Facebook.

That’s not what people do on Facebook. Some of those friends and family members might even be customers, but not when they’re on Facebook.

You have to have a clear idea of who your customers are, and a clear enough understanding of them to know where they are when they’re in the frame of mind of being your customer.

  • Find the social media platforms where people discuss the problems you solve. For personal issues and fun products, that could be Facebook. If there’s a Facebook group for a particular industry or interest that relates to your goods and services, that might be a great place for you to hang out. Engineering? Not so much. But bear in mind that there are plenty of very specific social media platforms apart from the the big ones you’re already aware of. Biznik, Ning, and StartupNation may not be on your radar, but they are lively communities with a narrower focus than Instagram.
  • Find the ad channels that reach your customers when they’re thinking about your stuff. Adwords reaches people when they are searching for exactly what you have to offer, so they’re an obvious first step. But once you know where your potential customers are looking, you can can be there. It takes research to find the right places. Test ads in some places that seem likely to you and compare the ROI to Adwords. If the banner ads you place don’t surpass Adwords, they’re probably not worth the investment.
  • Find the news sources your customers follow. People may be reading newspapers less often, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting information. Maybe your website can become a top source of information in your field — that’s obviously the best outcome. In the meantime, see what sources your customers and potential customers trust. Share, discuss, and work with those sources. Learn from their online presence by seeing how they’re reaching your shared audience. Offer them a guest blog post.

There’s an old joke about a guy searching for his lost keys under a streetlamp. “Where did you lose them?” his buddy asks.

“Down the street,” the guy says, pointing to a dark area 30 yards away.

“Then why are you looking here?”

“Because the light is better here.”

This is not a good example to follow. Your first guess on how to reach your customers may not be the best guess. Look more closely.






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