At the University of Georgia  Small Business Development Center (SBDC), we not only strive to help educate small business owners to ensure successful growth of their businesses, but we also value helping to provide students with “real world” industry-style experience while contributing to UGA’s goal of enhancing both undergraduate and graduate education.

In fact, on average (a rough average), the UGA SBDC provides experience opportunities to 20 students year round that come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

One of our current Graduate Assistants, Sara Bertolini, has a A.B.J in Advertising from UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications, in addition to a B.B.A in Marketing from UGA’s Terry College of Business. She also is currently enrolled in Grady College’s Master of Emerging Media program.

Before coming to the UGA SBDC, Sara spent her Summer 2017 semester as an intern at Moxie, which is an advertising agency in Atlanta. At Moxie, Sara worked in their analytics department. Most of her time was spent working on a team that developed and reported on targeted banner ads for a large retail company. So, it’s safe to say that she learned a lot about target marketing.

According to Sara, working on banner ads may not sound like the most glamorous job, but it played a key part in the client’s targeted marketing strategy. By using website tracking data along with other data, her team was able to tell which customers typically shop in which apparel departments – women’s, men’s, kid’s, or any combination of the three – and serve them personalized ads based on those departments.

In life and in business, no matter how much you’d like to, you can’t talk to everyone. There’s just not enough time or money in the world. It’s why when asked what kind of customers you want to advertise to, you can’t say “everyone.” Trying to market to “everyone” leads to not only an over exhausted budget by casting your net too wide, but also annoyance to to potential customers.

That’s why marketers create “target markets,” or the ideal persona of the customer you’re trying to reach. The key word here is ideal. This isn’t about excluding anyone from shopping at your business. You can sell to everyone, you just can’t market to everyone. Target marketing is about narrowing your marketing scope to a more manageable group of people so that you can have a better quality of interaction. By using targeted marketing, your ads will also be more effective as you’re talking to the right people about the right product or service.

If you look at what companies sell and how they sell it, you can usually figure out who their target market is. Diet Coke’s target market is probably females, ages 18-35, who loves sharing their adventures on Instagram as well as other social media sites, and also has an affinity for pop music. They’re conscious about what they put into their bodies, but still want to enjoy sweet treats. They’re the type of person that won’t outright reject an offered slice of cake, but simply cut the slice in half. This is why Diet Coke has been a longtime partner with Taylor Swift for so long… her fans exhibit the audience that Diet Coke is trying to reach. For her Red Tour, Swift shared exclusive behind the scenes content on Diet Coke’s social media channels. They even incorporated her name into their “Share a Coke” campaign, printing her name on Diet Coke cans to give out at her 1989 Tour. By looking at who Swift is, and who her fans are, it’s obvious who Diet Coke is trying to talk to.

Because Sara has such a unique background and internship experience, we asked her to provide a few tips on how to fine tune your target market. This is what she had to say:


Starting Out

You don’t have to have a whole marketing department in order to do targeted marketing. There are things every business, no matter the size, can do for more efficient marketing.  Here’s some guidelines on how to start thinking about creating your own customer personas.

Target markets are made by taking specific demographic, psychographic, behavioral, geographical, and other segmentations to develop a specific description of your ideal customer.

The four most common segmentation strategies marketers use are demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and geographical segmentation. You can basically think of demographics as census data: age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, education, family size, and household income. Psychographics are a little less hard-set: interests, affinities, spending habits, and opinions. Behavioral is based on your customer’s actual purchasing behavior, like what benefits they sought when buying a product, their level of loyalty towards a product, or the occasion when customers bought or are thinking to buy your product. Geographic is exactly what it sounds like: segmentation by geographical location.

Don’t worry about getting all of this information- it’s downright impossible to collect it all. These segmentation strategies are great stepping stones to get your mind in the right place when it comes to creating a target market.


Check Out Those Regulars

Your regular customers are the best places to start, since they’re the ones you know best. Think about them in terms of demographics, physiographic, behavioral, and geographical segmentations. Are there any trends? In what ways can you link your customers together? Maybe some are stay at home parents, so they come in the on their way back from dropping off or picking up the kids from school. Others could be office workers, coming in quickly for one or two things in the morning on their daily commute. What do they tend to buy? What do they tend not to buy? What are they wearing that could reveal their occupation or their hobbies? Ideally, you’re trying to “lump” customers together so that you can describe them using any kind of segmentations.

Say you’re a sit-down restaurant wanting to send out promotional emails. Two of your segments could be parents of small children and office workers. They’re both regular customers and both fall into “everyone”, but have very different reasons on why they visit. So your target marketing would look something like sending the parents an email about your kids menu, your healthy offerings, and afternoon specials, and the office workers about your dinner menu, and happy hour specials.

This is why the “everyone” strategy doesn’t work. Sure, you can send out one email advertising both kids menus and happy hour specials, but sending irrelevant information causes people less likely to engage with your business. It may sound like common sense, but people won’t click on things that do not relate to them… so why send them an email that has, in their eyes, a bunch of “useless” information?


Word of Caution

While you’re thinking about the similarities between your customers, it’s also important to be mindful of not falling into stereotypes to craft your target markets. If you take to assumed stereotypes, not only can they be offensive and hurtful, but are inaccurate. Like with my internship experience, we used data that stated what department a person shopped in, not their actual gender. We didn’t know if a men’s department shopper was a male buying clothes for himself, a male buying clothes for someone else, a female buying clothes for herself, or a female buying clothes for someone else. We just knew that that person had shopped in the men’s department. We’d show them an ad for the men’s department because that’s where that person spends his or her money. It’s the most relevant department to that person’s shopping habits.

You also don’t want to get too specific. By being too narrow, you’ll miss talking to potential customers. And hopefully it’s obvious, but don’t be creepy. You shouldn’t harass your customers about personal details.


Helpful Places

Want to learn more, or need some next steps?


(Source: J. Ashley Panter, Marketing Manager, UGA SBDC, Sara Bertolini, Graduate Assistant, UGA SBDC)