Choosing The Right Strategic Target

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Most marketers know that you should define your target audience using some kind of profile, template or framework. But, assuming you already have (or Googled) a template to use, how do you know the target that you chose is the right one?

This exact question came up in a recent marketing plan training. One of the participants wasn’t feeling confident in the choice they made, and asked how you go about choosing a target in the first place.

So today I’m going to lay out for you a foolproof way to think through your strategic choice. These three questions can be used to choose your strategic target audience as well as where to play such as markets, categories and geographies.

1) Where’s the most meaningful opportunity?

Where your brand is at in its growth and development, along with market and competitive context, will help determine your opportunities. You should come up with a list of opportunities and rank them.

If your brand is in its infancy, you may have a lot of runway with a niche segment that is expressing initial interest. If your brand is further along, the best opportunity may not be with your existing loyal customer group—it might be a new incremental target group or even a new category.

For example, if you are a brand manager for a toy brand, opportunities might include:

  • Increasing share of core buyers in your existing audience
  • Expanding/repositioning to a younger age group
  • Aging up and getting teenagers to adopt
  • Targeting adults with advanced toy features and technologies
  • Bringing mature adults into the gaming category

You could then rank these opportunities by size and incrementality to give you a rough priority—where you might be most relevant.

2) Where can we win?

Just because you have a lot of growth runway with a target audience doesn’t mean they are a good target to pursue. If you pick a target audience that a large competitor is also pursuing, you might find yourself on the losing end of things.

Pick a “fight” that is winnable for your brand.

This entails selecting a target audience that is either being ignored by competitors (most ideal), or at the very least is underserved in some way. Perhaps the competitors serving the audience are doing a bad job and aren’t properly meeting their needs. Maybe your product has a compelling story of superiority.

In our toy example, perhaps you identified a big opportunity with expanding to younger age groups. And after further competitive analysis, you determine that most other toy brands are overly-focused on teenagers and ignoring toddlers. Focusing on the toddler toy market makes a lot of strategic sense.

3) Which is feasible to pursue?

Once you narrow down your options based on size of opportunity and winnability, you will usually have a select few left to consider. It’s at this point that you should consider whether or not your brand has the appropriate resources (time, money, people, partners, technologies, distribution channels) to pursue the target audience.

You must devote resources to reaching your audience and/or beating competitors.

If feasibility is an issue, you need to decide upfront what you will do to overcome the feasibility hurdles—or choose another strategy.

In the case of expanding toy sales to toddlers, you would want to have access to the proper distribution channels (via sales/logistic relationships). Or at the very least a strong direct selling capability (D2C site). You would want this coupled with a marketing budget/plan to reach the moms of toddlers. So if your sales relationships and media tactics are built to sell through GameStop, you need a line of sight for how you’ll now sell through Babies ‘R Us.

Ask the right questions

When selecting a target audience (or market or category), there is no right or wrong answer. Lots of strategies could work. What matters most is that you apply the right questions so that your decision has sound reasoning. That is how you increase your chances of success—which is all you can ever really do.

For more in-depth training, check out our course on How to Write a Strategic Plan and get motivated to lead and produce great strategic work!


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