But identifying and attracting new target audiences requires thoughtful, calculated actions and hard work.
So before you move forward, consider these insights and tips to break into new markets—with a particular focus on targeting millennials, since they are now the largest living generation and their purchasing power will only continue to grow.
1. Analytics: Using data to understand current and potential customers
First, business owners should identify potential areas of expansion. Conduct this research by examining analytics, which will provide data points that can help determine which target markets show potential.
Analytics are a key resource for business professionals. According to a survey of top executives and C-suite level executives, “44 percent believe that data is a key operational tool and should be utilized to enhance strategic decision-making.”
Additionally, almost half of surveyed executives expressed a strong belief that data can help their companies gain deeper insights into their customers and overall business. Information from marketing campaigns, email click rates, web page views, and call center questions can all be used to discover new or untapped markets.
The key is accessing more information on current customers while identifying individuals who are potentially interested but who haven’t yet made a purchase. With these analytics, companies can leverage data to further segment customers and target specific marketing efforts to particular niches.
2. Storytelling: The foundation for authentic connection
One of the oldest forms of communication, storytelling can better sell a product than a regurgitation of facts ever could. Why? Stories help customers emotionally connect with a business. By focusing on stories that resonate with a broad audience, such as those that concentrate on core human values and qualities like perseverance, enjoyment, and passion, businesses can establish brands that generate customer loyalty.
Storytelling has proven especially valuable in reaching millennials. As an example, Purina partnered with the popular website Buzzfeed to create a series of short videos about a man getting a puppy. You watch him bond with the puppy, play with her, teach her tricks, and feed her—Purina dog food, of course. These clever, emotional videos went viral and generated more than a million views, and provided a nice soft sell for Purina.
To begin, start with thinking through your company’s mission and its origins. For example, did the business start in someone’s garage? That may resonate with certain potential customers. Be genuine and don’t be afraid to show some vulnerability in your storytelling.
3. Creative framing: Sharing how your brand is committed to good
Often, businesses do not need to change or introduce new products or services to access a fresh target market. They simply need to alter how they are framing their product.
For example, in 2015, a Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study showed that 91 percent of participants would switch to a brand associated with a cause. That same year, Starbucks started heavily supporting education by providing full ride tuition for employees attending or who would attend Arizona State University’s online program. The results? In 2016, Starbucks reported record profits for Q4.
Burt’s Bees is another company with a mission to better the world. They helped create The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products, which started guidelines on what can be labeled “natural.” They also follow impeccable standards for packaging sustainability, and they joined the Natural Products Association.
But it wasn’t enough for Burt’s Bees to just quietly work for changes in their industry. They knew their efforts would resonate with some of their target population. So they built advertising campaigns to tap into the trend of increasing consumer awareness about the health risks of certain ingredients. They also added The Natural Seal to their products.
Their sales now top out at a quarter of a billion. What small businesses can learn from Burt’s Bees is to actively promote their own efforts to improve their communities, products, and even the health of their customers. Whether it’s a simple social post or a marketing campaign, don’t waste the opportunity to inform the public about your efforts to better the world.
4. Listening to customers: Building your reputation to expand your brand
Customer listening can play a massive role in attracting a new audience. For example, to tap into the millennial market, the NFL made sweeping changes after they discovered that they had an image problem.
Reports from a survey done by Jeetendr Sehdey indicated that 61 percent of millennials thought the NFL was a “sleazy organization.” Remember, the estimated millennial spending market for 2018 is predicted to reach $3.39 trillion (overtaking the baby boomer generation), so missing the mark with that audience was a big deal.
To help change the way millennial fans thought about them, the NFL appointed a chief information officer to address the concerns of the young tech-savvy fan base. The organization also urged all NFL stadiums to provide free Wi-Fi. Some heeded that call: The Denver Broncos’ stadium installed 587 wireless access points to handle up to 25,000 connections, and the New England Patriots’ stadium was fitted with free wireless access points that allow 40 percent of the 70,000 fans to access simultaneous video. The Patriots also built an app with share useful information, like restroom line wait time.
The NFL listened to its young audience and took extensive steps to try to remedy their complaints. Small business owners should keep their ear to the ground through social media and even targeted surveys so that they are aware of customer perceptions of their brand. The goal is to be able to move quickly to address concerns or make adjustments.
5. Offering more: Expanding your product base
Marvel comics had a consistent following, but it wasn’t until their entrance into the film industry that their comic book characters really went mainstream on a global level. They increased their audience from comic book readers to movie fans and have the profits to show for it.
Although Marvel is a billion-dollar industry, the takeaway is that small businesses can benefit from looking at their current scope of products and thinking creatively about ways to expand their reach without changing their mission.
To stay competitive, businesses need to continue to work to identify and attract new audiences. Be sure to make time to think through data-driven strategies for scaling and growth. Don’t be afraid to test small-scale initiatives before launching a full-scale marketing campaign targeting a new audience.