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Keeping “your finger on the pulse” is a phrase I use to describe how entrepreneurs should keep in touch with their niche markets or keep up-to-date with market trends in general. This is vitally important especially if you are working online. At times, when we work online, it is very easy to get caught up in your own little bubble and forget what the rest of the world is doing. That is a big mistake.
If you are operating in a particular niche, you may not realize how quickly you can lose touch with your target audience. You get so caught up with running your business, and if you are not dealing with customers on a daily basis, very soon you can lose touch with their core values and forget who you are speaking to. This can be disastrous because if you lose touch with your target audience’s dreams, wants, needs and desires, then your whole marketing approach has just gone out the window.
Famous marketer and copywriter, John Carlton, has often said when he is researching to write copy for a company he never talks much to the head people in charge of the company. He knows they are way too far removed from the target audience. Their focus is often concerned about what they want, how they think they should be promoting the product and what they think is important.
You may remember from one of my previous articles this is classic thinking like a fisherman and not like a fish mentality.
Carlton would commonly go searching way down the company ladder to get a better insight about the product. He wanted to talk to the people taking the phone call orders or dealing with product returns – more grassroots level information. He always knew he had written a good piece of copy when the top company people did not want to run the piece because it made them uncomfortable. He knew he had bombed and had to go back to the drawing board if they loved his piece and it was exactly what they wanted.
Last weekend I went to the shopping mall with an entrepreneur friend of mine who sells physical products. This type of “people watching” is great market research for two reasons:
My friend wanted to make sure they were still in touch with their niche market because they had been busy running their business. They wanted to see how the competition was promoting, packaging, pricing and marketing their product. Was there anything new or that had changed in any of those areas? For example, a new marketing angle, different price point, etc. Most importantly, we paid attention to what people were buying in the niche.
If you have been living in your online world, don’t underestimate how quickly you can lose touch with your target audience, especially if you are no longer a member of your target audience.
If you were once a poor university student and you design cheap and trendy clothing for students, but since then your company has gone crazy and this is now your full-time job and has been for the last year and half. And long gone are the days of cramming for exams, getting no sleep and surviving for a week on half a bag of rice, two cans of tuna and a celery stick. Then you may need to get back in touch with your target market, because you have lost touch with your target market.
While people watching is great to keep up-to-date with a current niche you may be in, it is also great at stimulating new ideas. Your ideas can come from what you see people buying, how you see people behaving or the types and groups of people you may notice. You can gather your new ideas and come home and do some keyword research and market research on them and investigate the market online.
Is there possibility for an information product? Are their affiliate products? Could you release your own product?
One trend I noticed was that of stationary. Within the shopping mall there were three individually branded stationary shops. Keep in mind that you can also buy generic stationary at the grocery stores, department stores and newsagents within the mall.
One stationary store, Kikki K, has exploded in Australia. I remember walking past these stores and I used to think: “How on earth are they making money? How many notepads would they have to sell to pay rent?” Obviously they can do the math, because Kikki K is the 18th top female owned business in Australia earning $30 million a year. That’s a lot of pens and notepads!
Obviously, some other “people watchers” saw that the stationary market was booming and jumped on board. Now if you went head to head with Kikki K you would get slaughtered. You need a unique selling proposition (USP).
The other two stationary stores had their USPs sorted. One had a grungy, more edgy feel to it. From the look of the store, to the music they were playing, to the stuff they were selling, it screamed “coolness”. In fact, so cool, I nearly didn’t go in to the store cause I didn’t think I was cool enough! Talk about a barrier of entry and only wanting to speak to your target audience. These guys had it down pat.
The last stationary store had aimed its niche at the kids market. Selling fun and brightly colored stationary sets of everything imaginable. Although as an adult male it didn’t really tickle my fancy, I saw many a father pulling out his wallet for his young daughter. And the funniest thing, the upsell potential is huge and the staff probably don’t even have to do it. Why wouldn’t you want a whole matching set of stationary? I can imagine the young daughter saying to her dad, “Well Dad, now that I have the hot pink pencil case, you know I will need the matching hot pink pencils, pens, notebook, diary, eraser….”
So turn off the computer for a few hours and get back into the real world. You will be surprised at what you can learn and the ideas you can get.