How do companies focus marketing when audience demographics shift?
Identifying a market and an audience are challenging enough. However, these become more difficult when the composition of the market changes over time. Regardless, it is critical to react quickly and effectively, as the nature of your audiences and the values they embrace evolve and change.
Adapting to Shifting Audience Demographics
Adapting to shifting audience demographics is extremely important, today, because we are in the middle of several dramatic and ongoing changes within the basic demographics reflected by our population. Much of that change is also reflected in the demographic composition of our customers, prospects and buyers.
B2B enterprises sometimes mistakenly feel that demographics is only relevant to consumer-based marketing. Even if you are not marketing directly to consumers, your customers or their customers are ultimately selling to consumers. Your suppliers, customers and prospects are all made up of people who reflect this demographic shift, as well. You need to accommodate new audiences with marketing messaging and content that reflect the audiences’ values and interests.
Recently, I’ve experienced, firsthand, the effects of these changes in that most uniquely American citadel of consumerism: the supermarket.
Less than 10 years ago, I could stand in the “man” aisle of our local supermarket and compare perhaps 30 brands of shaving cream and maybe 50 choices for aftershave lotion. More recently, those choices have been reduced to maybe two or three options for each. There also is no longer a “man” aisle because fewer personal-care products are obviously aimed at specific genders.
Companies Must Accommodate Audience Values and Interests
The rules have not changed. I came across a refreshed archive piece from McKinsey Quarterly that dated back to 1966. The piece discusses six changes forecasted to transform marketing. This piece is just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago—perhaps more so.
Here are some quick bullets that summarize the points made:
• The importance of change and the ability to master and exploit change are critical.
• Success is dependent upon understanding the needs and wants of the customer.
• Understanding future customers is more important than understanding customers from the past.
• Marketing is driven by market intelligence.
Looking at these four bullets together makes it even more beneficial because they are so tightly interrelated.
The data gathered and evaluated by marketing must provide insights about what customers want and what they will want as time passes. This information or intelligence should inform actions that facilitate the company’s ability to profitably participate in a dynamic market.
Marketing and selling are now, more than ever, data-driven activities.
Putting Demographics to Work
Marketing professionals are well acquainted with demographic data. CRM, CPQ and contact data systems all contain useful demographic data related to prospects, users and buyers.
Most product development, marketing and sales operations will view this data from the standpoint of specific campaigns or perhaps product research. They are adept at keying in on specific buyer personas that effectively relate to problems, pains and solutions offered.
Sales reps and managers can pull a contact list matching demographic criterion such as title, location, industry segment and company size and use that information to identify qualified campaign targets, plan weekly activities and assemble daily call lists.
This traditional use of demographic data has sustained businesses for years if not centuries.
The potential is there to do much more. The comparative values within this data over time can paint a picture of where your market is going, who is doing what within that market and where your messaging needs to be adjusted to align with that dynamic audience.
Here’s an example.
The sale of office furnishings into medical practices has obviously changed a great deal over the years. You might be surprised at just how much it has changed.
Sales reps who sold into this environment 60 years ago might well remember how common it was for physicians (mostly male at the time) to defer to their spouses for advice and input related to office furnishings. Color selection, style and design of the office space might well be managed by the physician’s wife.
Your approach to a prospect might include an invitation to a round of golf for the physician and a box of chocolates, flowers or tickets to the symphony for the spouse.
Today, a sales office practicing that approach would not even get in the door. Physician practices have grown; they are much larger and now feature five, 10, 20 or more partner physicians. The business is likely managed by a professional business manager who is specifically trained in the management of medical practices.
That business manager may well be female but almost certainly would not be swayed by candy, flowers or other gifts.
Imagine looking at the data that reflects the average size of medical practices over the years. Consider what the relevant positions, titles and jobs associated with a medical practice might look like from year to year over 60 years. Monitoring that data would have given office-furnishing vendors and manufacturers a valuable insight into how the medical practice marketplace was changing and more specifically where it was going.
Dynamics are at work in every single industry and market segment today.
Being successful, agile, responsive, customer-oriented and all of those other good things we like to imagine that we are, requires the willingness and ability to watch your demographic data over time. It requires the ability to compare data from year to year, to identify trends and directions and to gain insights from that data to facilitate effective management via predictive decision-making.
The data is there for almost any enterprise. Put that data to use and start managing for the future.