Thursday, July 11, 2013

Marketing 101: Market Targeting

Recall that a customer driven marketing strategy consists of four distinct "steps".  Previously I focused on the first step: Segmentation.  I defined Market Segmentation as dividing a market into smaller groups that contain distinct needs, characteristics, or behaviors that may require distinct products, services and marketing mixes.  Because buyers have different wants, desires, needs, geographic locations, economic resources, buying attitudes, and buying practices, we use segmentation to divide markets into "pieces" that can be reached more effectively.  Market segmentation reveals our potential opportunities.  Once we have segmented the market, we must decide what parts of it to target.

Targeting the Market
We can define a Target Market as a set of buyers that share a set of common needs or characteristics that we can decide to serve.  When targeting a market segment we must look at three factors: a segment's size and growth trends, a segment's structural attractiveness, and our own company's long term objectives and available resources. The first factor consists of the type of research we have explored in the past when discussing Primary Data.  It is vitally important that we collect and analyze data on current segment sales, it's growth rates and potential profitability.  Once we have that data, we must compare it to the size and growth characteristics that our own company is seeking.

Next, we must investigate the segment's major structural factors that will determine how attractive our participation will be.  There are many reasons a segment may appear unattractive.  First, a segment is generally less attractive if it contains numerous strong and potentially aggressive competitors.  More competition usually results in many alternative products that create price competition and limit available profits.  Second, a segment is less attractive if buyers have more power, forcing participants to keep prices lower in order to increase market share, which also reduces  profits.  Third, a segment is less attractive if there are suppliers with strong influence in the micro-environments that actively try to hold material costs at a certain level, with increases our cost of goods, which also reduces potential profits.

Once we have produced a detailed evaluation of the target's structural factors, we must consider our own long term objectives and available resources.  Quite frankly, your company may not have the skills, knowledge, intellectual property and resources to succeed in a particular market segment.  A company should enter a segment only if they can offer outstanding value and can gain and retain competitive advantages over other companies in a given segment.

Choosing a Marketing Method
Once you have selected an attractive market segment, it's time to determine the marketing mix through a targeted marketing method.  Targeted Marketing is generally conducted at four distinct levels.  These levels are based on the relative size of the targeted segment.  In order of large to small, these levels are: Undifferentiated Mass Marketing > Differentiated Segmented Marketing > Concentrated Niche Marketing > Micro-marketing at a local or individual level.

Undifferentiated Mass Marketing
Undifferentiated Mass Marketing is a marketing strategy where a company chooses to ignore market segment differences (presented by their Primary and Secondary Data) and go after the whole market with one distinct product offering.  This type of strategy focuses on the most common needs of consumers, rather than on what is distinctly different between them.  This is a classic strategy from the early to mid-1900's, with the goal of appealing to the largest group of buyers possible in order to create as many sales as possible.  This is the classic volume-based tactic.  Product margins are low, and the value given to the customer is marginal as well.  Most modern marketers do not believe this strategy is very effective.  Today it is very difficult to make a product that appeals to mass-markets due to extreme competition from more focused niche products.

Differentiated Targeted Marketing
Differentiated Targeted Marketing is a strategy where we select several market segments, and design focused products and marketing mixes for each one, with the goal of higher sales and a relatively stronger position within each segment.  The advantage of Differentiated Targeted Marketing is that it typically gives a company higher gross sales across segments.  However increased sales also bring increased costs, because it can be more expensive to develop and produce 10 units of 10 different products (versions that are focused towards specific types of buyers) than 100 units of one product (for mass appeal or niche segments).  It also costs more to market for multiple segments, because each segment requires separate marketing research, analysis, planning, and channel management.  Due to these disadvantages, a marketer must weigh the prospects of increased sales versus the potential increased cost of business when choosing a differentiated marketing strategy.

Concentrated Marketing
Concentrated Marketing is a marketing strategy where a firm chooses to pursue a large share of one distinct segment or a few segments or niches.  Concentrated Marketing allows a company to achieve a stronger market position within a segment due to their greater knowledge of consumer needs and desires within that segment, fine tuning product features and prices over time in responsive to changing trends.  Concentrated Marketing is very appealing for companies that have relatively limited resources for product development and marketing.   Concentrated Marketing is also attractive, because segments are generally smaller and usually attract very few competitors, allowing for higher margins.  However Concentrated Marketing comes with higher than normal risks.  Because most of your business is focused within one or few segments, you may suffer large financial losses a segment turns sour at any time. 

Micro-Marketing is a strategy where companies tailor products and marketing mixes to the needs and wants of specific individuals or local consumer groups.  Micro-Marketing generally involves consumers in all phases of product development, giving consumers opportunities to practice self-marketing during the buying decision process.  Micro-Marketing can give consumers extraordinary value, and can give the companies extraordinary value and consumer equity in return.  However Micro-Marketing tends to increase product development and marketing costs by reducing natural economies of scale inherent in manufacturing.  Micro-Marketing is also logistically complicated due to the numerous requirements of executing different regional and local marketing mixes.

Once you have evaluated and chosen a segment to target, we must work on Differentiation: differentiating the market offering (ie: the product) and thereby creating superior customer value.  I will explore this topic in my next post.


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