Finding your first customer is very different from finding your 5,283rd customer. Why? Because launching something new isn’t like ordinary marketing: there’s no historical data, no customer persona, no proven playbook—nothing but hypotheses.
And first customers shouldn’t be ordinary customers anyway. You are not looking for a passive receptacle of your marketing message, which is OK (if not ideal) for Customer #5,283. You want someone who is so rah-rah about your new offering that they will comment, share, repost, and forward. You want a fan, an evangelist, maybe even a champion.
At Spark, we test and test and test again to find the right first fans. We can’t fit all of our vast experience into a short email, but here are a few useful rules we’ve established over the years:
You are not your best target. Yes, yes, we know you are your company’s biggest fan, but that does not mean that others with your profile will be too. We’ve seen more than one young company face-plant on this point.
Don’t boil the ocean. If we had a dollar for every time someone told us their target customer was “millennials,” we could stock the office with chocolate for months.
Invest in creative. Different ad variations work for different audiences. Just think: on a typical day, the Trump campaign was running 40,000-50,000 variations of its ads. Some were no doubt minor tweaks, but it pays to test your value proposition with different creative to see what is most effective.
Don’t believe us? This, as we say to each other all day long, is why we test.
Keep the Target in Your Sights at All Times
A fashion company successfully advertises on a 100% auditory medium. If that sounds counterintuitive, consider it a lesson in commitment to reaching target customers—wherever they may be.
In Cole Haan's new campaign for shoes and accessories, every channel was a candidate for outreach, even those that didn't offer opportunities to show off the company's photo shoot with Christy and Karlie. Cole Haan discovered that their target customers—young, affluent women—were receptive to ads placed on podcasts and streaming and even digital newsletters, none of which are traditional ad channels for fashion brands.
Product launches aren’t just scary because putting a new idea out into the world makes you feel vulnerable. It's worse than that. Because most product launches fail. And they fail, according to the authors of this short piece, for five reasons:
Company not prepared for success
Product does not live up to its claims
The value proposition is muddy
Product is so awesome it needs to be explained
Product is a solution looking for a problem
We would argue that testing before launch with a range of target customers identifies the existence of #2-4 before you go and embarrass yourself with a lot of fanfare. After all, if you get the same lack of interest or negative feedback from more than one target group, it's hard not to know you have a problem. You might even have time to fix it.
We would also argue that while testing before launch will not solve #1 or #5, it will at least expose the problem and save both cost and public shame.
Black Hat Targeting
By now, just about everyone knows that the magic of Facebook targeting has an unsavory underbelly. Who could have imagined that a platform that started life as a teen procrastination tool would become the post-cold war version of the Russian umbrella gun? And don't get us started on Twitter...
One of the original creators of Facebook’s ad machine, Antonio Garcia Martinez, weighs in on how targeting can go awry and on how the company should shift its technology to acknowledge its powerful position in society. Needless to say, the outcome of any change is likely to affect you, whether you use Facebook or not.
A Target of One
If you’re persistent enough, there is no limit to how narrowly you can target your audience. Brian Swichkow proved that a few years ago with a hilarious prank he pulled on his roommate, who unknowingly became a target of one. We should mention that there is sword-swallowing involved.
Just to be clear: Spark does not condone manipulating Facebook ads to target specific people. That niche is grey at best, and more than a little unethical.
Then again, you know how much we care about you. Are you sure anyone else even got this email?
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