Is TikTok Right for My Business? Knowing Your Customers and Recruiting New Ones

October 2021
understanding your customers effective communication tiktok
TikTok may not be for everyone. Knowing your customers is vital, no matter the context or circumstances.

During a recent conversation with a marketing executive, it became clear to me that as more and more social media platforms come online, even professionals in the field could lose sight of their communication goals.

He said because of TikTok's popularity, he wanted to use it to increase his company's thought leadership and influence to reach existing and new customers. He proceeded to describe his idea of a good TikTok video for the brand — a short, but serious sales pitch. When I pointed out that in order to stand out on TikTok, the message should be casual, engaging, creative and fun, preferably an outrageous meme, he said, "But that's not our brand's style. Also, our target market, both existing and potential, is distinguished high-net-worth individuals and I don't think that's their style either." Upon further questioning, he said that they might go to TikTok every now and then, but chiefly to be entertained. While on the platform, they're not likely to be in the right headspace for product research or purchasing decisions. He was hoping a brief but "somewhat serious" message would put them in the mood. But would it?

Minutes into our conversation, it became clear to him that unless he intends to recruit an additional customer segment using a different tone of voice, or reposition the brand and transform its persona to resonate with a new target market altogether, TikTok, while immensely popular, is not the ideal platform for his brand.

While many may be tempted to jump on the newest and hottest social media platform, businesses need to take a step back and return to fundamentals when determining which communication channels to use and how to use them effectively.

BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR OBJECTIVES

Exploring new platforms to reach and convert a new group of customers is certainly crucial. However, before you jump on the bandwagon, be clear about why you want to target them and decide how you'll do so without alienating your current most valuable customer (MVC) segment. Don't forget that in trying to appeal to everyone, you could end up appealing to no one.

In some cases, you may not even need to deliberately target multiple segments. Big players like Apple and IBM tend to focus on one customer — their MVC. Instead of spreading themselves thin, they put all their energy into tailoring their messaging and marketing strategy to one segment. These ideal customers then become ambassadors who market your product or service to other segments. For example, in the 1990s, Apple changed its focus to attract the young and artsy. But soon, people of all ages with similar personalities and aspirations followed. Others joined in as MVCs began sharing product benefits with their family members and friends.

Importantly, while recruiting new customers, Apple continues to retain its core brand persona. This ensures that its existing customers stay loyal and its messaging is authentic and recognisable across new segments.

You should keep this in mind even if you choose to run different campaigns for different audiences. Creating alternative personalised sets of marketing material for each audience doesn't mean changing your brand's persona for each audience. It simply means highlighting product/service attributes that would be of value to them specifically and using the appropriate tone to communicate with them effectively. While doing this, keep your brand's persona intact. This will allow you to retain your existing customers even while attracting new ones.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE AND GO BEYOND DEMOGRAPHIC STEREOTYPES

Knowing your audience is vital in every communication, no matter the context or circumstances. This will ensure you know exactly what to say, how to say it, and when and where to say it.

Businesspeople often make the mistake of being fixated on demographic stereotypes. For example, I still hear seasoned executives utter sweeping generalisations such as, "Young people are tech-savvy." or "Young people don't read the news." Assuming that all young people are tech-savvy or that all young people don't read the news is clearly problematic. Even within these segments, people have varied interests and aptitudes.

Another common assumption is that young people only listen to other young people. However, considering that the message often matters as much as, or in some cases, even more than the messenger, this assumption should be questioned as well. For instance, if an older spokesperson has valuable business experience to offer a young novice entrepreneur, you can be sure the message will resonate if packaged and disseminated appropriately. The spokesperson's age won't matter as much as the value of the information he or she can offer.

With a range of tools making audience research easier than ever before, there's really no excuse for staying stuck in generalisations and stereotypes. Study psychographics and for B2B marketing, firmographics. Don't forget business ethnography which is increasingly being used to determine what motivates people to buy your products or services, why they use them and how they use them.

To effectively reach the people you want to reach, find out, among other things, their pain points, challenges, goals and desires. You need to be able to articulate their problem, understand their beliefs and values, and ultimately, offer them a credible solution.

You also need to know what qualities they're likely to value in solution providers in your category. For example, when it comes to selecting a realtor, would they prefer someone fun and irreverent, or someone serious and dependable?

IDENTIFY PLATFORMS AND EXPLORE NEW ONES JUDICIOUSLY

What then do we do about channels, i.e., where to reach your audience? Again, go back to fundamentals. How do your target segments consume information? Where does your target audience usually go to search for information about products and services such as yours? On which platforms are they most receptive to learning more about and/or purchasing such products and services? Go there.

This doesn't mean you should refrain from exploring new platforms. Target markets and media platforms evolve. Your target market may not be on a particular platform right now, but this doesn't mean it will not be in the near future.

Consider this: Instagram started off as being popular primarily among teenagers and young adults. Now, its audience is more diverse, not only due to the fact that young people have grown up and stayed on Instagram, but also because the platform evolved and older people wanted to experience it too. By getting on a new platform early, you'll have an edge over your competitors.

SHAPE YOUR MESSAGE TO SUIT YOUR AUDIENCE AND PLATFORM

Identifying platforms to reach your target audience is only half the battle. Your efforts are likely to fall flat if your message isn't appropriately pitched in terms of substance, format and tone. For instance, in-depth blog posts or research papers are clearly incongruent with a TikTok hashtag challenge. You'll have to figure out a creative way of repackaging the substance of the message in order for it to truly stand out, resonate with your target audience and drive business results.

In short, to leverage new and exciting media platforms effectively, have the courage to return to good old-fashioned fundamentals.

For more information, check out these programmes or send your queries to bharati@bharatijagdishcomms.com.

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