Target marketing – Get the insider’s edge from the comments section!

Did you know that news websites offer a wonderful lesson in business and more particularly target marketing and who really is your target market? Let me explain…

On a day to day basis I ordinarily grab the latest news from websites like the BBC, but often it is the comment section that grabs my interest more than the original article.

Because if you take any piece of news and ask the readers what they think, or as the BBC calls it “Have Your Say”, suddenly a whole new world can appear.

People’s opinions reveal so much about the subject in question – and rather than what the original article or news story may have said, it’s someone’s opinion of a subject that matters most. That opinion is based not just on the subject matter, but also what is going on inside of the person’s head at that time.

Their beliefs, their values, their emotions all help shape someone’s opinion on a news story or subject.

Zeitgeist, memes and the Higgs-Boson

We also have external factors which again affect the way someone thinks…

For example, we have “zeitgeist” which is defined as the ‘spirit of the times’ and “memes”, defined as ‘ideas, behaviours or styles which spread from person to person within a culture’.

In simple terms you can think of both as the collective opinion for a group and when you read the comments section you will often be able to spot that collective opinion. Some websites make this particularly easy as they also offer readers a thumbs-up/thumbs-down grading as well, so you can see what comments are popular and which are not.

A recent example was a story on the possible scientific discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle; reading the comments section on the story revealed two distinct groups with diametrically opposed views.

The first group was excited by the main thrust of the article, this being the science and how (for them) ‘mankind had taken another leap forward’. It was clear that the focus and ideals of this group were centred on the importance of scientific endeavour.

However another, perhaps more pointed, collective view was also evident…

Rather than being excited by the science a significant number of readers were ‘disgusted’ with the amount of money ‘wasted’ on such ‘ridiculous’ endeavours. Again a collective opinion was clearly evident: The focus of this group was the current global economic climate and how there were more important things to spend billions on than science.

The comments opportunity

So now imagine that another article was to be written about the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle, it could be argued that any writer would be better informed thanks to those comments.

If the author was writing for a group (or what you could call a ‘target market’) of scientists then they would do well to pick up on the excitement. The article would have a very positive slant and promote the ‘importance of scientific endeavour’.

However, if the author was writing a more political piece for, say, a target market who believed deeply in the need to put the needs of the common man first …then the author’s article would do well to be critical and use the Higgs-Boson story as an example of ‘wasted money in hard times’.

And here’s the key point…

In both cases it’s the viewpoint of the audience or target market which matters most.

So with that in mind it can easily be said that the comments section gives you that insider view, it gives you an edge, an opportunity to truly relate to your audience.

What this means to your business, your marketing and the definition of your target market

Zeitgeist and memes offer very useful rules of thumb for how a group thinks …so from a marketing and business point of view, if that ‘group’ is your target market then that kind of information is marketing gold for your business.

Reading articles specifically related to your type of product or target market is obviously great research, but reading the comments section may prove even more valuable.

Questions you need to ask include…

What are the collective opinions within your marketplace? What is the zeitgeist? What are the memes? What does my target market REALLY think about this?

And once you have an idea of what is going on in the heads of your customers and prospects…

How does this collective opinion affect the way you market your business? …the way you describe your product? …the appeal of your business? What is the real definition of your target market?

Perhaps, just like with the Higgs-Boson article, you discover two important but opposing viewpoints. Well, that means you may need to take into account BOTH sides.

For example, in sales you have what is often called ‘objection handling’…

(personally I think that description causes all manner of problems, but I’ll save that one for another blog post!)

…and a great way to deal with such objections is to address them BEFORE they are raised. So you might say something like “A key benefit of our product is XYZ – and if you are wondering about <typical objection> then you’ll be really pleased to hear <positive spin on that typical objection>”.

That same idea can be used in your marketing and product/business descriptions by simply being aware of the ‘opposing zeitgeist’ and handling it ahead of time.

Alternatively, it may even change the description of your target market…

You could choose to be more selective about your customers and not worry about those with the opposing view…

“Some people say <typical objection>, well if that’s your view then we’re not the business for you, because…”

Clearly that kind of approach can reduce your overall following, but often what you are left with is a hardcore support who love you even more!

which means they may well spend even more money with you too!

A concluding comment…

Get reading! Seek out columns, news stories and articles in your business arena which specifically have comments sections and become aware of the zeitgeist and memes for your industry.

Let this ‘insider’ information enlighten your target marketing, let it shape the way you describe your business and products for the better.

BUT…

Do it regularly!

…because like with all things in life, collective opinions will change with time.

As a fun example – Someone’s disdain for the ‘expensive’ Higgs-Boson research may suddenly change if that same research resulted in cheap Star Trek style travel where instead of airports and queues you could simply say “Beam me up Scotty” and before you knew it you were in the Bahamas!

that same person would now LOVE the Higgs-Boson discovery!

Now before I close…

Do I really need to say I’m keen for your thoughts and comments on this?! Go on, tell me what your target marketing head is thinking below!