If you don’t understand your audience, you can’t market or sell to them. This is true for all sales and marketing. If you don’t understand how and why people make decisions, you will have little luck in creating products and services that they will like. You need to understand why someone shops at Whole Foods or Walmart.

From a marketer’s perspective, people would jump from lead to sale in the marketing process. It just doesn’t work that way. When you think about the entire marketing process, I really like John Jantsch’s concept of the Marketing Hourglass. It reflects how people buy things rather than how we’d like to sell to them. Let’s consider the typical stages of sales: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, and Refer.

Lead Generation – Getting People to Know You

So your future customers don’t even know who you are. You want to get out there and spread the word. People talk about advertising (ppc, newspaper ads/radio/tv) as a way to start that process. Ads are not always a bad thing, but until you have a fully developed marketing program from lead generation to referral generation, you are not ready to spend a lot of money on ads.

Traditional advertising has become known as interruption marketing. You are interrupting what someone is doing to get them to watch your ad message. For this to be effective, you need to offer some value immediately. Most TV commercials offer an opportunity to save money. Some go for the hard sale suggesting that the product will change your life for the better immediately. While this can be effective at times, we are all interrupted with marketing messages all day long. As a result, we’re less likely to trust what we’re seeing, hearing or reading. We are also try to avoid those messages altogether.

Content marketing or inbound marketing is a response to both the technological changes in our world and the trend of avoiding advertising. This often takes the form of blogging, social media and email marketing campaigns. You develop an audience through social media, begin to spread content and hope that your audience also shares that content. As you start this process, you need to identify an ideal client. This is not a one time process. Your understanding of your ideal client will evolve over time. As your business evolves, your ideal client will change.

How do you find out more about your customers? Tell us in the comments.

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