The Big 3 of Knowing Your Market

The key to successful marketing is knowing your market. The types of ads that appeal to one people group might not appeal to the other, and unless you define who you are targeting, your ads will most likely not be as effective as they can.

For instance: My permanent address is in the Silicon Valley, and the billboards are different than the ones in Chicago, where I also spend a great deal of time. The Silicon Valley ads focus almost exclusively on the tech industry–advertising for things like web security services, cloud expansion services, the latest Apple devices, and why Samsung devices are superior to Apple devices. But in Chicago, a large manufacturing city with a decidedly different demographic, the billboards are for more home related services–lots of roofing businesses, plumbing businesses, and insurance. The creators of all of these billboards know their market. If you tried to put the Silicon Valley ads into Chicago, the companies wouldn’t do as well, because Chicago simply isn’t a tech giant like the Silicon Valley, and I doubt as many people know about, care about, or need cloud expansions. In the same way, if you tried to put the Chicago ads in the Silicon Valley, the businesses would not get a good return on their investment because California doesn’t get winter weather like Illinois, and so new roofs, plumbing issues and home insurance related issues don’t happen as much.

In the same way, a marketer of any sort–for a business, nonprofit, club, school, etc.–  would need to know their market. Otherwise, they will be throwing their money away trying to reach people who may not even see their ads. Unless you have a well-defined market of people you are trying to reach, you’ll have a hard time selling your message, particularly if you’re a nonprofit. If you’re looking for donors; the wide, sweeping campaigns that target everyone are probably not going to be your most successful. The most famous businesses who have managed to make those types of campaigns work are selling an ideal lifestyle which would appeal to a very large, general audience. Think of Apple and the lifestyle they sell. Even Apple, however, can’t go without targeting their ads to the audience they think will be most receptive (think about all the ads on TV that target photographers and aspiring photographers). Taking a few minutes before you create a campaign to define “the Big 3” (Who, Where, Why,) you are targeting will bring you closer to hitting the mark of advertising success.


Who are you targeting? What is it about their age, ethnicity, cultural background or income level that sets them apart? Ask yourself how you can utilize this information about them in your favor. What appeals to expectant parents, current parents or grandparents is very different, and a campaign targeting each of these people groups will look different. This is where you’ll think about putting your ads into a different language if the demographic largely speaks a different language. An example of this would be places like Miami or San Diego, where people in the same area may speak two different languages, and optimizing your ads to be in both of the languages spoken can only work in your favor. The “Who”  can be as brief or as exhaustive as you like, but having some sort of definition here will only make your life easier and your ads more effective.


Decide where you should target. Does it make sense to target one city, one county, one area, a state, two states or the whole of the country? Depending on where you’re advertising, what you’re advertising, and the platform you’re using, you’ll want to adjust your campaigns so that you get the most bang for your buck. Don’t waste your money advertising nationally if your services can only handle local traffic, but don’t sell yourself short if you have the resources to go national or even global. Make this as specific as you can, and make sure the language your ads are written in is appropriate for the location(s).


Define why what you offer matters to your target audience. Why should your donors come to you? Why should the potential people you can help choose your nonprofit over others? Once you define this, make sure it is the focal point of your ad. Maybe your donors should give you money because of your amazing work overseas or right at home. Your potential patrons should choose you because of the commitment you have to your work. My most successful campaign came out of one of the most saturated markets because I found the thing that set my client apart and gave people a reason to choose them. Whatever sets you apart, utilize that and turn it into a reason for people to take a chance on you. If nothing that sets you apart comes to mind, find a place in your nonprofit that is unique: it could be your strategy for care, demographic you serve or someone notable who works for you. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be spectacular. All you need is a way to get prospective donors and people who need your help, a way to find you and then a reason to choose you.

Spending time developing a defined market strategy can only help you. Even if you don’t quite hit the mark perfectly your first few times, it’ll help you optimize your ads for the people you are trying to reach. Though it may take some practice, revision, and hard work, it’ll all pay off in the long run to boost your voice. Here at Nonprofit Megaphone, we are committed to helping you and your nonprofit grow through the Big 3.


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