Over the weekend I was helping a friend with a school assignment involving a marketing plan. As a part of the exercise, she had to justify her business decisions by taking note of the demographics of Florida’s state capital, Tallahassee. In the outline to the assignment, the key demographics were listed as per capita income, population by gender, and age ranges.
As I worked through the project, it occurred to me how little help typical demographic statistics in reality are for a marketing plan. Certainly such numbers are important criteria in early decision making. If, for example, you are setting out to launch a travel practice in any given area, you want to know sufficient population is present with enough disposable income. Beyond that, however, these are the wrong demographics for marketing purposes.
If I were to decide to open a new travel practice, here is what I would want to know:
- How many travel professionals are already in town? If there are none or very few, it doesn’t bode well. Competition means a market exists, and the more competition there is, the better.
- How many yoga studios are there? Golf courses? Discretionary spending on activities like yoga, biking, and outdoor activities indicates the presence of a propensity to travel. That’s why the golf magazines and the yoga magazines have so many advertisements for travel to exotic locales. Check it out.
- How many colleges are in the area? Certainly everyone travels, but college towns tend to see more travel. The better educated an area, the more likely the population is to have an interest in travel farther from home.
- How well structured is the area’s social network? Are there active seniors’ activities, school functions, and civic organizations? Activities such as these in a population facilitate marketing through networking and word of mouth.
Here’s the thing: You don’t market to demographics. You market to people. I cannot begin to tell you how to locate the demographic that makes more than $40,000 a year per household. But I can locate the yoga studios and the local VFW, and I can do it a lot less expensively than advertising in a general circulation newspaper. I do know where the country clubs and golf courses are, and they are crawling with golfers who want, at least once in their life, to play Ballybunion in County Kerry. That’s my market, identified, located, and served up for me.
Marketing is more about qualifying a demographic than quantifying it. Market not to demographics but to people and their interests. That is where their hearts are, those are their emotional touch points.
It’s also where they keep their discretionary income.