- Knowing your customers and what triggers them to purchase is imperative. This includes understanding what causes them to buy from your competitors
- This level of knowledge can only be built through ‘niche marketing,’ which is highly targeted at specific customer segments
- Sam Budd, Founder & CEO of Buddy Media Group and Founding Member of Social Chain and Seed Media, speaks about niche marketing and how it can be carried out
How well do you know your customer? Do you understand what triggers them to purchase, how trends shape their behavior, and why they purchase from your competitors? This knowledge is the only way to define the core objective of each activation, and the behavioral triggers needed to achieve it. Niche marketing is the path to this level of understanding. Too broad a focus and you dilute the quality of insights your research can deliver.
Sam Budd, one of the founding members of Social Chain and Seed Marketing, and now the Founder and CEO of Buddy Media Group is an advocate for customer-led niche marketing. In this Q&A he unpacks these concepts, how they are carried out in practice, and shares some of the brands getting it right or wrong.
1) How can brands understand if they are customer-centric?
Sam Budd: Start with the end in mind. Ensure there is a focus on closing the loop in terms of hitting your audience via multiple touchpoints. If you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, you’ll often fall short of your objectives. If a brand wants to create incredibly meaningful experiences but also needs 100,000 downloads and a CPA of this, the desired impact on the customer becomes lost as the way you achieve those objectives is delivered in vastly different ways.
Secondly, you must understand your customers and create a campaign that genuinely connects with who they are. I feel that many brands, like BooHoo and their International Women’s Day saga, get this wrong because their values and treatment of staff don’t align. This alienates customers and is inauthentic.
Thirdly, have you ensured the campaigns are designed to push consumers to act, either by purchasing or engaging? There are too many brilliant activations or social moments that don’t have a direct call to action. Whether it’s signing up 1000 guests to a waitlist for an NFT drop, or exclusive access to festival tickets for Early Bird releases, define the action you wish your customer to take and be transparent and honest with your messaging. People are happy to buy into brands that are genuinely focused on creating value for them.
Lastly, have you built a framework that tracks and attributes the impact? Are you using QR or discount codes to look at the impact your social activity has had in store? Are you ensuring that the attribution models have been agreed upon beforehand? Or are you using brand consideration tracking to show the percentage increase based on your activity?
2) What role do customer insights play in niche marketing?
Sam Budd: 94% of people who emotionally connect with a brand would recommend it to their peers. So, if you don’t understand your consumer, their values, habits, and concerns then you’re going to create an inauthentic campaign. It will not resonate with them as it doesn’t align with their everyday values.
Superdry, for example, has focused heavily on marketing to Gen Z. Their tone of voice was youthful and energized. But their average consumer age is 35 plus. They have been pushing out misaligned marketing and getting poor outcomes as it didn’t resonate with their actual customer base, and as a result, they nearly went bankrupt.
3) What research should brands conduct with their niche?
Sam Budd: Qualitative research is critical. A good benchmark is asking around seven to ten questions to a minimum of 1000 respondents. Understand their purchase behavior, their values, and what they love about the brand. Learn why they buy from competitors to identify any areas missing from your offering.
Monitor trends and changing behaviors to stay ahead of the curve and ensure your marketing is fresh, relevant, and innovative. For instance, 71% of Gen Z would like tailored experiences and around 50% are deeply concerned about the cost of living and their futures. Doing this research properly allows you to tailor your marketing and will create much more meaningful experiences. It can also drastically minimize failures.
4) Why is niche marketing so important?
Sam Budd: Everyone has vastly different mindsets and habitual behaviors. Focus on one area or one demographic, and tailor your experience to that audience using the data you’ve collated. Personalize the experiences you deliver.
A lot of brands will run global activations that aim to engage everyone. Keeping it universally impactful isn’t easy. When I partnered with Apple, we had a global plan, but one of the biggest challenges was making it market specific. How do we tailor it to the UK? To specific cities? Even the way people like to connect is hugely different. If you try to target everyone, it is simply impossible to deliver the personalized experiences that matter to each niche.
5) What steps can you take to conduct a competitor analysis and understand what makes their product better than yours?
Sam Budd: Once again, begin with market research. Ask their customers why they love the brand they are consuming. You’ll learn about what you’re missing, what you’re doing well, and what you need to focus on. Platforms such as Emplifi or Crimson Hexagon help you to look at market trends and understand what your customers are most engaged with.
Knowing what people are buying and why are they buying is more vital than ever. Particularly with iOS 14 and other clampdowns on tracking, contextual marketing is going to be one of the most important things to focus on moving into 2023.
6) Can you share a specific example of a brand that has embraced customer-led niche marketing?
Sam Budd: Asda recently launched a campaign where kids eat for £1 with every shop. It shows they understand their audience and are aware of the pain points and needs of their consumers right now.
Consumers are deeply concerned about the cost of living and how they’re going to get through the next six to twelve months. Having recognized they’re an essential purchase, they’ve asked how they can take the pressure off. Their customers truly value it and they have captured market share from brands like Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Another example is Aviva. They’ve studied how they can support the Gen Z millennial demographic and launched MOCO, a money coaching platform. They’re providing genuine value at a time when there is a serious need. However, they are also building brand loyalty for the Aviva group, which will drive consideration for their other offerings.
7) What trends or challenges will define (niche) marketing in 2023?
Sam Budd: Are you taking the current market seriously? If you’re going to focus on your brand values and not the consumer of the changing challenges 2023 will bring, you’re going to struggle to connect with your customers. Marketers in 2023 must begin with the customer and genuinely consider if they are delivering their marketing in a way that will create value. It needs to be more than just the product they offer, such as Bacardi’s “shake your future’ free Bartender courses. The brands that can deliver this properly will win in 2023.
Secondly, whilst Web3 is exploding and can elevate your social media strategy, be careful not to blindly chase a trend. The ability to deliver excellence is remarkable. We’ve partnered with a Web3 platform called Metropolis World, which has been designing specific worlds for brands and artists such as Formula 1 and Steve Aoki. It allows consumers to engage in unique ways from anywhere in the world. It allows the brand to give consumers incredible brand experiences that could normally only be achieved at live events. However, this would be extremely hard and costly without the specialist expertise. Partnerships are so powerful and brands looking to implement Web3/VR experiences should ensure they lean on partners if they want to nail customer experience in 2023.
Sam Budd is the Founder and CEO of Buddy Media. Sam helped found the Social Chain where he helped scale the business across three markets and 200+ staff, rapidly getting promoted to Managing Director at Social Chain USA, with the company eventually going to IPO on the German stock exchange.
With over ten years of experience successfully launching global agencies, in 2018 Sam decided to build his own, to drive the KPI that matters most for brands: sales. Buddy Media Group is thriving under his leadership.
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