Except in very few cases, when targeting customers, one size definitely does not fit all. There are few precise rules and the solutions literally change from one category to another. In consumer markets, due to the large number of potential customers it is possible to get away with generalised positioning of products and/or services, regardless of how sloppy this approach may be. In niche markets, however, such an approach is mainly doomed to failure, because most are complex, with overlapping and interrelated sub-categories, each with its particular characteristics and needs.
The customer mindset – plotting the information elements affecting a purchase outcome
Targeting becomes especially difficult when the markets comprise both consumer and non-consumer segments. Imagine a situation where a product sells in industrial, marine and say, rural markets! However, the essential principle is to be able to look and the information requirements from the perception of each and every party whose purchase decisions affect the outcomes and to decide where your offer fits into this value chain. Here are some examples from the housing sector – easily replicated in many market categories:
Design & construction – Complex design parameters, regulations and standards, involving architects, planning authorities, councils, builders, suppliers etc. The end-purchaser will have major influence but every specialist contributing to the outcome affects that purchase decision.
Construction materials – Constrained by building codes, but also by the builder/contractor. Each trade will have specific selection parameters based on supply issues, including availability, familiarity and price.
Interior fit-out – Few regulatory constraints, selection mainly determined by architect, designer, builder & market positioning. All of the factors listed above apply. A superb fit-out may create consumer appeal for a very ordinary building and vice versa.
Soft furnishings – Few regulations. Mainly affected by consumer fashion and value perception.
Staking a claim
It is essential to know where your particular product or service fits into the value matrix and which categories must be influenced to convert prospects to purchasers. Sometimes this “purchase” may be a referral, inclusion in a specification, or the most practical and cost-effective means of getting the desired solution. As in the highly simplified example above, it will illustrate how each seller in the project will have highly specific needs for information.
Frequently, the matrix can define a market niche where it is possible to stake a claim to whatever features and benefits will most influence each category of prospective purchasers. It also makes the choice of key words simpler and helps to differentiate between your value proposition and those of competitors.