Tina Wells is an author, marketing expert and business strategist recognized by Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business, Essence's 40 Under 40 and more. For over two decades she led Buzz Marketing Group, an agency she founded at age 16 where she connected clients like Dell, The Oprah Winfrey Network, Kroger, Apple, P+G, Johnson & Johnson and American Eagle with her network of about 40,000 influential millennials and passionate end-consumers. Since 2018 Tina has also been leading Elevation Tribe, a community and quarterly publication she created to help women launch, grow and lead their businesses with a focus on women of color. Tina is also the author of several books, including the best-selling tween fiction series Mackenzie Blue; its spinoff series The Zee Files and a middle-grade book series called Honest June. She also authored the marketing handbook, Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right. Here, she shares her signature framework for understanding your ideal customer and perfecting content to attract new customers.
How do brands go about aligning with their perfect customer?
I really believe in alignment. I believe that we all serve the people we were meant to serve. So it's important to figure out who your people are. Content creation, client attraction and launch planning are a whole lot easier when you let everything flow from your perfect buyer's point of view. Many people say they 'serve everyone' or that they want to reach as many people as they can. While I understand the sentiment, it is not effective marketing. When you generalize too much, you end up excluding the people who could really benefit from your product or service. Also, no one can afford to market to everyone. The best way to create a marketing strategy is to hone in on exactly who you're serving. It's important that people identify with what you're doing. You want them to feel like what you're selling is perfect for them.
How do you go about personifying that ideal customer?
Five questions need to be asked to help you get to your ideal customer avatar or your "ICA".
What are you offering?
Who does it benefit?
Why would they want it?
How would it change their life?
Where will they find it?
To come up with the answers, try describing your offering in five words or less. Customers aren't giving us a long time to try to sell to them, so the clearer we can be upfront, the better. Another tip is not to overthink how your product can change their lives. There are so many simple life changing things such as bringing surprise, delight, curiosity or excitement.
What is your recommended strategy if you have multiple product offerings that serve more than one type of customer?
Marketing two different products at the same time with a limited budget is hard and not as effective because your attention and resources are split. You always want to fund and put energy into the part of the business that's already showing success. You don't want to stifle that success, you want to make it go even faster. So, if you have a choice between putting a few more dollars into the part that's working versus spreading it across other projects, do that. If you can afford a varied amount of services, focus on where you're already seeing signs of success, make it even more successful and then reinvest.
How do you segment your ideal clients?
I remember when I was working with Dell who had businesses they sold to and consumers they sold to, and there was this moment when we realized we're just people selling to people. To segment, ask the same questions to each of your potential groups. List their pain points and acknowledge how your various groups pain points differ. Think a lot about the end buyer and create an ICA for each group. The goal of the exercise is to look through the eyes of the end-users to understand each segment of folks you might be selling to.
How is marketing both an art and a science?
The problem with facts and figures is they're emotionless. However, when you approach it from a research perspective, you can see how both pieces are equally important. Understanding where your ideal customer lives, what she does, or what he does, all of that is so important. But then you also need the artistic part where your brand comes to life. I think for so long, we relied on the facts, the figures, and most recently the algorithms, to help us figure out what our customer is into and we forgot the aspect of the human touch. Algorithms aren't the whole story. Brands need to have a heart and a voice. To do that you need to understand the psychological profile of your audience.
Another thing to also consider is that almost 100% of our buying decisions, start with our unconscious mind and our emotions. People are emotionally led. Think about the brands that you love. Think about why you love them and think about your connection to them. Also, consider why brands get canceled. Customers bought into the ethos of that brand then felt betrayed by their actions - cancelations are emotional decisions.
Another thing to also consider is that almost 100% of our buying decisions, start with our unconscious mind and our emotions. People are emotionally led.
Where do product features come into play in terms of aligning with your customer?
Features are the attributes and functions of a product or service. For example, when talking about a razor the features could be a five-blade razor head, a moisture strip and an anti-slip handle. The next step is to ask ourselves which features will sell the product. Copywriters spend a lot of time making sure these words come across in very specific ways. There are two things you need to provide to make their job easier.
First, identify the main pain points. We talked about the fact that it's okay for products to be just about pleasure or surprise or delight, but you're still doing things that make life easier. If we're buying clothes or buying dresses, we still need to imagine how we'll feel in the clothing. There's an intrinsic and extrinsic value from our purchase. Defining those values is part of identifying pain points.
Second, identify the aspects of your product or service that reduce or eliminate each problem. Whether it's direct to your door shipping or easy returns. Now, is the time to address anything that will create a barrier to someone making the sale. Those are things that you want to address right upfront. These benefits amplify your list of features by sharing how each will impact or improve the buyer's life after purchasing your product or service.