Schmarder: Identify Your Park’s Customers First

July 27, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Evanne Schmarder

Evanne Schmarder is the principal at Roadabode Productions, a firm specializing in digital marketing strategy, consulting, and education for the outdoor recreation industry. She is the co-author of Unconventional Wisdom Works – 25 Marketing Strategies to Build Your Outdoor Recreation Business Today, the host and producer of the RV Cooking Show and is a small business blogger for the Huffington Post. She created the RV industry’s first-ever online Digital Marketing Workshop covering targeted digital marketing techniques and topics and is the producer/host of Schmarder University, a small business interview series featuring industry thought-leaders. Evanne is a sought-after speaker and marketing panelist at national events and gets great satisfaction out of helping business owners maximize their marketing potential. She can be contacted at or (702) 460-9863.

Let’s face it, marketing can be intimidating. Experts publish books about it, the best business schools offer degrees in it, companies large and small live or die by it, but really, what exactly is marketing? Many equate marketing with advertising but the two are not interchangeable. Marketing is the sum of its parts – much more than simply advertising but identifying your market, positioning your organization and then using a finely tuned range (mix) of actions to promote and build your business – the ultimate goal.

Identify Your Customers

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is to launch a “marketing program” without completing the first and most critical step of any successful business or product – identifying your specific target market. This step will determine where you focus your efforts and spend your money. Without understanding whom your customer is, there’s no way you can even guess what’s important to them, thus know how to create satisfied repeat customers. When you know your target market, you can then understand how and why they make purchasing decisions. Determine your target market first and save yourself plenty of expensive trial and error.

Target Market Case Study: TD Ameritrade

Financial planning firms and insurance companies offer a wide range of products and services to a wide range of customers. As it became apparent that the boomer generation was going to be a force to reckon with, they got down to specifically identifying whom they were going to target. The current economic crisis has greatly impacted boomers, one of the largest segments of the population. This growing market of aging but hip individuals finds it very difficult to imagine themselves as “old” even though they are reaching retirement age in epic proportions. These companies know which side of their bread is buttered – soon-to-be-retiring Baby Boomers seeking financial independence mean lots of business for this market sector.

In a quest to gain the desired group of clients, companies have fine-tuned the art of using celebrities, music and voice-overs to evoke emotion in not-ready-for-the-rocking-chair-yet boomers. Ultra-cool Jason Bourne – a.k.a. Matt Damon, 41 – is lending his voice to a series of TD Ameritrade commercials pointing out that “lately there’s been a seismic shift in what passes for common sense” and of course goes on to encourage us to rethink our retirement planning by “taking control” of our finances with, naturally, TD Ameritrade. Alec Baldwin challenges us with this pithy question: “what’s in your wallet?” while promoting Capitol One credit cards offering travel rewards and cash back.

Boomers want to see themselves in both of these pitchmen. Damon is the next generation: hip, cool under pressure, tough, smart and a force to be reckoned with. Baldwin is a seasoned boomer: wise, attractive, successful, funny, and resilient. Perfect target marketing. Brilliant.

Take a moment to outline your target market. It may not be a single segment but several – families, couples, retirees. How can you best reach each market, relate to them, share a relevant, consistent message and encourage them to take action?

What’s Special About Your Business?

Once you’ve established who your customer is, you can then work toward the next step in successful marketing – positioning your business. The ultimate question here is to ask yourself what is special or unique about your business. Why should your target market frequent your establishment versus another in the next town over? Figure out or create your “unique selling proposition” – what your company or product is known for.

Business Positioning Case Study: Starbucks

Starbucks has certainly positioned their business successfully – it’s hard to miss what is known as the Starbucks Revolution. Who would have imagined such affinity to a coffee shop? But joe is not what they are selling – they’re selling an experience, a community, a feeling. In fact, one of the company’s core operating beliefs is that “we’re not in the coffee business serving people; we’re in the people business serving coffee.” It doesn’t really matter if their coffee is or is not the best in town. What matters is the way Starbucks makes their customers feel – it’s the ambiance and sense of belonging that brings customers back day after day.

It’s a well known fact that Starbucks is very non-traditional when it comes to their marketing. You may see a print ad and their product in grocery stores but for the most part they position their business through touch points with an aim to create intimate, experiential connections with their customers. The key mechanism in accomplishing this task is through their employees whom they call “partners” – called that, according to Starbucks, “because we passionately share common goals and mutual success.” By providing a good working environment (including benefits, etc.) Starbucks garners loyalty and satisfaction throughout its ranks. In turn, their “partners” impart a convivial, familiar, community vibe that makes walking into a Starbucks feel like coming home.

Do you offer an environment that makes your customers feel at home, comfortable being with you and giving you their business? What unique selling proposition are you, well, selling? Success is in the connections, the welcome feeling we get when we do business with one another. There must be a special “fit” to produce a long-term, recurring relationship.

More to Come

Spend some time away from the hectic day-to-day of your office or place of business to consider these important marketing questions. Use the examples provided as a learning tool. While you may not be able to afford a celebrity spokesperson and may not be interested in becoming a global organization, you certainly have the ability to change the world, one customer at a time.

In the next Modern Marketing column we’ll wrap up this two-part series with a case study about an interesting but ultimately unsuccessful marketing plan and look inside a successful marketing campaign.




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