Hot Mama, the retail chain dedicated to meeting the needs of fashion conscious moms, is a great example of a business that has succeeded in today’s challenging retail environment by focusing on a core customer target, understanding their needs and developing business strategies to meet those needs. Their deep knowledge of the target customer was the starting point of their concept, “A lifestyle brand that empowers moms to look and feel beautiful through curated, trend-driven apparel and accessories.”
Hot Mama’s strong business strategy includes many elements that reflect the target customer insights, from service elements for both mom and her children, to expert stylists, to a tailored product offering, to social marketing, to a focused real estate strategy and more.
Unfortunately, Hot Mama’s approach, driven by deep target customer insights, has become increasingly rare.
Too often, I see brands that view the understanding of the customer as something that can be done after the business strategy and product development process is well underway or complete.—which is exactly backwards. Instead of including the target customer in the first cut market assessment, the tendency is to look at internal organizational capabilities, simplistic competitive SWOT assessment, and judged fit with the existing business. Talking to customers- whether end consumers, retailers, or business-to-business channel partners takes a backseat to other priorities. In fact, I’ve seen instances where a brand’s market entry decisions are made with no primary customer or consumer input.
Today’s typical approach is to skip the customer insights and move straight to launching the business. Then ask the marketing team to position the product or service against an ill-defined target customer. Often the target customer description is kept as broad as possible so as to theoretically capture the maximum market, while in actual fact describing no one. We hear descriptions such as, “Adults ages 25-39 who are in the market for XYZ product.” From this, the marketing team attempts to fashion a compelling message and to select the media approach that can best reach this generic target.
Looking forward, I’m hoping that business can get “back to basics” and Targeting 101, recognizing that understanding the target consumer/customer is at the basis of business strategy, not an afterthought to ‘put lipstick on a pig.’