When I first began in PR and marketing 15+ years ago, we defined our business niche mainly by demographics and audience behaviors. We asked questions like, What’s the age range we’re targeting? What’s their annual income range? What newspapers and magazines do they read? What cereal do they eat in the morning? (This last question was on almost every Ideal Client Avatar exercise for years).
We used that information to create customer profiles that, in theory, were meant to hone our PR and marketing approach and target our marketing message. The approach felt antiquated even then, mainly because we were making assumptions about people’s behaviors all day but not getting to the bottom of why they were making those choices. But it was our best attempt at identifying our segment of the market and trying to understand the people who sat within it at the time.
Since then, we’ve come to better understand what drives purchasing behavior (the why, not the how or what). At the same time, consumers have increasingly started to put their money behind brands that align with their values. An Accenture study found that sixty-five percent of participants said their purchasing decisions are influenced by the words, values and actions of a company’s leaders. A separate Deloitte study found that organizations that ranked highest on workforce and customer satisfaction have values that overlap with their customer. They were also twice as likely to outperform similar companies in the industry over a three-year period.
As you think through how to define and articulate your segment of the market, start by niching by values. What are your non-negotiable brand values? What matters to the business? Your high-loyalty customers will be people who value similar things—from sustainability and conscious consumerism to risk-taking and adventure.
And if you wonder about the correct pronunciation anytime anyone utters the word, like I did, we can end the niche debate once and for all. Turns out both “neesh” and “nich” are considered acceptable pronunciations. According to Mirriam-Webster, the “nich” pronunciation has been around longer and is more common in the U.S. The “neesh” pronunciation is thought to have come from French influence and is more common in the U.K.
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