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photo: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Using a hierarchy of needs to discover what you need to know to effectively reach your target market

(Article 2 in 4 part series)

The key to the marine marketing checklist is to use Part One (the “4 knows”) and Part Two (the “4 what’s”) strategically and in unison. This article will explain the first of the “4 know’s” and how the “4 what’s” are generically linked to each of the “4 know’s.”



Part Two: The “4 what’s”

What do you know?

What do you need to know?

What you don’t know?

What you don’t need to know?

Do you really know your market? Is your target market based on age, expanding, contracting, gender, income, need, or some other measurable demographic?

What do you know, REALLY know, about your market?

OK, your market is boating—power/sail; regionally/nationally based; size based; dream based; needs, use, income or economically based. What external influences are directly and indirectly affecting your targeted demographic? Is your market(s) an existing or an inactive customer, a referral, an upsell or down sell? What is your competition’s view of your market? What players are about to enter, or what players have exited the boating or marine market, and how does that entrance or exit offer you an advantage or disadvantage? How does that affect your targeted market?

Do you see how the above paragraph includes a brief but telling review of the not only the “Know Your Market” concept from Part One but also start to focus on the questions contained within Part Two? Often I will whiteboard the questions and their answers in order to develop a hierarchy of needs and actions, a detailed SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Tactics and Threats), if you like, based on not only your needs but also on the SWOT needs of your targeted demographic.

Many times, marketing people get lost in the weeds and fail to see the channel to success. By asking the “4 know’s” supported by the “4 what’s” you will begin to see the channel, see the path or paths to sales or brand success.

Over my career, I have never seen a successful marketing program develop that does not ask, in some fashion or other, the “4 know’s” and “4 what’s.” It just seems that taking a short cut at this stage short circuits the entire effort and derails your program. Once derailed and delayed, many of your other assumptions will go bad!

Next: Know your Customers

Once you understand your market, which is a task or a learning experience that will never end, ongoing, continuing education is mandatory if you plan to be a successful marine marketer.

Possibly the best example of this ongoing learning experience are the demographics currently looking “hot” to the marine industry— Baby Boomers, Generation Y, and the subset Millennials. I do not for a variety of reasons fully agree with the “hotness” of these markets. The boomers may be spent out, Generation Y seems to look to other areas for fun, enjoyment and ways to fill their leisure time, and the Millennials are re-defining marketing in their own image. As much as the marine industry may not wish to look to the future and a totally new market, they should. They should also craft a new message targeting the various components of the “new market.”

  • Understanding your customers translates to a common but variable messaging strategy.
  • Understanding your customers and your markets allows you to sense and predict trends that can be used as selling opportunities for your product line.
  • Understanding your customers means more than being customer-centric. It means you need to be customer motivating, understanding that today a customer buys, we (you) do not sell. You make product or services available and the customer (in most instances) selects them based on a number of time-proven hierarchies, such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Still used today, Maslow’s hierarchy includes 5 need levels. Your successful marine marketing efforts need to understand these levels and determine how they will impact your effort and how you can motivate the consumer by aappealing directly to one of prospect’s basic needs. Simply, the answer is through the development and deployment of a well-organized marketing strategy. Today, some (me included) add relevance, integration, and interaction to Maslow’s five levels—but that is a completely different article;

The five levels based on Maslow’s hierarchy are:

  • Physiological (life survival)
  • Safety and security
  • Love and belongingness
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-actualization

When activating your marketing effort, ask yourself what you know about your customer. Perhaps the better question involves what you do not know about your customer, prospects, in-actives, and/or some other defined segmentation of your targeted demographics. Your answers may help you decide if, or how, they are interested in your products or services or the category that you play in, such as leisure or boating/marine. You may discover a ton of information that you do not need right now; for example, perhaps you offer only to a regional base, or products only needed by a highly specific segment of the market. Don’t throw this information out; place it in the folder of future marketing needs and information.

Remember information is converted to knowledge and, in turn, is the basis for acquiring wisdom.

Perhaps you will discover that your market is gender-based and for you that falls under the “what you did not know” listing. A few years ago, a major manufacturer assigned me to forensically conduct a post program analysis of a national effort, reviewing their deployed and completed direct marketing campaign. After a detailed review of the elements, messaging, content, and context of what they projected as a failed marketing effort, I presented my finding.

Knowing is to …

My PowerPoint presentation began with a simple “ask” that was addressed to the executives who assigned me the forensic review and those that executed the effort. My first question was “Is your market gender based?” “No” was the common answer—“Ours is not a gender-based industry!”

True in part, about 72% of their market was male dominated, but a big, BIG percentage of this vertical was undergoing a change that brought women into the management of the firms that had been targeted. This new market now consisted of about 28% women.

Women made buying decisions, had a part in the chain of command that suggested and approved products (purchasing decisions), and managed or supported the buying cycle. In fact, when I dug deeper, I found that these firms, the “female-based 28%,” would be more in need of my clients’ equipment than the 72% male-dominated part. Why? What I learned was that the transfer from a male-owned and dominated business was occurring, and that transfer included asking the new management (many of whom were women) to consider updating or replacing equipment that was offered by my clients. The next marketing effort undertaken by my client removed any gender-specific pronouns (such as he and him), dropped any use of attractive women in bikinis, and began to segment their efforts based on knowing their market and that sub-set of knowing their customer.

What I did discover that much of the data (information) that we did not need and would not need for quite some time had value, but not for this immediate need. The information I presented was added to the knowledge base of my customer, was converted into sales-based wisdom and, yes, positivley affected their bottom line. The next program was a defined success!

I also discovered that the media deployed by my client was also questionable. Media used were based on their understanding of the market and customer, which was, as you know now, in part (a major part) wrong. Media outside of print, such as direct mail, needed to be used and supported. Social, mobile, micro-sites, and a calculated combination of integrated legacy and emerging media (media convergence) was developed.

Next installment: Know your media!

In the meantime, feel free to reach out and talk to me about this series: Guide to Profitable Marine Marketing.




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Thaddeus Kubis

Founder and Chief Integrattion Officer at The Institute For Media Convergence
Offering integrated marketing/media communication consultant based services; my broad skill set is founded on profit advocacy and ROI – Where marketing becomes dialogue and engagement! Integrated Marketing • Media Convergence • Profit Advocacy • Multi-Media Management • Forensic Marketing Analysis thad.kubis@tifmc.org 917.597.1891

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