One of the biggest mistakes most companies make when it comes to marketing is that they fail to clearly identify their target market demographic for specific products and services. I’ve come to realize that most companies really don’t think about their customers. They just want to sell products with no real thought put into it.
Visit any retail store, like Target, and look at the labels on the thousands of products sitting on the shelves. Few actually give you more informatin than the company thinks is necessary, even if you as a consumer could have benefited from that info. In fact, going that extra step could lead to increased sales, if companies would just wake up.
This is the story of how Walmart woke up and increased sales by simply thinking about consumer needs. My needs.
Fishing & Lakes
There are few places that keep me going in daydreams during the cold Montreal winter months like the quiet rivers and lakes of Quebec. I love swimming in the fresh water but most of all I enjoy fishing in a small boat. Going through the peaceful waterways as I anticipate catching a large northern pike is simultaneously relaxing and exciting.
There are countless anglers like me so it comes as a surprise that when I went to buy a battery for my motor, the experience was pathetic.
A Little Background: Boat Motors 101
There are two types of motors that can be attached to a small fishing boat. The first is a gas-powered motor. These are heavy and loud but are needed to travel on larger lakes and rivers with stronger currents and higher waves. The other is an electric motor. Electric motors are quiet and ideal for trolling through calm water. I own two of the latter which are small enough and sufficiently light to easily transport in the trunk of my car.
The First Failure
Now, in order to power the motor, I need a battery. There are just a few sizes of batteries that are typically used for electric motors. In the past, I’ve purchased batteries that were large. Too large, in fact. They were the size of a car battery and would last an entire day. However, they were heavy to lug around. None of my friends ever wanted to carry it down to the boat and I was always stuck with the mildly laborious task of setting it up.
I finally decided to buy a smaller battery. It was a gamble because smaller batteries may be lighter but they only last a few hours. Nonetheless, I went on the hunt to find a suitable replacement to my larger battery.
When I had originally purchased the battery (the heavy one) for the electric motor, I had a lot of trouble figuring out the basics of what I needed. I went to specialty stores like Le Baron and Sail but got completely different answers from the respective sales people.
These stores almost always only sold one brand, “Demone Marine,” which had very little information on the label or on their website. I couldn’t even find basic details like whether or not the battery came pre-charged. The company was completely useless in that respect. I will never buy another Demone Marine battery. Total fail.
Walmart Over Costco: A Case Study
I went to fishing equipment and boat stores where I was told either not buy a small battery, that they didn’t carry the size I wanted, or both. You would think that specialized stores would have had this figured out by now but that wasn’t the case. Surely I wasn’t the only one who wanted a small battery for my electric motor.
I changed tactics and started shopping at stores like Costco and Canadian Tire. The problem is that while they had batteries that looked appropriate, there was no indication whatsoever that what they had would solve my problem. The staff didn’t have any answers to my questions and they had no idea how to help me so I was on my own. To be fair, I can’t fault them. Big box stores offer you lower prices at the expense of you having to figure out what you need on your own.
That’s when I decided to try the automotive section of Walmart. Walmart has a house brand of batteries called EverStart. As soon as I reviewed their selection of batteries, I noticed one that was the size I wanted. It also had an added bonus. That is, a sticker with icons depicting four popular uses for the battery. Among them was an actual icon of an electric motor.
“SOLD!” I said in my mind as I quickly grabbed it off the shelf. I’ve since purchased several of these batteries from Walmart for that reason alone.
To compete with Walmart’s EverStart batteries, Costco sells its own line of batteries under its Kirkland Signature brand. Like the Walmart batteries, they cost around $100. They take up a lot of shelf space and since I’ve been seeing them there for years, I’m assuming they are quite profitable.
The Costco batteries simply said “marine” on them. Marine implies water. It ends there. That wasn’t any help. Even a sign explaining the numbers on the label (i.e., 845, 120, 685, 95) could have helped guide my decision.
What Did Walmart Do Better?
So what was the problem? Why did the other stores fail to make the sale? Their marketing people had not made it clear who their target audience was. They did not figure out the personas of people who might be looking for their products.
On the other hand, Walmart nailed it with four personas clearly indicated on the label.
Most products fail to sell at least some of the time because the product’s makers are so busy telling you how great the item is (e.g., on the box) that they forget to show you how it can be used. Content marketers must consider that point as they generate new ideas for increasing sales.
There’s a key ingredient to success with content marketing. That is, it’s extremely important to know the persona that you’re targeting. Perhaps even more important is the simple content marketing concept of being able to anticipate consumer needs. Walmart gets an A+ for making it clear that people in my unique situation could buy their product knowing that it was developed for people like me.
One of the reasons infomercials are so successful is that they can easily spend an hour going through possibility after possibility for the products they’re hawking. They “got it” decades ago and somehow only now are online content marketing specialists understanding the importance of anticipating consumer needs.
The idea of forethought in marketing seems so alien to so many companies but it should be the default standard. Any time you can’t easily find information about a product or service, it’s a content marketing failure on the company’s behalf.
Have Your Own Case Study?
Do you have a story like this? Share it below. I’d love to hear your perspective and so many other readers would appreciate it as well.