One of London’s most magnificent public venues faced a major challenge last year. And no, I’m not talking about the perpetual challenge of whether to love or hate Marmite. I’m talking about a challenge that strikes a common refrain with every nonprofit, big brand, small business, expert, and entrepreneur:
How can we grow annual revenues and expand our appeal to a broader market?
Sounds familiar, right? Even though your yearly marketing goals may not spell it out, if you have taxpayers, investors, trustees, employees or creditors, you’re always on the hook to connect your marketing efforts to revenue streams, in the form of new or higher-paying customers. Now, other kinds of attractions, like sports, concerts, and conferences, might have been able to raise ticket prices, or tack on fees at the time of sale. At this London public venue, though, like many other cultural sites, entry is free—a recent tradition that would literally take an act of Parliament to reverse. Just attracting new museum visitors alone, then, wouldn’t be sufficient. This venue would need a new value proposition for a whole different group of people.

Option A: Change the business model

One thing to look at was where its revenue streams originated. One of its crucial sources is patronage, relying on donations and memberships. Out in the public marketplace, though, it’s all about ticket sales for permanent exhibits, special events, tours, and temporary attractions, as well as foot traffic in retail shops and food courts. How could they further monetize those by getting more people to pay, rather than increase prices and potentially lose their current consumers? When large enterprises want to expand to new prospects, they roll out business development’s spreadsheets, analysts’ reports, risk analysis and SWOTs, and make major physical investments in manufacturing, facilities, research and development projects, real estate, even M&A. But when organizations and nonprofits can use only their existing resources, this becomes a pure product marketing exercise: who are the target customers, and how do we compel them to consider an offering we already have?

Option B: Repackage the offering

As marketers, by now we’ve become masters at repurposing content. Can we apply the same concept to offerings effectively?
It’s a marketing basic. Very often, productization is easily possible from existing products and services:
  • Rebranding. A food brand would identify baby boomers as the most profitable demographic, and repackage its millennial-focused specialty product to create a second, higher-margin, more traditional brand.
  • Bundling. A travel company could launch new cruise packages, weekend hotel stays, or resorts with a unifying theme—such as wine, regional cuisine, or festivals—that resonates with a younger age group or lifestyle.
  • Versioning. A systems company might turn off some features in its existing product to create a software-only version that current enterprise customers would ignore, but that would find broader appeal with a consumer base.
  • Syndication. A media company would syndicate TV or streaming programming (or maybe an entirely new network, now that networks can be virtual collections), and attract not only a new audience with its existing content, but also a second set of sponsors and advertisers.
  • Labeling. A clothing company might license a celebrity’s name and offer its current line, but with designer labels to shoppers in upscale retail outlets.
These examples include physical, digital, and intangible changes that can immediately boost the appeal of the offering to buyers, depending on their delivery preferences, emotional connections, and needs at that time. How can you boost the market appeal for audiences if you don’t plan to change the offering?

Option C: start with the customer

We have a winner! Regardless of industry, these growth models all start with one question that guides each strategic decision that follows, in order to achieve the market goal most successfully:
Who is the target market?
Your target market is one third of a so-called “marketing triangle”—the other two sides being a strong value proposition and differentiated positioning—that contribute to the sturdiest go-to-market approaches. Think about it: If your target audience is not well-defined, you can only guess about communication methods, timing, preferred media channels, frequency threshold… and those are just the tactical failures. The strategic focus that targeting brings to your planning is equally critical, so you can:
  • adequately assess spending
  • measure effectiveness
  • make high-impact contact
  • tell them a meaningful story
  • address concerns relevant to them
  • and actually have a relationship with them
Back at our London venue, where we happened to be discussing its customer-base mandate, we started with that question. Who is the target market? Think about how hard it must be to answer that, when the sheer scope of a public venue is… the public. And not just citizens, but tourists, business visitors, pretty much people all over the world. So it’s tempting to think, our product is for everyone! (Stop me if you’ve heard that one before, from developers, executives, or sales reps…)

The problem with everyone

Here’s the problem with that though. Does that mean the company can’t be successful until “everyone” is a customer? How will you know? And what will you do then? Can you just turn out the lights and go home? How measurable is your plan to reach “everyone”? Does everyone read the same newsfeeds and blogs? Does everyone type the same search phrases? What is everyone’s spending pattern? Did you ask everyone? What does everyone look like? (Just in case I run into him or her sometime. I’ll have a lot of questions!) And if everyone is your target market, then how can you expand to new markets? How can you possibly appeal to everyone; what does everyone like? Hint: what everyone does like is free admission: all of the UK’s national museums’ and galleries’ attendance grew explosively in the years since offering it. But that doesn’t help with the whole pesky revenue thing. And of course, product marketers the world over will recite the targeting code, chapter and verse:
“If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, then you’re not appealing to anyone.”
It’s hard to keep the list of problems with targeting everyone very short. In our venue discussion, we explored several major segments of the larger demographic, and landed on insights that would help the venue cherry-pick targetable, reachable, measurable groups, such as international visitors attending certain expos in the city–not only as growth opportunities into new regions, but also, as tourists, likely to have spending money. Meanwhile, the venue could still maintain its current free offerings for groups who simply love, as the U.K. Ministry of Culture describes it, “the chance to experience beautiful, extraordinary and educational things.” Which, unlike Marmite, is everyone.