Tag: ideal

Profiling Ideal Customers: The Enthusiastic Hobbyist

Profiling Ideal Customers

This post is part of a series describing unique customer segments that are especially valuable to retailers. For each group, we’ll break down their unique characteristics, what kind of brands could benefit from getting in front of them and how they could be identified.

The Enthusiastic Hobbyist

I was introduced to an interesting guy during a trip out west years ago. He had such an intensely curious and forceful personality that I think of that trip regularly, especially as an example of a super valuable buyer type: the enthusiastic hobbyist.

Tim is a serial entrepreneur that lives on a beautiful property in the hills of Santa Barbara. He’s had enough success in his business ventures that he has all that he needs. Still, when I met him at his ranch in the hills he only wanted to talk about composting.

After a short greeting we were immediately led on a tour of his composting operation. Tim dove right in with an explanation without any prodding, obviously excited to share what he’s learned. In addition to showing off what he’s created with his new gear, he walked us through his journey of knowledge and what he plans to do next. It was obvious that he’d been binging on the topic and was bursting to tell anyone willing to listen all about it.

When we had a quiet moment I asked the colleague who had introduced us about his passion for composting. “That’s just his personality,” he replied. “He will be all-in on this for a while and will move on to something else in the next 6 months.”

Short Lived Passion

After meeting Tim I realized that he’s not the only one that burns hot with a new hobby. There are a group of buyers out there I’ll call the Enthusiastic Hobbyist, that are a marketer’s dream in a lot of ways.

Enthusiastic Hobbyists want to absorb as much knowledge as possible in a short amount of time. They aren’t looking to learn through trial and error or to root through discussion board threads for solutions. They want an trustworthy source of info that can lay out specific answers, not nuanced discussion with pros and cons. And when they’re in learning mode they want access to content on demand so they can binge.

If you offer them authoritative content on their topic, you can control the discussion around purchasing gear and services.

Quick Buying Decisions

Wealthy consumers are often confronted with the opportunity/obligation to make lots of choices so they can get up to speed. To make a good choice quickly, Enthusiastic Hobbyists depend on reviews. Having a healthy community management function will pay off.

Industry leaders also offer an easy way for newcomers to figure out what gear works best. Utilizing strategic sponsorships with influencers within your market can work great since mimicking them can be the fastest way to look the part of an serious participant.

Buying At a Premium

For newcomers like Tim, buying gear is a way to take a shortcut to achievement in their newly adopted pastime. A high price point is an indicator of quality for those that don’t know from personal experience. And more than that, buying the best at a premium price allows Enthusiastic Hobbyists to demonstrate commitment to the hobby to the community and to friends and family (and visiting work acquaintances.)

Word of Mouth Through Justification

Just like my new friend Tim, Enthusiastic Hobbyists can be great evangelists for their new community and for the vendor selections they’ve made. We humans like to justify purchase choices after the fact, especially when it’s an unusually expensive choice. Buyer’s remorse brings cognitive dissonance and we prefer to regard ourselves as effective judges of value. Explaining the excellence of the brand they’ve backed can help reinforce that the purchase decision was a good one and spreads the word as a side effect.

The passion that they have for the topic makes them likely brand ambassadors, at least until they move on to another obsession.

Finding Enthusiastic Hobbyists

Target passionate newbies online by looking for a new addition to their social media interests, or new accounts at dedicated discussion sites, subreddits and other knowledge centers.

Some hobbies require certification or other identifiable actions that indicate someone new to the activity. Recent or repeated rentals of expensive gear can indicate someone ready to go on a buying spree.

Sometimes one big purchase can lead to many others so purchase data can reveal new hobbyists. Also have a look at new memberships in owner’s forums like corvetteforum.com or festoolownersgroup.com.

Enthusiastic Hobbyists may not be numerous but to the retailer or manufacturer offering a premium solution within a hobby of lifestyle niche, they can be an important segment to cater to. And speed is of the essence since today’s current obsession will only last until the next one comes along.

Profiling Ideal Customers: The Lake Entertainer

Profiling Ideal Customers

This post is part of a series describing customer segments that are especially valuable to retailers. For each group, we’ll break down their unique characteristics, what kind of brands could benefit from getting in front of them and how they could be identified.

The Lake Entertainer

Today we’re going to take a closer look at a creature native to my own land of Minnesota and its 10,000 lakes: the cabin owner. In and around the Twin Cities, it’s fairly common for well-off families to own or have access to a cabin within a few hours’ drive. For families lucky enough to have a lake place, many weekends in the short Minnesota summer are spent at the lake.

Each lake is different of course. But some common themes emerge when considering what it’s like at a Minnesota lake in the summer.

Social Expectations

Lake places are made for gathering and lake place owners often invite friends and family to the lake. Summer doesn’t last long in the upper Midwest and weekends are precious. As a host there’s an obligation to entertain guests well, including making memorable meals (usually some form of barbeque,) campfires and lake toys for splashing in and around the water. This means that hosts are especially interested in products that are capable of creating a wow factor with guests.

There’s a kind of spending justification that can go along with this too. For a lot of cabin owners, they take on the expense of buying and maintaining a lake place because it allows them to spend more time with those they love. Splurging on the little extras that might make that time more enjoyable is easy knowing that these opportunities are precious and fleeting.

Zany Atmosphere

At the lake, the vibe is casual punctuated with the odd and outrageous. A cabin can be a place to express personality with bold decor choices that wouldn’t fly at home. And when it comes to entertainment, the weird and the extreme can come out in the form of homemade contraptions, bizarre themes and outsized dimensions.

There is a one upsmanship involved with other groups around the lake that can magnify this effect. Again, any product that is bold enough to stand out, or unique enough to represent a personal passion, has a good shot at the lake.

A High Lookyloo Factor

One of the best ways to enjoy the lake is by boat. We can divide motorized boat traffic into a few major types. There are fishing boats looking for smallmouth bass and northern pike, parents in ski boats pulling kids on tubes, jet skis zipping around in circles and a handful of powerful wake setting boats full of young adults blasting music while wakeboarding or surfing. But the most ubiquitous boat found on the water has got to be the slow moving pontoon boat.

Pontoons on White Bear Lake (Pioneer Press: Ginger Pinson)

Pontoons excel at creating a comfortable cruise for groups of up to 12 people of all ages. The classic plan when filing onto the boat for a pontoon ride is to set the throttle just above idle speed and crawl along the perimeter of the lake, enjoying the sun and gazing at all of the impressive lake houses.

These floating platforms make for all kinds of conversation, but eventually the talk usually revolves around what other people that live on the lake are doing at their place: cabin improvements under way, the boats they have, their towables and rest of the lake toys they’re using.

This creates a natural kind of window shopping experience for cruisers, as well as a “keeping up with the Joneses” effect. The scores of pontoons doing laps each day represent a uniquely potent environment for word of mouth marketing.

Meet the Lake Entertainer Buyer Profile

Stir these factors together and you’ve got a valuable prospect profile for relevant brands in a context for free spending.

  • Higher than average household income
  • Cares about entertaining friends and family and wants to impress neighbors around the lake
  • Considers the lake a form of ‘vacation mode’ which can lead to looser spending choices
  • Readily influenced by other lake owners in close proximity and able to affect referral purchases
  • Open to impulse buying of niche products that are personal or outrageous as a form of self expression

Product categories that should seek the Lake Entertainer

There is a huge range of products that could apply to this buyer profile. Here are a few example categories.

  • Personalized decor and entertaining items
  • Tools for cooking for a crowd e.g. pellet smokers, Yeti coolers
  • Bizarre inflatables and towables
  • Outdoor entertaining gear, especially drinkware
  • Products for documenting the weekend e.g. action camera

Reaching Lake Entertainer Prospects

So what are some ways to find these valuable buyers? A few suggestions.

  • Tax records can provide mailing addresses at popular recreational lakes for mailings or for matching with identity resolution services
  • Using Facebook, target fans of products that are mostly dedicated to maintaining a lake place such as ShoreMaster docks and lifts.
  • Run social contests to incentivize user generated content from customers
  • Offer to sponsor lake association events with cash or in-kind donations
  • Enter a float in the local 4th of July parade
  • Create an email newsletter with news and stats by lake

That’s it for this installment of Ideal Customer Profiles. Enjoy the summer while it’s here!

Describing a dream niche for online sales

Robert Sorby chisels

When considering potential products and services to offer, it can be useful to look at the nature of the target audiences involved. Inbound marketing based on niche communities represent the ultimate dream for retailers that want to sell direct at incredible margins. Some groups can be more readily persuaded to buy online and to help evangelize a product solution.

So what does an ideal niche look like? Here’s a checklist of desirable audience traits to test product ideas against.

Traits of an ideal niche audience

Readily targetable – using advertising or organic means, it’s possible to make content and messaging available to your group. Having a unique user persona is great but it will be of limited use if you’re not able to identify similar users in the marketplace or to reach them.

Impressionable – Some groups are more open to persuasion than others. Users that follow influencers on social media or that read learning publications or videos, show that they are interested in advice and suggestions.

Self-motivated – Offering utilitarian products has its place. For the small brand selling online though, it’s especially helpful to operate in an industry where the users are motivated by personal passion. That could be a cause, a personal hobby, a mark of individualism or other thing that generates emotion.

Buying power – Audience members should be willing and able to buy online. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ultra wealthy as long as they have some discretionary income. These users should be comfortable moving from browse to purchase without getting overly caught up with privacy or security concerns.

Part of a community – If there isn’t a place to discuss the industry you can always create something and add value by cultivating it. But it’s even better if there’s an existing one that you can leverage and participate in. Online discussion boards or meetups provide a great way to hear from potential customers directly and you can mine the existing chatter for clues about what motivates purchasing behavior.

Example Niches – Meat Thermometers and Carbide Chisels

Hobbyists that don’t do work as a professional but that want to dabble are a prime opportunity for niche brands. There are plenty of weekend warriors that want to buy their way into upping their game, whatever that game may be. One example of a brand that benefits from this kind of audience is Thermoworks, who is the undisputed leader in digital meat thermometers. Chefs swear by the Thermapen, considered the Cadillac of instant read thermometers for its accuracy and speed. Home chefs likely have very little need for a thermometer that can measure accurately to the tenth of a degree, or that can create a readout in 3 seconds instead of 10 seconds. But if they just spent thousands on a new outdoor kitchen and want to follow their Big Green Egg recipes closely, spending $100 to get the best thermometer seems worth it. This kind of narrow focus has allowed Thermoworks to attain an enviable market leader position and they have such a cult following that they can afford to avoid marketplaces like Amazon.com entirely.

Robert Sorby chiselsThe content opportunity for brands catering to a specific niche is to show the output that pros get out of their high end tools. By demonstrating what’s possible, ambitious amateurs are offered a tempting shortcut to improving their own skills. And while huge hobby categories like woodworking have been crowded with vendors forever, there are sub-categories with specialized tools like creating bowls from stumps through wood turning. As an interested beginner you can get a cheap set of chisels from Harbor Freight to do the job. But if you want to use the tools that the big accounts on Instagram use to create their works of art, you’ll have to pop for a premium brand like Robert Sorby and their titanium-nitride Turnmaster with tungsten carbide cutting head.

Inspiration

So where do you go to find categories, sub-categories and sub-sub-categories? Communities are a good place to start. Anywhere people organize to discuss their passions and hobbies can be a great source for ideas. There is a seemingly unending supply of obscure subreddits where users discuss their unique needs and preferred brands. Sites like subredditstats.com can help to identify groups that are gaining momentum.  Meetup.org is another place to see how people self-identify around interests. This can be a good way to spot emerging trends to seek out new opportunities. Axe throwing, whiskey tasting and creating and ice carousels have only recently become relatively mainstream and each have their own accompanying set of specialized accessories.

Moving in and taking over

Once a community is identified, it’s best to create a product offering at the high end of the market to command the best prices, presuming you can demonstrate that your product is obviously much better than the others. But that is easier said than done, especially for lucrative niche markets. As an alternative, you can position yourself as the affordable version of an existing brand (like RTIC did for YETI) or create an ordering experience that’s faster or easier than the rest (like Bulk Reef Supply did for salt water aquarium hobbyists) or another way of differentiating from the current line up. The products may seem weird to the general public, but to the right audience they’re the stuff of dreams.