STP: A Useful Marketing Acronym

One of the marketing concepts that I find many people struggle with–even marketing professionals–is defining a target audience. Seems pretty simple but, in fact, most people tend to cast a very wide net when determining who to target their marketing messages to. Much of this is because, I’m sure, we all have a tendency to believe that our product or service could appeal to a large segment of the market. So we attempt to reach the masses and, as a result, fail to effectively position our product or service within the minds of an audience that is most likely to respond.

There are three key terms that I’ve “thrown around” here, and they’re terms that we all tend to throw around, often without adequately or thoroughly understanding what they mean: segmenting, targeting and positioning — or STP.

  • Segmenting involves identifying the segment (or segments) that you believe represent your market.
  • Targeting involves identifying ways of reaching these segments.
  • Positioning involves presenting what you have to offer relative to other competitive offerings.

Research is critical for marketing success in any industry and for organizations of any size. It is very important to spend time understanding the target audience and their needs from both a demographic (e.g. age, sex, location, income level) and psychographic (values and beliefs) perspective. It is also important to understand what other competing priorities they may have and what barriers may exist that might limit their interest or ability to engage with your services.

The problem is that when we attempt to be relevant to everyone we end up being relevant to no one.

Think about what you have to sell. Then think about the segment of the larger audience that would be most likely to value what you have to sell. Who are they? What attributes define them? Once you have a clear idea of the SEGMENT you wish to reach, the next step is to determine how you can most effectively reach — or TARGET — them. The more information you’ve gathered about the attributes and attitudes that define them, the better you will be able to do this.

  • If you know, for instance, that these are working adults who drive to work every morning and listen to sports talk programming on the radio, an advertisement during this “drive time” might be a great way to reach your audience.
  • If you know, for instance, that you’re attempting to connect with young gamers who download free games on their mobile devices (which are offered free because of the online advertising that supports them), running a mobile ad might be a great way to reach your audience.

Finally, in your attempt to reach our target audience you need to carefully consider how what you have to offer might differ from what your competition has to offer and, consequently, how you can POSITION your offer relative to the competition. Maybe your product or service is less expensive, maybe it includes a lifetime guarantee, maybe it has features that the audience values that your competitors are not offering. The key is to take the time to figure this out. There’s little value in using “me too” offers; when you’re “the same as” somebody else, you don’t really present any unique value, and it will be difficult to move the market over to your product, especially when you’re dealing with a loyal market segment.

STP — another of those seemingly simple marketing  terms that, in practice, can seem exceedingly complex. Take the time to understand and use the concept, effectively, though and you’ll reap the rewards you’re looking for.

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