When I started my business, my main strategy was to get our bottled water products onto the shelves of major supermarkets. After achieving early success with Whole Foods, I assumed the bigger chains would follow, but to my dismay, I soon discovered that the world of retail wasn't so simple.
Supermarkets sell groceries to customers, but when it comes to suppliers, they're in the real estate business. And the big beverage corporations had the deeds to the shelving space I was targeting.
Though the obvious route to my target customers was closed, I didn't give up. Instead, I found other places to reach my audience and got our products in the cafes and canteens of big tech firms and college campuses.
This experience taught me to fish where the fish are. But, when it's not merely a case of turning up to a large, well-stocked lake and dropping your line, here are four tips for finding your audience.
1. Choose your fishing hole wisely.
Fashion brand Zara is unusual in achieving annual revenues of $9 billion without doing a lot of advertising. Instead, it is very strategic about where it opens its retail outlets. You often only find Zara stores at prominent locations in large cities.
The brand is famous for its eye-catching window displays that draw in passing trade. Cities are also where its target audience of 18- to 40-year-old fashion lovers tend to live, close to their like-minded friends. This is important, as word-of-mouth marketing is the key to Zara's primary value proposition, producing inexpensive but on-trend clothes in limited edition batches.
Friends tell friends they must get to Zara before the latest styles sell out. On average, customers visit a Zara store five times more than the industry standard every year. By being smart about where it chooses to fish, the world's biggest fashion retailer continues to reel in customers.
2. When you find the right spot, go all in.
Oreo Cookies is clear that its target audience is moms and equally clear about where to find them. Moms spend nearly 20 percent of their online minutes on Facebook, which is why the social network is the hub for all of Oreo's marketing activities.
The call to action at the end of an Oreo TV spot is to visit its Facebook page. Clicking an Oreo banner ad also takes you there. The brand's iconic illustrated print ads are regularly turned into interactive online games.
Oreo's Facebook page has more than 43 million likes, making Oreo one of the world's biggest food and beverage brands on social media. When you find the right place to fish, don't hold back. Put all your efforts into making the most of it while the conditions are right.
3. Bring the fish to you.
If you've ever watched a video of someone skiing down a near-vertical slope or free-running across the rooftops of a Greek island town, chances are it was filmed with a GoPro camera. It's also likely that you watched it on GoPro's YouTube channel.
The action camera brand understands that people doing crazy things is inherently viral. With more than 6 million subscribers, GoPro's YouTube channel is a hub for extreme sports video, where people consume and share content without ever thinking of it as advertising.
Being a content destination has helped make GoPro a billion-dollar company. Getting fish to come to you isn't always easy, but if you can create great content or build a fantastic YouTube channel, thought leadership blog or lifestyle site, these things will all attract new audiences to your brand.
4. Try different bait.
For the majority of ski resorts, attracting customers usually involves talking about the quality of their snow or offering discounts on lift tickets. In an effort to stand out from the crowd, Vail Resorts decided to create its own social network.
EpicMix is an app that allows skiers to share photos and compare run times with friends and professional skiers. This social and gamification element has helped Vail Resorts develop a loyal customer base.
The company is now a global ski resort giant with annual revenues of $1.8 billion and continues to expand every year. If everyone else is fishing with worms, try using a different bait to help you hook more customers.
Net new customers.
After my company's success in reaching our audience in other places, the big supermarkets came to us and asked to stock our products. Even after this victory, we continue to look for new ways of attracting customers.
That can mean launching a completely different product like sunscreen to bring a whole new audience to our brand or having a pop-up experience at a music festival so we can meet new people. Any new idea is worth trying, as long as you're fishing where the fish are.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.