Competition today is fierce and with so many marketplace changes, companies large and small are always looking to get ahead. Consumer insights are essential now more than ever for competitive advantage, but in addition to insights there are also marketing perspectives and strategies that will also help your succeed above your peers. So, what insights, strategies, and perspectives will enable you to get ahead? We asked IIM’s seasoned consultants and have aggregated their top 6 secrets to competitive success below.

1.  Remember, you are not your target.

Close up of chess board with businessman knocking over the opponents queen.Your target market often thinks feels and acts differentially than you. Despite your best effort to put on your target consumer hat, you cannot be them. They view your brand and your competition in a different light, a light which you need to illuminate your strategic brand plan. Stay close to your target and do research early and often.

2.  Take orders from the right boss, and we don’t mean your manager.

Politics, company protocol, and process often cloud marketers’ and researchers’ judgment and get in the way of a clear target market view. Make sure your time and energy is spent in those that really pay your paycheck, your target market – the people that go out every day and purchase your product and service. The dividends will pay off in spades.

3.  Get to know the person, not the purchaser.

In the marketing, we use the word consumer quite liberally. You have a target consumer, you do business to consumer (B2C) marketing, and you need to uncover the needs of your consumer. However, what few marketers understand is that your goal as a researcher or marketer should be to get to know the person behind your consumer. It is people that your brand will connect with; it is people that you talk with (and not at). It is connecting with consumers as people that will lead to success, differentiation, and brand loyalty.

4.   A complete target understanding is the birthplace of brand differentiation.

How does your target market view the world? What motivates them? What is their personality, habits and values? It is these elements that motivate purchasing decisions and enable marketers to really understand a person. Oftentimes people can’t articulate the drivers of their behavior as these reside in their subconscious. Therefore, doing research that gets at the complete view of a person, both subconscious and conscious, is essential.

5.  Not everyone can be your target market

Oftentimes marketers don’t want to alienate potential purchasers and they have a “target everyone” mentality.  While this strategy does a good job not pitting consumers against your product/service, it doesn’t do much for getting people to emotionally connect with your brand.  Emotional connections are born from a deep and complete understanding of the person. Not everyone is the same. You may not be alienating everyone with a market to all strategy, but you aren’t connecting with anyone either.

6.  Emotional connections last, functional relationships fizzle

An emotional connection with your target market should be the holy grail of your brands marketing strategies. Functional relationships are great, but fleeting as products and services evolve and “one-up” one another for your business.  It’s the emotional connections that keep a target market loyal and coming back to your brand.  These are the relationships your brand should strive to develop and nurture.  It is these relationships that foster longevity and sustainable competitive advantage.