What's the single most important factor in the success of a marketing campaign? How clever are the advertisements? How good the product or service is? The price being charged?
If you said "none of the above", then I have to agree with you. The most important factor in marketing is targeting.
You simply have to know what to sell, and to whom to sell it.
If you're selling something that doesn't appeal to the people you're speaking to, then you can forget about a good return. Regardless of how good your product is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark.
Moldy Grape Juice or Heavenly Elixir?
If I offered you a bottle of 1995 Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tâche for $500, would you buy? For the non-oenophiles among us, the Domaine de la Romanée Conti is a producer of wine in Burgundy in France. They make some of the finest and most highly coveted wines in the world, and La Tâche is one of their finest. But at $500, would you buy?
Some people might, but many others wouldn't. And fair enough. Some would argue that no wine is worth that kind of price. Some people just don't like the taste of wine and wouldn't buy no matter how highly esteemed the wine was. And others, for whatever reason, just don't drink alcohol.
But if I make my offer to some serious wine-lovers, to people who have no problem dropping a hefty wad of cash on a great bottle, then however many bottles I have available will be gone soon. That's because a bottle of 1995 La Tâche for $500 is a steal.
But it's only a steal to the people who are interested in that sort of thing. So if I want to sell my bottles, I have to do everything I can to make my offer to people who are interested.
Targeting: The Key to Effective Marketing
So how do I get my offer in front of people who are interested? That's where targeting comes in.
If I were to advertise the bottles of wine that I wanted to sell in Car and Driver magazine, I'm sure you'd agree that I'd be wasting a lot of my advertising dollars.
I'd have a better, more targeted audience if I were to advertise in a wine-oriented publication such as Wine Spectator. This magazine's readers are obviously interested wine, and many of them are probably even interested to the extent that a mere $500 for the wine I'm pitching would have them licking their lips and dusting off the Riedel glasses.
All this stands to reason. You're obviously going to get a better response advertising high-end fine wine to an audience that is at least predisposed towards wine. But can we do better?
While Wine Spectator caters to wine lovers, not all of them will be sufficiently loaded to seriously contemplate dropping that kind of moolah on a single bottle of wine. In other words, I'll be paying for the privilege of advertising to Wine Spectator's millions of readers, when all I really want to do is advertise to the five percent or so who are likely to be interested in my offer.
With Car and Driver, I was way off-target. Wine Spectator is on-target, but I'm using a shotgun. To get the most bang for my buck, I want to find a way to put my offer only in front of people likely to be interested. I want to use a rifle to hit my target and nothing but my target.
There are several ways I could do this. Obviously, if there were a publication geared more specifically to wine collectors, that would be a good place to advertise.
Another excellent alternative would be to send a mailing to my existing customers. I could search through my customer database and select only those customers whose buying-history indicated an interest in the wines on sale and send the mailing to them. If I didn't have a large customer list, I could find additional prospects by arranging for access to a related business' customer list. In this case, a company specializing in wine cellar installation might be a good choice.
As you can see, the mailing would be going out to a very select group of people. By zeroing in on my target market, I can get the results I need much more cost-effectively than if I either failed to target altogether or took the shotgun approach.
And that's really all there is to it. The more you can target your offer, the better your response will be.
How to Target Your Marketing
As you can see, the concept of targeting is pretty simple. Take your product or service and offer it to people who are likely to be interested. But there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind.
Narrow Your Niche
I don't care what you sell; your market is smaller than you think. A large percentage of the population owns a car, but a much smaller percentage is in the market for a new car this month. Many people use an accountant, but far fewer are looking to switch accountants.
If you blast away with the shotgun approach and try to hit everyone, you won't like the results.
You might argue that even if people aren't in the market yet, you should still try to expose them to your advertisements so that when they are, your company's name will be at the top of their minds. This is a really dangerous approach for a small business to take for several reasons.
1. The response to your advertisements (if there even is any) won't be immediate and will be much more difficult to track. You'll, therefore, have a much harder time determining whether the advertisement is working for you or not. Anytime you can't tell if your money is well-spent, you're dicing with death.
2. The investment required to effectively achieve top-of-mind awareness is usually enormous. There are cheaper ways to get good results.
3. People are really good at ignoring advertising. When an advertisement does finally get their attention, it's frequently because the advertisement is selling something that will be of immediate benefit to them. In other words, good luck getting them to pay attention to your advertisements and remember your name when they aren't even interested in what you're selling yet.
To avoid these problems, do yourself a favor and take dead aim at a much smaller target by narrowing your niche.
In the above example, we went from advertising a wine to millions of Wine Spectator readers, to send out a mailing to only those people whose buying-history demonstrated an interest in the specific wine we were pitching. We went from everyone interested in wine to only those interested in high-end red Burgundy. That's a much smaller niche!
The accountant mentioned above might market to people who are unhappy with their current accountant for one specific reason. Alternatively, she might narrow her niche by marketing directly to one specific type of customer, such as dentists.
Narrowing your niche doesn't mean that you won't also do business with customers outside that niche, it just means that a given marketing campaign or an individual advertisement might not be aimed directly at them. Instead, your marketing takes dead aim at a much more specific target that is a whole lot easier to hit.
Determine Your Ideal Customer
One of the best ways to get your marketing aimed at a smaller target is to identify your ideal customer and market only to prospects that fit that profile.
This is actually one of the healthiest things you can do for your business. We all end up doing business with customers who are not ideal. In many cases, we do business with customers who are far from ideal. These customers are often difficult to deal with, unprofitable, and extremely hard to please.
Now imagine an influx of your ideal customers. More angels who always pay their bills on time, who revere the work you do for them, and who provide word-of-mouth recommendations frequently. Wouldn't that help your business?
If you don't know what your ideal customer looks like, think about which of your current customers are most profitable. With whom do you most enjoy doing business? Who can benefit most from your product or service? It shouldn't take long to form a picture of your perfect client.
Putting It into Practice
Start taking dead aim with your marketing today. Here are some suggestions:
Targeting Your Website
Review the content on your website. Are you addressing everyone or are you zeroed in on your target market?
Make some changes to your pay-per-click advertising. Don't just use the same advertisement for everyone. Instead, create different advertisements for the different types of prospect you're targeting.
Experiment with different landing pages. Landing pages are the pages that people who click on your advertisements are taken to. You should create targeted landing pages for each type of prospect in your target market.
Targeting Your Print Advertising
Don't run the same advertisement everywhere. If you're targeting different types of customer, create an advertisement that addresses each customer type directly and then does everything you can to get the advertisement in front of the prospect it's targeted on.
If your advertisements reference your website, you might consider setting up different landing pages for the different versions of your advertisements. Doing so would enable your prospects to continue experiencing highly-targeted communication.
Experiment with different publications. One publication might have a smaller circulation, but it could be much more targeted for your advertising.
Targeting Your Direct Mail
Break your mailing list into segments based on demographics such as the type and size of business or the income level of the household. Any actual buying-history data should also be factored in. You can then target your mailings based on these factors. If your offer is likely to appeal to customers who have purchased a specific product before, you can extract those names from the list and send the offer only to them.
Establish relationships with non-competing, but related businesses and get permission to market to their clients. In the wine example above, I suggested building a mailing list by gaining access to the customer database of a wine cellar installation firm. If you can arrange for a letter from the other company introducing you (and recommending you) your response will soar. Just be sure you've agreed on details such as a commission on any sales and what happens to the list after the campaign is over. Typically you'll get to keep any customers who respond to your mailing, but the master list stays with the other business.
If you direct people to the website for more information, don't let the targeting stop with your letter. Create mailing-specific landing pages so that prospects continue to experience highly targeted communication.
Fivenson Studios is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, our graphic design team specializes in logo and web page design, as well as marketing campaigns for social and print media. From flyers and brochures to targeted landing pages, we aim to bring your company into the spotlight and reach a greater range of potential customers.
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