By Dan Cohen, Founder and Principal of Full Court Press Communications 

It seems so counterintuitive, but to succeed as a marketer of ideas, products or services, I would argue that you have to decide first of all the people you DON’T want to reach. You are more likely to succeed when you throw around words like “ruthless,” “narrow,” and “relentless” to describe the targeting or winnowing you have done.

In most organizations resources for marketing and communications are scarce. But scarcity requires discipline.

Entrepreneurs and advocates always say “our services can help everybody,” or “who wouldn’t want to eat at our restaurant,” or “our product is perfect for everyone.” But we counsel the opposite.

Shrink your target to the smallest, most detailed target market or “niche” and then surround that audience everywhere they turn with your messaging. And the good news is that with the array of marketing tools available to all of us…it’s easier than ever.

What about me?

Use yourself as an example. Think of all the products you buy. The small boutiques you shop in and the small restaurants you dine in. Even all of the political and social causes that move you.

Now, how were you first engaged with them? Was it through an email? A social media post? Or even a friend? How did they find you the first time…and then every time afterward?

The how can give you a path, but you will succeed if you can be agnostic – and ruthless – about the marketing tools you use. As long as they reach and move your audience, it’s irrelevant if you find your target on-line, at a trade show, in the media, or anywhere else. The key is to connect with them when you find them and to be crystal clear on what you want them to do.

“AHA” Moments

My Aha moment on the power of targeting and tools comes from my experience as an entrepreneur. Thirteen years ago when I started Full Court Press Communications, we tried to be all things to all clients. We ventured to counsel companies big and small. We offered an enormous suite of services. And we couldn’t get traction.

It was only after identifying (with the help of smart friends in my network) the opportunities to provide communications services to a target niche that we caught fire. We pared back and focused on business, philanthropies, and advocates trying to use communications to make social change. Only then did we start to get traction by leaving behind the near totality of the public relations marketplace.

Later, we refined this even further. We wanted customers/clients who could pay enough for the service to let us support an outstanding staff. We also wanted to focus on customers working in California where we thought we had unique expertise. Each of these choices narrowed our target market further – but in doing so, opened a slew of doors and marketing opportunities.

Suddenly, Full Court Press didn’t need to be visible to all possible clients – just those looking to make social change, in California, with a budget that could help us sustain and deliver excellence.

The window of potential customers shrank by 98%. But what it allowed us to do was to focus “relentlessly” on building expertise, surround our target audiences, and build a network of powerful marketing relationships all with an eye on being a no-brainer to these particular clients.

But it’s not just us. Ed Fahey, CPA is President of RINA Accountancy Corporation, an accounting firm with offices in Oakland and across northern California. He describes his Aha moment on targeting as follows.

“I was driving from Sacramento to the Bay Area and counting the number of trucks for privately held companies that were delivering goods in our area. I knew that RINA could reach the entrepreneurial owners of these businesses if we could speak directly to the challenges they face in building their companies.   We now joke that our target manufacturing client has to own a truck.”

Conor Lee, Co-Founder and CEO of HipLead and a serial technology entrepreneur takes targeting to the next level. He focuses on customer development as a process that evolves and improves. While he believes in targeting, he says that where entrepreneurs often fall down is on measuring their targeting effectiveness.

Conor says targeting has to be tracked. “Setting goals (hypotheses), then targeting based on those goals, documenting everything, measuring the outreach, then looking back at the goals and performance to validate whether or not the hypotheses worked. Once you’ve proven one out, it’s a process of iterating to get the most out of that channel and the customers within it.”

So how are you thinking about targeting and tracking your key audiences?

Three questions to ponder?

First, have you had your “aha” moment about the importance of targeting your
outreach/marketing? If so, what did you learn?

Second, in your industry, or in your past, is there a targeting role model (or even superhero). This person who knows their market niche/target audience – and sticks with them?

Third, is there a target audience you are avoiding. If so, why? How could you evaluate whether it’s a correct decision?