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Precision: Pick your Targets

By: Michael Bleau

Thursday, July 01, 2010
 
Over the next few months we will cover some recently asked about activities that involve various s to reach out to employees, existing customers and prospective customers in current and new markets. With this in mind, this column will lay a foundation common to all of these activities; really the essential, first step in any sales and communications endeavor—targeting.

For the moment, imagine a sharpshooter pointing his weapon in the general direction of a “target” and then simply pulling the trigger—hipshot. After the moment passes it’s impossible to change the course of the bullet, so the probability of hitting the target is extremely low. Missing with a bullet is unmistakable, as the paper target remains intact. But with communications (internal or external) or other sales activities it’s not als so cut and dry.

Words
While it’s important to carefully choose your words for a given audience (say engineers versus accountants), you also need to consider industry-specific jargon. For example, a client of ours produces industrial rollers, but if we talk about a specific application of a roll it can have many different names. For example, the same roll product in an identical application—with the only real variation being the industry where it’s used and the material passing over it—is called a wringer roll in one industry, a padder roll in another and a squeegee roll in a third. All the same product, but if we’re talking to machine builders in one industry versus another, then we’d better use their terminology or jargon, otherwise our words are gibberish and our effectiveness diminished.
Given the right circumstances, a marksman may recover quickly by collecting themselves, identifying the target, taking proper aim and sending another round down range. In this case the event cycle is compressed—feedback is near instantaneous and so corrective actions can follow quickly. Even so, that first round is wasted and attempting to salvage it by redirecting its course in midair isn’t going to be productive, if at all possible. If you account for lost opportunity in terms of multiple targets being available, then more than double the effort is consumed by firing again at the same target. I’m not suggesting that if you take your time you’ll als hit the bullseye, as environmental influences play a factor, but your probability for success increases as you make the upfront effort to appropriately take aim.

Scale up the scenario, extend the feedback loop and apply a reckless “hipshot” style to any communication effort and you’ll likely agree that it proves to be expensive. Yet we don’t als take the time to identify our targets or take carful aim—why not? Maybe we think we know intuitively who or what we’re targeting, so we don’t take the time for a gut check? Or maybe we’re impatient, or we’re unsure of how to go about it.

Considering the recent business climate, you may want to enter new markets, but are not sure which to target. Attempting a machine gun or shotgun marcom approach to hit a lot of areas through shear volume doesn’t make sense, nor compensate for diminished accuracy. It’s simply costly. The better we define our targets, what drives them, and what words (see sidebar) and approaches resonate with them, the more effective we become.

The purpose of targeting is to reduce waste by eliminating those “ears and eyes” that fall into the category of being unintended targets. Typically, we set out attempting to segment a large population into smaller, specific chunks that best define with whom you want your communications to resonate. In consumer marketing, the audience is segmented through definitive combinations of demographics, geodemographics, psychographics or behaviorgraphics. The last two—physiological and behavior-based—are better predictors for future action, but prove more costly to collect, quantify, analyze and understand than basic descriptive traits and location-based quantifiers. While you may start with industry or company type, to be effective you need to break it down to the account and functional levels. Your sales people then should closely examine their accounts, and tune-in to the needs of the individual decision-makers. Understanding and tuning-in on what makes the targets “individual” and what drives their decisions will get you closer and allow you to craft more relevant messages that take the form of your sales approaches, presentations, website, whitepapers, brochures, print ads and so on.

In b2b targeting, start by identifying who or what your target is—this can consist of industry segments, broken further into regions, byproduct classes and down to individual key accounts. Next, recognize what is important or critical for business success to each; what are each segment’s expressed and latent needs. Then you can determine how to meet these needs in innovative, cost-effective s that positions you better than your competition.

Quantifying who your target customer is and understanding what drives their strategy and business decisions gives you a foundation to build upon. From here you can effectively formulate your marketing mix, sales strategies, approaches and selling models.

In the end, the better your job at targeting the more your sales and promotional efforts will resonate with customers, increasing your potential for consistently hitting that bullseye. MF

 


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