The Three Best Ways to Target Market

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First and most commonly used is geographic targeting, just like my friend in the carpet-cleaning business did. Most businesses that need their customers to come to their store or office or that need to schedule appointments and send salespeople out obviously need to restrict the geography of their marketing. They advertise only in the local newspaper or shopper, use coupon decks mailed to their own or adjacent zip codes, direct-mail to those same zips.

There's nothing wrong and many things right with this. If you've never read Russell Conwell's classic book Acres of Diamonds or heard Earl Nightingale's great recorded message, "Greener Pastures," you should; you'll gain new appreciation for the "value" awaiting discovery right in your own backyard.

However, I suggest keeping two things in mind when you are going to select your target markets via geographical considerations:

First, make sure that the apparent nature of the people living there works for you. This is a cheap (in fact free) and very simplistic look at demographics, but it is nonetheless effective. Do what my carpet-cleaning entrepreneur and I did: drive the neighborhoods. Look around and get a "feel" for the people who live there. You can tell a lot just by driving around. What does the condition of the homes and yards tell you? What kind of cars predominate? If compacts and sporty cars, young marrieds. If big, bulky sedans and luxury cars, middle aged. If you see BMWs and the like, Yuppies. Do you see a lot of tricycles and skateboards, a lot of basketball backboards on the garages?

You may very well be able to choose preferable neighborhoods or zip code areas this way. You may also discover things that will cause you to modify your themes, copy, and offers.

My second tip is, once you find a geographic target market that works for you, work it to death. Dominate it.

People in the real estate business use the term "farming." When a real-estate agent farms an area, he strives to become its best known and loved agent. He mails to every homeowner in the area, goes around door-to-door and introduces himself, distributes a monthly newsletter, sends holiday greeting cards, even gets creatively involved with the community: driving through and giving away free pumpkins at Halloween, sponsoring a neighborhood block party and swap meet, and so on. It's a lot of work, but it's smart work.

There's no reason any retail or service business can't follow this example. If I had a florist shop, a restaurant, or a car wash, I could do exactly the same thing in a targeted residential or business neighborhood. I could frequently mail to everybody. I could take an hour each day and go out and personally introduce myself to the neighbors. I could send holiday greetings. I could throw a party. I could lead a charitable effort in the area for the MDA or some other worthwhile group.

A second selection method has to do with demographics. Demographics are the statistical, behavioral, and even psychological things a given group of people have in common. Demographic selection can be as simple as targeting a preferred age group or as complex as targeting women age 35 to 45 who have careers, read both Working Woman and Cosmopolitan, carry the American Express card, travel by air at least three times a year, and buy clothes by mail order.

Every medium has and can provide detailed demographic information about its readers, listeners, viewers, or customers. While some media's data are more reliable than others, most are pretty accurate— the media need this same data to make good editorial, programming, or product selections. You can and should take this information very seriously when making media decisions.

If you're renting mailing lists, the same kind of data is available for most lists. More significantly, you can "merge-purge" two or more lists together to get exactly the prospective customers you want. A good list broker can help. It can be quite costly to do sophisticated merge-purges, but even so it's usually a bargain compared to the costly waste of playing "blind archery" with direct mail.

Think again about my friend in the carpet-cleaning business. After choosing one or several zip-code areas based on his drive-by observations, he could get even pickier. He might make the logical assumption that people in certain income brackets are better prospects than others. Folks with household incomes of, say, less than $30,000 a year might find money tight and choose to go through the agony of shampooing their own carpets to save money.

Since he accepts VISA and MasterCard, he might prefer to mail only to people who have those credit cards. And, since families get their carpets dirtier more often, he might want to skip mailing to single people.

So he sits down with his list broker and says: "In these zips, I want married homeowners with kids, with household income of $30,000 and up, who have MasterCards or VISA cards." Using lists derived from the census, credit-card holder lists, property ownership records and other readily available sources, the broker can deliver that exact list

Incidentally, it can be helpful to collect demographic data about your present customers. If you find certain biases or commonalties in your present customers, you may be able to use them in your criteria for future targeting.

The third way to target market is by affinity or association. I like this approach and use it a great deal for myself and my clients.

Let me give you a personal example: I've been a member of the National Speakers Association, one of two trade associations for lecturers and seminar leaders, since 1978.1 have gone out of my way to be visible in the association, through a variety of means, and I'd guess my "name recognition" hits about 70 to 80 percent of the total membership, about 4,000 people.

I and these 4,000 people have much in common: first obviously, I know them and, more important they know me. I can call attention to our affinity by addressing them as "colleagues" and "fellow members." We share the same business activities, experiences, concerns, and problems. Because I am a known, respected success in this business, the members are interested in what I have to say and in whatever I recommend.

In approximately twelve years, I have sold literally millions of dollars of goods and services to this very small market. In some years, as much as one-third of my income has been derived from this very small market. I am occasionally able to reap pure passive income simply from licensing my endorsement of someone else's product or service being offered to this very small market.

Geographically, these people are scattered all over the United States, Canada, and several foreign countries. Demographically, they have few, if any, dominant commonalties; they are men, women, young, old, fat, thin, conservative, liberal, rich, poor, married, single, with families, without families. But they are still a perfect target market for me purely because of our mutual association.

Many other businesspeople can apply this same principle to the trade or professional associations they belong to or to the Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, Jaycees, other business and civic groups, church groups, PTAs—whatever they belong to. I encourage chiropractors and dentists I consult with, for example, to get out of their offices at least eight hours a week to join and actively participate in a number of these associative target markets. Then, instead of advertising to a neighborhood, they can advertise to their fellow members. Instead of farming a community, they can farm a fraternity.


I find the pizza wars endlessly interesting. Domino's took the industry by storm by focusing on delivery. Another company has taken a very different tack and is enjoying great success by targeting a very specific demographic group.

Pistol Pete's Pizza, with stores in several states here in the Southwest, very clearly aims its products, prices, restaurant environments, and advertising at families.

Each location features a working merry-go-round and lots of other games for the kids. The TV commercials use a happy cowboy character who urges families to c'mon in and have fun. Their pricing is low-end, so the family can be fed without breaking the piggy bank. It's worth noting that Pistol Pete's does not bother trying to convince anybody it has the best pizza. If you see the chain's commercials and are taking a date to a movie, Pistol Pete's is not the place you'll stop at afterward. This chain has locked its sights on a very specific, identifiable, identified starving crowd. Those the chain's after know it's for them.

In Las Vegas, most casino-hotels aggressively pursue the business of the "high rollers." An acquaintance of mine has the title "Casino Host" at one of the biggest hotels on the Strip; he's actually a recruiter, who goes to other hotels, to parties in Beverly Hills and New York where the rich gather, even to Japan, to invite and inveigle high rollers to come to the hotel he represents—then, when they do, they are his honored and privileged guests, with complimentary rooms, meals, shows, airfare, limousines, even escorts if desired. Every big casino operation has such people. One high roller I know described Las Vegas as "the home of the $ 10,000 free drink."

Bob Stupak ignores this market almost entirely. Nothing he does is targeted at the high roller. To the contrary, his market is middle income, middle America, mom 'n' pop, everyday folks, many of them first-time visitors to Glitter City. While the others chase the Saks customer, Bob prefers Sears. If the other hotels get people with Cadillacs, Mercedes, and even Rolls-Royces in their garages, Bob attracts the people with three-year-old station wagons. While the other hotels pursue the country-club crowd, Bob recruits at the bowling alleys.

These business leaders have very carefully tailored and very systematically deliver the right message to the right target markets. A great deal can be gained by emulating their examples.

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Advertising With Circulars

Advertising With Circulars

Co-op Mailing means that two or more businesses share in the cost and distribution of a direct mail campaign. It's kind of like having you and another non-competing business split the cost of printing, assembling and mailing an advertising flyer to a shared same market base.

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