It’s a generally accepted tenet of direct response marketing that the more targeted your campaign, the more successful that campaign is likely to be. There are circumstances, however, when too precise a target audience can actually work against you and force you to make compromises that jeopardize the ultimate ROI from your program.
This is a common phenomenon amongst start-ups and smaller companies, those firms that have precious few dollars to invest in marketing and thus (with all good intentions) figure the best way to maximize efficiency is to target only the very select number of prospects most likely to need their particular solution.
When we ask these firms about their target audience, we often get something like the following in response:
* Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York (“the only places we have sales reps thus far”)
* Financial Services industry (“we only have two customers and they’re both banks”)
* VP level and above (“we don’t have the time to waste upselling”)
* Must have [insert esoteric technical requirement here] installed (“it just makes the sales cycle a whole lot shorter if they already have this in place”)
And so on. Of course, if we as an agency had ready access to a list of Southern California VPs of Financial Service companies with [Acme Widget Pro 2.0] installed, none of this would be an issue, but therein lies the rub: we don’t.
Some of the most effective vehicles available to direct marketers today are the least targeted, search being the primary example. There are ways to target search, most notably by geography, but in the end, you don’t control who clicks on your ad. Same for content syndication. Or newsletter sponsorships.
Faced with an impossibly precise audience, we usually have one option only, and that’s to build a list from scratch and then market to that list, perhaps through a combination of telemarketing, e-mail (if the names by some miracle are opted-in), and direct mail. On the plus side, we’re starting with a list that is already pre-qualified, and thus one that should respond well to our message. On the minus side, such initiatives are hugely time consuming and often prohibitively expensive.
Paring your target audience down to only a tiny segment of the potential universe may seem like a worthy shortcut, but in the end it’s mostly inefficient. It’s typically more productive to broaden your audience to include any company, job function, industry, etc. that might feasibly have a need for your solution. Your campaign will be less targeted, it’s true, but you’ll have much more flexibility when it comes to media vehicles, and your Cost Per Lead will be less as a result.