Marketing – or more specifically, the “advertising” part of marketing – is a lot like hunting. In this case, you’re hunting prospects, and not rabbits, but the principles are the same. Hunters have, basically, two types of firearms from which to choose – shotguns and rifles. In marketing, most customers prefer the shotgun approach. Savvy marketers prefer rifles. Here’s why…
A shotgun provides a wide coverage area, but doesn’t give you a lot of distance. In non-hunter terms, that means when you aim at something, it’s hard to miss, but you don’t get a lot of penetration. Unless your target is pretty close, you might hit it, but you won’t bring it down. You’ll also hit everything near it, like it or not.
A rifle can hit your target (and generally take it down) but if you don’t aim precisely, you miss it entirely. A rifle hits a single target (or with the right kind of round, the target and whatever’s immediately behind the target.
In marketing, the shotgun approach is typified by ads that try to sell you on the entire product line. They have a lot of copy, and try to detail every feature. Something like: “Introducing Product A! [insert everything you could possibly want to know about Product A here.] And don’t forget, we also offer Product B, C & D! [tell them all about products B, C & D, even if these products appeal to a completely different market and are of no interest to prospects for Product A – after all…why spend money advertising one thing, when you can advertise EVERYthing?!]
The rifle approach is different. You target one product, and generally one demographic group. That doesn’t prevent other prospect groups from seeing your ad, or being interested in it. Nor does it prevent consumers from making a cognitive leap of faith, by thinking “gee…I’m not interested in Product A, but it sounds like these guys have got it going on…I wonder if they make something that I WOULD be interested in”?
Shotgun marketing seems as if it’s less expensive. It’s not. It’s a complete waste of money. It blurs the focus of your marketing. It wastes money telling people about products for which they have no interest. It makes your marketing look amateurish at best, impotent at worst.
Rifle marketing hunts down and bags prospects efficiently. It may <em>look </em>less efficient, but it’s not. And even though you may be targeting only one, narrowly-defined demographic group, you may find that there’s a “halo effect” that grabs a much larger audience than you’d anticipated.
Don’t believe it? Let me give you an example.
In the 1960’s the soft drink market was dominated by one brand. Coca-Cola. Everybody else was an also-ran. Pepsi-Cola was the largest of the little guys, but their market share was dwarfed by Coke. They spent the money they had on trying to appeal to everyone, just like Coke did. But Pepsi didn’t have the ad budget to out-market Coke. What to do? Their ad agency came up with an idea: give up on marketing to everyone, and target one, specific, demographic group. Kids. What did Pepsi do?
Frankly, at first they thought this was a colossally stupid idea. They had no intention of giving up on the adult beverage market. They thought going after kids was juvenile, embarrassing, and just plain idiotic. Their agency explained that the youth market was one they could focus on and dominate, unlike the general market. Plus, kids have a tendency to grow up, and habits that are acquired early in life are frequently carried forth into adulthood. Pepsi bought off on it. The result was “The Pepsi Generation” campaign. But here’s what they didn’t realize at first…
The youth market is NOT just comprised of kids. Sure, there’s kids in the youth market, but there are also people that want everybody to believe they are still young (the mid-life crisis crowd) and those that want to act young (the senior citizen bunch). Newsflash: That’s pretty much everybody. And as Pepsi found out, their youth-oriented campaign ended up targeting just about everybody. Pepsi’s market share grew. Coke’s shrunk. Coke panicked, and thus we lived through the debacle that was “New Coke.” Today, Coke is still #1, but Pepsi is nipping at their heels, and is a strong #2.
The next time you think about advertising your brand, your product, or your service, think about shotgun versus rifle marketing. Resist the temptation to advertise everything you’ve got to everyone. Focus your ads, then narrow your focus. The results, my little Nimrod, might surprise you.