For a business, targeting is the absolute most important thing you can do.
There was a time, in the halcyon days of marketing, when targeting was simple. All you had to do was pick the demographic characteristics you wanted then push your ads in front of them through the media they pay attention to.
The old ways worked because the consumer's options for where they allocate their attention and dollars were pretty limited. In those days the game was all about exposure.
Then came the internet.
Today we live in a billion-channel world. Competition for attention and dollars has never been more fierce. As a result, the balance of power has finally shifted from businesses to the consumer.
With the consumer in control, even the most massive, carpet-bombing ad campaign could be rendered powerless. Sure, it will generate "top of mind awareness" and lots of web traffic. But what good is that when it's almost effortless to find the company that's actually better -- even if they are a no-name. It's conceivable that your carpet-bombing campaign would generate more business for the other guy than it does for you.Exposure is great, but it's nothing without relevance.
Without relevance, your expensive ad campaign will be dismissed with a mumbled "so what?" Like the new State Farm
Relevance is what makes you stand out from the marketing noise. It's what boosts your Google-rank. It's what captivates people and gets them buzzing.
And THAT'S why you need to target. Targeting makes it possible to be deeply relevant. Demographic targeting won't help you though. You can't be relevant to 25-35 year-old white females living in Seattle. They don't share any particular set of wants, needs, interests, problems or ambitions.
What works is what I call Lifestyle Targeting. With Lifestyle Targeting you're looking for a group of people who share common life themes and a way to fit into their lives better than anyone else.
My favorite example is one I'm working on for a real estate group. We're targeting Norwegian fishermen. Why? Because, as it turns out, this group is increasingly buying up Seattle real estate. And we can put together a plan that would be more exciting to them than any of the other 9,000 real estate agents in the region. We could offer information in Norwegian. Relocation services. Immigration services. Online services they can use in Norway or on a boat in the Arctic. And whatever else bridges the gap between their lives and our business.
And with that kind of relevance, promoting it becomes easy. We could do it with an email campaign, PR aimed at company newsletters, crosspromotion with others targeting them, and so much more.