Even companies as large as Coca-Cola know that effective marketing begins with a clear definition of their target customer. Ask yourself this: When was the last time you had a Coke? Not the caffeinefree, diet, cherry, vanilla or whatever variety, but Coke-real, regular Coke. For some, the answer is today; for others, it might be last week, a few months ago, or so long ago they don't remember.
I know I have not had a Coke since 1982, and more important, Coca-Cola knows it, too-not because they asked me, but because they know women in my demographic segment usually don't drink Coke.
Learn from the marketing lessons successful businesses offer.
Lesson: Do not advertise
to people who won't buy
Even with all its marketing funds, Coca-Cola does not try to reach everyone. Its executives have done their homework. They know women like me will not drink Coke, so they do not waste any money trying to reach me. As a result you will not see ads for Coke on Lifetime television, or on the pages of Oprah or Vogue magazines.
Lesson: Define a narrow target
Coca-Cola does not define its customer as "everyone who is thirsty." What about you? Is your target too broad or is it focused and precise? If you are chasing "small-business owners," "anyone with money," or "anyone who breathes," you are wasting a significant portion of your marketing budget.
Everyone is not your customer. Too often, small-business owners, afraid to walk away from even one potential customer, try to define their market so broadly that they include everyone. The danger: Without a focus you end up spreading yourself too thin to effectively reach any particular customer. It is more effective to send two well-targeted postcards to 50 people than one general card to 100.
Marketing is much simpler to manage when it is focused.
Lesson: Advertise narrowly,
but sell more broadly
Someday, I may walk into a store and reach for a Coke. The person behind the counter will not refuse my money because I am not in Coke's demographic. The clerk will simply take my money and I will be on my way.
Take a lesson from Coke: Pick a narrow target and work it well. You can still sell to others outside your target, but you won't be wasting time trying to reach anyone but your best prospects with your limited marketing dollars.
Ball owns Indianapolis-based Roundpeg, a marketing firm for small-business owners. She also works with the Neighborhood Self Employment Initiative and Indiana Small Business Development Centers to train entrepreneurs. She can be reached at email@example.com.