With So Many Fish in the Sea, Target Marketing Helps Hook the Right Ones

When people buy goldfish as pets, they probably aren’t expecting to develop deep, emotional connections with these animals. Goldfish aren’t capable of showing affection, you can’t teach them how to fetch the morning paper, and everyone knows they have extremely short attention spans.

All you can really do with a goldfish is feed it, watch it swim around in circles, and wonder what — if anything — is going on inside its head.

It might surprise you to hear this, but a study recently indicated that humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish. Perhaps, like me, you chuckled upon learning this factoid — but as a marketer, you’ll quickly realize this is no laughing matter.

The Crowded Fishbowl

Consumers are currently swimming in an overcrowded aquarium that’s packed to the gills with marketing messages. Between companies constantly vying for attention and social media, enabling literally anyone to become a brand unto themselves, audiences are left indiscriminately gobbling up tiny pellets of information, moving on without absorbing the nutrients.

In this climate, expecting your target audience to magically find, consume and care about your marketing material is just as unrealistic as expecting a goldfish to learn how to roll over and fetch.

To stretch the metaphor a bit: There are plenty of fish in the sea, but that doesn’t mean your brand needs to try to reach every single one of them. Smart marketers are beginning to realize they simply can’t be everything to everyone.

Hook Consumers Through Targeting

Modern consumers love personalized ads, and through tactics like geo-targeting, demo-targeting, and lifestyle targeting, marketers are able to fulfill this desire, resonate with smaller audiences, and successfully cut through the cluttered waters.

Targeting niche demographics requires a completely different strategy than mass-marketing approaches of the past. Here are five tips to get you started down the right path:

1. Begin with your email list. Rather than belly flopping into the cluttered marketplace and starting your targeting efforts from scratch, begin by leveraging the people who have already expressed interest in receiving content from your brand — namely, your email list.

This engaged audience knows who you are, cares about your brand, has likely bought your product in the past, and is likely interested in conducting more business with you in the future. To boot, they’ve already provided you with personal details, meaning you can divide them up into smaller subsets and test out different targeting strategies on them to see what sticks. Then, once you’ve found your secret sauce, you can confidently swan dive into the big fishbowl.

2. Provide unique and useful content. If you push out boring material that says the exact same things everyone else is saying, you’re only adding to the mess and making things worse. Strive to create exclusive, unique content that provides value to your audience. Pique their interest by offering creative takes on hot topics or teaching them something useful.

Being an educational resource (rather than just a sales-oriented company) is the best way to hook today’s overwhelmed consumers — especially Millennials — and get them interested in your brand.

3. Offer personalized experiences. Why tell your audience about your brand when you can let them experience it for themselves? Given the fact that 89 percent of consumers say event marketing helps them better understand products and services, this technique should be a no-brainer.

As an example, when one of our clients wanted to showcase its new offering to physical therapists, we created a list of already-interested parties and invited them to an event where they got an exclusive, in-person look at the new product line. To keep the energy level up, we built on a rock ‘n’ roll theme and added some corresponding activities, creating an environment where visitors enjoyed themselves while gaining knowledge and growing partnerships. Beyond that, we provided additional value to attendees by hosting an educational session during the event that gave them professional development credit.

All told, this experience was more engaging than any digital ad could ever be.

4. Make sharing simple. Word-of-mouth marketing is huge these days, as nearly 80 percent of consumers are influenced to buy new products when they learn about them from friends and family. That said, it’s wise to encourage your targeted audience to be marketers themselves and share your content or experiences on social media.

Make sharing easy by creating brand-related hashtags (and filters, if you’re Snapchatting), adding share buttons to all of your webpages and providing a call to action in each piece of branded content you produce. If you’re hosting an event, be sure to make it photogenic, and provide lots of photo ops throughout the experience.

5. Stay true to your brand. At the end of the day, none of this matters if your brand doesn’t remain consistent with the marketing material it releases. Eighty percent of consumers say authenticity is the most influential factor in whether they’ll follow a brand on social media, so always stay true to your brand and what it stands for.

Although your end goal is sales, don’t sell to your audience. It only makes them uncomfortable, and that won’t create the long-lasting relationship you’re aiming for. When targeting is done correctly, consumers won’t even realize you’re trying to earn their business.

In a world where attention spans are fleeting and marketing messages are abundant, it’s best for brands to narrow their focus.

Instead of trying to feed an entire aquarium that’s full of every type of water creature under the sun, focus your efforts on just one school of fish, and provide it with useful, unique, nourishing content.