Target Marketing: Hitting the Bull’s-eye

Barb Pellow

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

In a challenging and competitive market environment, it is vital to effectively use all resources, capabilities, and capital to produce goods and services that customers desire. Realistically, no company can do everything and satisfy everyone’s needs. Resources will not stretch that far. Today’s successful organizations are targeting customers that need and want their products and services, while setting aside the customers that do not fit that profile. The term "target market" is used because that market—your specific group of people or organizations—is the bull's-eye at which you aim all of your marketing efforts.

The challenge for most companies is that target marketing requires them to think as hard about where they do not want to sell their products and services as where they do want to sell. That said, the benefits of targeting specific market segments are clear:

  • You get more attention within your market space: When you talk to a defined group (market segment) about their concerns, it is much easier to get their attention. After all, you are talking about their challenges and issues.
  • You are seen as and become an expert within the segment: Being viewed as an expert in your field helps to differentiate your enterprise. The marketplace is crowded, so expertise is equated to differentiated value-add in the minds of customers and prospects.
  • You are able to market more effectively to a targeted client and prospect base: This benefit occurs because your marketing efforts are now focused and the messages “sound right” to the market segments that you are communicating with. Prospective customers will view you as a partner that clearly understands their needs.

Target marketing allows you to reach, create awareness in, and ultimately influence the people that are most likely to select your products and services for their needs, while using fewer resources and generating greater returns.

B2B versus B2C

Depending on your industry sector, your organization may be a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) establishment. The Internet has given organizations of all types access to consumers around the globe.


B2C is traditionally:

  • Focused on mass marketing and a large target market
  • Product-driven
  • Aimed at maximizing the value of the transaction
  • Focused on a single buyer in the decision-making cycle
  • Shorter in terms of sales cycle
  • Something that creates brand loyalty through repetition and imagery
  • Reliant on merchandising and extensive marketing investment, social networking, and good public relations for reach and brand building

B2C marketing is designed to convert shoppers into buyers. In the face of limited marketing budgets, marketers must effectively define the specific consumer demographics for their products and services while also effectively targeting the specific audience. Marketers of all sizes need to maximize their return on marketing investment by curbing their print and electronic communications, but sending these communications to the right person at the right time.

When building a marketing plan, B2C marketers must thoroughly understand their target customers. Understanding customers' demographics helps you determine exactly what your products or services will be, and what types of customer service tactics will work best. Smart marketers know that every targeted group contains many subsets. In today’s environment, reaching the end consumer requires different messages and offers as well as different media types. B2C marketers must consider several key characteristics, including age, gender, ethnicity, purchasing power, home ownership, number of members in the household, past purchases, and leisure activities.

Once properly targeted, your B2C marketing campaign should capture the customer’s interest immediately and engage them in a dialogue. These campaigns often offer special deals, discounts, or vouchers that can be used online and/or in a store. Text and QR (quick response) codes can be used at the point of purchase to activate a customer. The e-mail, mobile barcode, or SMS message will take the consumer to a landing page on the Website that is designed to sell the product and facilitate purchasing by integrating the shopping cart and checkout page into the flow of the transaction.

During the 2009 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, Lukas Lindemann Rosinski won an award for an interactive direct campaign that it created for Germany’s biggest online toy store. To view a video that explains this initiative, visit Large QR Codes (specific matrix barcodes or two-dimensional codes that are readable by dedicated barcode readers and camera phones) made from Lego bricks were put on display with the codes resolving to the toy store’s Lego brick boxes and order pages. Due to the ease of consumer engagement and interactivity, order rates were double those on the Website.


B2B is viewed to be:

  • Relationship-driven
  • Focused on maximizing the value of the relationship
  • A more complex decision-making process with multiple influencers
  • Focused on a small target market
  • A multi-step buying process with a longer sales cycle
  • A system that creates brand loyalty through personal relationships
  • A system that uses educational and awareness-building activities
  • A system that leverages rational buying decisions based on business value

In B2B markets, the objective of segmentation is to arrive at groupings of like-minded companies. There is very strong pressure to use segmentation in B2B markets to win a competitive advantage. Segmentation links strongly with a strategy to achieve a sustainable differentiated position. Successful graphic communications service providers are taking two different approaches to B2B segmentation by focusing on horizontal or vertical market opportunities.

Horizontal Marketing

Horizontal segmentation can be defined as singling out a target audience that shares characteristics, yet can be found in all industries. Common ways to horizontally market are by company size, by geography, or by job title.

During 2010, HP was recognized for one if its integrated marketing campaigns by B2B Magazine. The campaign (titled “Shape Your Own Cloud”) was designed to educate enterprises (regardless of market segment) about their consulting services. Targeted toward IT and financial executives, the campaign was focused on producing leads for HP Discovery Workshops and Cloud Roadmap services. It used direct mailers, a brochure, a Webinar, and an IDC white paper to discuss HP's consulting services for companies looking to take advantage of cloud computing. HP stressed that consulting services were necessary by stating, “Every cloud is different because every business is unique.” The campaign was built around the image of puffy white clouds, which made the entire idea of cloud computing seem very attractive. Additionally, one direct mailer to prospects contained an umbrella with a blue sky filled with white clouds imprinted on the underside—implying that HP was capable of transforming any cloudy situation into a sunny one. The body copy drove home the idea that HP offered a number of solutions surrounding cloud computing, including planning, design, deployment, support, and security.

Vertical Marketing

A vertical market approach targets a particular industry or group of enterprises in which similar products or services are developed and marketed using similar methods (and to whom goods and services can be sold). Broad examples of vertical markets include insurance, real estate, banking, heavy manufacturing, retail, transportation, hospitals, and government. Customers want to speak with a salesperson that has true business acumen—an understanding of a business’ economic forces, the market dynamics surrounding it, and the unique set of needs that arise from the combination of the two.

It’s About Hitting the Bull’s-eye!

Whether it is B2B or B2C or horizontal or vertical marketing, companies must find a way to hit the bull’s-eye. Effectively segmenting and focusing on specific markets is critical. Grouping customers with common needs makes it possible to develop the right products and services, create a meaningful value proposition, determine a direction for sales and marketing activities, and set specific objectives for each of the segments. This enables organizations to develop a better understanding of their customers and provides guidelines for resource allocation. Most importantly, it focuses the organization so the bull's-eye can be hit.

About Barb Pellow

Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave. She has assisted companies in areas such as creating strategies to launch new products, building strategic marketing plans, and educating their sales force on how to deliver an effective value proposition. Pellow brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow their business opportunities.