On Target

3 ways to narrow your marketing focus.
This story appears in the January 1998 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

Whenever I appear on radio call-in shows, I'll invariably get a call from someone with a big idea. He'll say, "I've got the greatest product. Businesses, parents and kids can all use it; I can sell it to everybody." And I say, "Congratulations. Do you have $5 million to launch it?" Because the cost to reach "everybody" would be unimaginable.

Nobody can market to everybody. That's why target marketing is so important. "Target marketing" simply means identifying the narrowest possible target audience for a product or service and making them the focus of all your marketing and sales efforts.

If you're selling a product or service to other businesses, target marketing ensures you'll meet with only the most qualified prospects. Building a targeted business-to-business prospect list is of paramount importance. Not to be confused with a list you'd rent for direct mail, a targeted prospect list is one you'll work with every day as you make new business calls for your growing company.

Build Your Own Prospect List

Here are three simple steps you can take to build your own targeted list of business prospects:

Step 1: Identify prospect types by category. Select just three or four categories, based on the types of businesses that will best utilize your products or services.

Step 2: Add important qualifying criteria for each category. Identify any criteria that would make the prospects in each category ideal clients. Typical considerations may include the business' size, length of time in operation and number of employees.

Step 3: Find businesses that fit each category, and determine their decision makers. Your best sources for businesses are directories, trade journals, association membership lists and online resources. Make your list, then contact the companies to get the names of people most capable of making buying decisions.

Zeroing In on Customers & International Sales

Target marketing comes in handy when you're creating programs to reach consumer audiences, too. By addressing your marketing efforts to a specific consumer niche, you'll be able to undertake a more affordable marketing program and produce better-qualified leads.

To best focus your efforts, develop a consumer profile. This is a simple, one- or two-sentence description of your target market that includes such specifics as age, gender and household income.

Remember, whether you're marketing to consumers or businesses, you'll maximize your time and money by focusing your marketing approach to reach only your most qualified prospects.

Great Exportations

Thinking of starting or expanding your business into international sales? If so, you're not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, small- and medium-sized enterprises now account for about one-third of total U.S. exports. Fortunately, there's plenty of help available.

  • The Trade Information Center, a clearinghouse in Washington, DC, for the 20 U.S. government agencies involved in the export process, handles calls from U.S. businesses interested in exporting products. By calling (800) USA-TRADE, you can get country-specific data by fax or help from an international trade specialist.
  • For names and phone numbers of financial, national and state government resources, consult The Small Business Resource Guide (Braddock Communications). This handy, comprehensive book is available for free by calling (202) 463-5503.
  • Looking for a source of information on a specific country? For $6, you can order a "Culturgram" from the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Each report is a four-page briefing on a country, written by native authors and those with extensive experience in the 163 countries available. Call (800) 528-6279 for information.

Contact Sources

U.S. Department of Commerce, Trade Information Center, Rm. 7424, 14th & Constitution Ave., Washington, DC 20230, fax: (202) 482-4473, //www.ita.doc.gov/tic

Edition: December 2016

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