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If you're trying to sell oranges, don't sell to people who like apples.

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Q: I manufacture archery target backstops. One of my markets is archery clubs whose members are 95 percent bow-hunters. The remaining percentage is made up of target archers. There are some 5 million archers in North America.

I want to attract new people to the sport of archery, which will spur additional sales for me as well as other manufacturers I'm affiliated with. My plan is to target the nonhunting interests. What is the most effective means of drawing their attention? Should I publish articles about archery in inexpensive, small weekly newspapers? How about offering classes or going to special events where I would give people a chance to shoot a bow? Am I on the right track?

A: I'm absolutely delighted to answer this letter. You see, so many entrepreneurs make this same mistake: Instead of focusing their efforts on the segment of the market closest to making a purchase decision, they expend time and resources trying to convert a vast group of people who have little or no interest in what they offer.

Major companies don't commit this error. Michelin Tires, for example, doesn't target its marketing efforts on people who don't own cars hoping to convert them into car buyers who will someday want to buy tires. That would put them too many steps away from the buying customer. Instead, they market to people who own cars and are planning to replace their tires. Likewise, you must market to folks who are actively involved in archery and who want to replace/upgrade/purchase new target backstops. Leave the promotion of the sport to associations and others who are directly responsible for enticing new participants. If you truly feel committed to this aspect of the marketing effort, perhaps you can join such a group and participate in its activities during your spare time.

To build your business, focus all your marketing efforts in media that reach archers, with the least amount of waste. That means using well-targeted print media for advertising and public relations efforts, like placing print ads and submitting articles or columns for publication that position you as an expert and your products as superior.

Explore the availability of good direct-mail lists of enthusiasts who participate in the sport. You can probably rent subscriber lists from special-interest publications or participate in their card decks. If you don't already have a terrific Web site, you should set one up with links to major archery-related sites. Also, your idea to offer classes is a good one, provided you target those who have already decided to participate in the sport and want to improve. Just be sure that when you preach, you're preaching to the choir.

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