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How to Target Your Message to Find Customers Small businesses don't need a data crunching geek squad to identify and reach more qualified groups of customers. Consider the following strategy.

By John Arnold Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Big businesses spend a lot of time and money trying to find new potential customers with test campaigns and by using demographic research, psychographic analysis and market research. Small businesses don't need a data crunching geek squad to identify and reach more qualified groups of customers, however. All you need is a marketing strategy that targets people in the following four groups and reaches them with the right media and message combination.

Group 1: Buyers who have purchased substitute products or services.

  • Media: Search engine marketing, display advertising, PR
  • Message: The benefits of changing to your product as a better alternative.

Substitutes are completely different products or services that serve the same want or need as your products or services. For example, if you sell bottled water, qualified customers may include people who have purchased natural fruit drinks in the past. To reach substitute buyers, make a list of all possible substitute products and services that fill the same need or want as your products or services. Then, advertise to the people who are searching for the substitute product category.

Group 2: Buyers who have purchased in a similar category.

  • Message: How your products or services meet the wants of the category.
  • Media: Any advertising that reaches people with an interest in the category.

Categories are groups of products or services tied together by a similar buying behavior. For example, if you sell bottled water, qualified customers may include people who have purchased health products in the past, because people who buy bottled water may tend to make decisions based on achieving better health. In that case, buying for better health is the category.

Group 3: Buyers who have purchased equivalent products or services.

  • Media: Whatever your competition is using successfully.
  • Message: Compare your benefits to the competition.

Equivalents are products or services that are almost indistinguishable to buyers. For example, if you sell bottled water, qualified customers include people who have purchased bottled water from your competitors in the past. To reach equivalent buyers, showcase your similar product and the benefits you offer over the competition.

Group 4: Buyers who have purchased your products or services.

  • Media: Communication tools such as email, social media or text messages.
  • Message: Loyalty incentives, up sell and cross sell messages, referrals.

Your current customers are the most qualified customers of all. For example, if you sell bottled water, qualified customers include people who have purchased bottled water from your business in the past. To find these customers, make every effort to collect information at all points of purchase. That way, you can stay in direct contact for a lower cost than your competitors who don't have their contact information.

Will better targeting help improve your finding customer efforts? Leave a comment and let us know.

- John Arnold is president of Aveta Marketing, a marketing agency in Boulder, Colo.

John Arnold

Marketing consultant and author

John Arnold is a marketing strategist and author offering practical marketing tips and advice to B2B companies. Connect with him at JohnArnold.com. 

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