As a small business, you need to capture as many new customers as possible. To achieve that, you should try to market to anyone who could have an interest in your product — right?

In a word: no. In three words: no, no, no.

Usually, trying to market to the broadest possible audience is a recipe for a lousy ROI. In most cases, targeting your marketing towards a specific audience will be much more effective.

How much more? According to one study by the Network Advertising Initiative, ads targeted towards particular groups were over twice as effective at generating revenue as non-targeted ones.

Let’s look at how smaller companies get caught in this blanket-marketing trap.

A bad case of business FOMO?

FOMO — Fear of Missing Out — is normally used to describe social media addiction. It’s where someone needs to feel constantly connected, just in case they miss out on the next ‘big thing’.

But new or small businesses seem to have their own version of FOMO, where they are terrified of missing out on potential customers. It’s this that stops them from targeting effectively.

Let’s imagine a female sole trader selling personalised jewellery. Her products feature hand-engraved quotations, birthday dates and so on. Having sold some via social media, she’s now ready to start a proper business.

Full of enthusiasm, she commissions her first website. The first question the web agency asks her is, “What is the ideal customer that you’re hoping to reach?”

Our entrepreneur is ready for this. She’s done some informal market research and noticed that her jewellery sells really well to women aged 30-45. Around three-quarters of her sales are bought by this group, most frequently as Mothers’ Day and birthday gifts.

So, working with the website company, she starts drafting a message that will appeal to her best customers. As a first draft, our entrepreneur writes:

Thank You, Mum

Personalised jewellery that’s as unique as she is.

The web agency finds an image to support this. Soon, they’re good to go.

Ah, but then the doubts seep in. After all, our entrepreneur does sell some jewellery to men. Some buy her jewellery for friends rather than family. Some even buy them as gifts for colleagues. If she just targets women buying for their mums, won’t she put other customers off?

Our entrepreneur goes back to the web company. She wants to discuss a new title,  strap line and home page image. All of these, she says, should still definitely refer to mums. But they should also appeal to men, teenagers, friends and co-workers.

And so business FOMO strikes again!

Diluting the message

In our example, you can see what our entrepreneur’s problem is going to be. She was starting to create a message that strongly appealed to her best customers. With work, it stood a good chance of engaging them. A woman looking for a unique gift for her mum could see an image and text that spoke directly to her, one that offered to meet her needs.

Let’s say the message is replaced with something like:

Gifts to cherish

Personalised jewellery for families, friends and colleagues.

This certainly has broader appeal. However, the strong connection with the original target group has been watered down. The immediate sense of recognition and identification has been lost. And that matters, because you want your best customers to feel an emotional connection with the product.

Unfortunately, the new message doesn’t allow other groups to connect either. So, even though families, friends and colleagues covers all the bases, there’s nothing there for each group to latch onto.

The moral of the story is well known to savvy marketers, and it’s simply this: if you try to appeal to everyone, you might end up appealing to no one.

Small businesses need targeted marketing

Small businesses in particular need to target their marketing because of the competition from bigger businesses.

In an online marketing environment, small businesses are herring competing with whales. To state the obvious, big businesses have big marketing and SEO budgets. Small businesses simply can’t compete on any sort of broad non-targeted message. They are much more likely to compete by focusing on a particular group of customers.

For many small businesses, location is still one of the most powerful ways of targeting new clients. For example, a small tyre-fitter might struggle to get any traction with a message such as Affordable tyre-fitting services. Huge national chains will have that covered. However, just adding the home town to the message increases the chances of reaching customers.

OK, we need targeted marketing…what’s next?

In this post, we hope we’ve made the case for targeted marketing for small businesses. We’ll come back to this soon and show you how to get started. In the meantime, if you run a small business and you’re interested in more effective targeting, please get in touch. MV Marketing specialise in working with smaller enterprises, offering a flexible and cost-effective solution to their marketing needs.