(Update to original post from June 2013)

Marketing 101 teaches us to define our ideal clients or customers (our “target audience”) and to gear our communications and marketing efforts toward that broad group. Not to the exclusion of others, of course, but the idea is that if we communicate what we need to the people we most want to be our customers/clients, then our pipeline will fill and business/life will be good.

For example, if your ideal customers are females, married, age 25 to 49, then you gear everything you say and do about your company to that demographic. Similarly, if you are targeting males, 50 to 64, then your band message skews towards them. Simple stuff—a tried and true recipe.

But what if you could go a step (or two) further and target highly-customized messages to multiple, specific audiences within your target group, as easily (if not more easily) than you once could target a single message to the broader demographic? Wouldn’t your marketing efforts be even more successful?

New Tools for A New Era

With digital marketing—think blogs, social media, websites, email campaigns—that’s not only possible, but a requisite of modern day marketing.

The explosion of social media in the last five years—with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the likes of Tumblr, Yelp, Google+, and others, each blossoming with activity—has made it possible to tailor specific product/service offerings and messages to specific niche groups, something you could not have done in a reasonable amount of time or at a reasonable cost in the not-so-distant past.

Let’s say you run a sporting goods/active lifestyle store and your ideal clients are mainly young, active professionals and athletes. Twenty years ago, you might have reached out to this diverse group through advertising in local magazines, the daily newspaper, or even a radio station or two. Most likely, because your messages and offers would need to be honed days (if not weeks) in advance and would need to appeal to a relatively broad target audience, the messages/offers would be somewhat “evergreen” and somewhat generic so that they could live long shelf-lives with maximum appeal.

Fast forward to today and compare that approach to what’s now possible. You could decide right now to offer a special on summer-friendly active swimwear due to soaring temperatures, post the offer through your favorite social media channels (those you know are frequented by your target buyers), and within minutes be reasonably sure that hundreds if not thousands of people in this niche would see the offer and respond. At the SAME TIME, you might make another special offer aimed at a different segment of your audience, again reaching out to them through a social media channel where you know they tend to gather. Quite literally, you could make these kinds of offers real-time, every day.

Think of the reach, think of the results, and at minimal costs compared to more traditional methods  . . . and all the tools to make it happen are readily available. Here’s a quick look at just a few:

  • Through Facebook’s Audience insights, you can advertise to all of Facebook, just those connected to your page, or to a custom audience you define. With Facebook’s Advertising platform, you can even exclude people who have already converted or liked your page, and retarget those who have visited but not yet converted. You can even boost posts or place ads within boosted posts.
  • Similarly, Google Adwords allows you to target your ads to certain segments of customers by country, region, city, or other demographics—and it’s all linked to what the customer is searching for at a given moment, and you pay only when they click your ad.
  • Another tool is AdRoll, a retargeting and prospecting platform for digital marketers. The idea of “retargeting” centers around using special coding to track visitors to your website or social media page who visit but don’t buy, and then direct customized advertising to them as they visit other sites in an effort to convert them.

Talk about reach, especially if you couple such tools with a little monkeyz know-how!

Outreach Tailor Made for Your Audience

Digital marketing applies if your business is service-related, too. A consultant might make an offer targeted to one group, through one set of social media channels, and then a slightly different offer to a different niche via some alternate platform. Or maybe you have a podcast coming up, or a Webinar. Why not create two, each customized to a specific niche within your broader target audience, knowing that you can easily and economically reach out to each audience segment with a fine-tuned message and offer almost as easily as you could with just one—and most likely with better results?

We hear a lot about designer “genes” in the news these days (and I’m not talking about Levi’s or Wranglers here), where medicines and therapies can be tailored to a specific individual based on his or her DNA. We’re not quite there with marketing and social media, but the day will come when it becomes ever more efficient to offer highly customized products and services tailor-made to a VERY specific audience or audience segment, possibly right down to the individual level.

Just Think of the Possibilities

You’ll be reclining on the beach, about to whoop your best friend with a triple-word score of 63 points in Word with Friends, when you get a push notification on your smartphone letting you know that happy hour is about to start at a nearby beach lounge, with Mojitos two-for-one. How sweet is that if you’re the consumer (and even sweeter if you’re the lounge owner)?

Here’s what happens when you forget your target audience!

How has digital marketing changed the ways you reach out to your target demographic in recent years? Has it changed? Should it? Why or why not?

Share your thoughts here.

Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O’MONKEYZ, a full-service digital media and marketing group specializing in more creativity, ideas, and fun for action sports marketing, sportswear marketing, sports product marketing, active lifestyle consumer products, health product marketing, and brands in San Diego and Southern California.