Build Your Business:

Hitting the Right Target

March 9, 2015

Every business needs prospects. It doesn’t matter if it’s walk-ins, people responding to your print advertising, referrals from happy customers, or visitors to your website or Facebook page.

Your business’ success depends on getting its message in front of a qualified
audience of potential buyers (emphasis on “qualified audience”). This is where precise targeting comes in.

The more accurately we can define, target and capture our prospects, the higher the probability that we can begin a conversation and start doing business with them.

Traffic is the foundation of any business. It precedes the order. In it’s simplest form: Traffic plus conversion equals income.

There’s no trick or surprise to getting paid traffic to come to your website, or anywhere else, but most people fail when it comes to how they define the audience they’re targeting. The most common problem is that the traffic they buy is too general to convert. The better your targeting, the lower your ad cost — and the higher your conversion percentages.

In the analog world of print advertising, targeting and conversion remain pretty much a mystery — except for the direct mail (DM) segment. You keep receiving it because you’ve been targeted based on your purchasing behavior, stores you visit, magazines you read, etc.

Direct response is the extension of DM and covers any advertising segment where the viewer can directly respond to an offer or advertising. It is exploding because of the digital ability to track everything. This is a “good-news-bad-news” situation. People feel their privacy is evaporating, yet we’re posting selfies on Instagram, pinning on Pinterest, tweeting where we’re eating, Yelping and Facebooking just about everything in our lives. All of it’s being recorded and the data is accessible to us — almost always for free.

Precise targeting is a lot like hunting or fishing. You need to know exactly what you are looking for. Suppose your market is the building trades and contracting
industry. That’s an incredibly broad target. With that as your defined population, you would quickly spend your
entire advertising budget and have a poor, if any, response.

There is a big difference between targeting an audience based on a niche
interest and one with the ability to buy. In the contractor example, precisely targeted prospects could be: contractor owner/operators, licensed contractors (by license number,) contractor associations, and by specialty (e.g. painting, roofing, landscaping). Go to Google and start by searching for “Licensed [specialty type] Contractor [your city/state].”

Another easy answer is to start with Facebook’s Graph Search at the upper left when you log in to Facebook. Type in “Contractors in [your city].” Even small towns will return dozens to several hundred pages of contractors.
You also can easily find the average size of the jobs they do. Look for jobs valued at more than $50,000 and into the millions. This information can be found in the contractor profiles in the directories you found with the Google search. This will deliver an audience of companies big enough to do volume work with you.

Like the hunter, the more you know about your target and where to find it, the greater the likelihood you’ll bring home the prize.

One method is the aforementioned precise target audience, which has the potential to deliver your ideal client. These hot prospects have an urgent need to purchase from you right now. For example, in the contracting business, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may mandate certain types of safety vests and T-shirts in certain colors for all workers on job sites. You can find these kinds of opportunities by researching the contractors’ trade press or doing an Internet search for “New contractor safety laws.”

If you don’t know where to get the trade magazines, visit contractor offices. Tell them what you do and that you were hoping they could help point you in the direction of what they read about their business. There’s a good possibility they’ll want to know more about what you do; you may even get an order out of it. Be prepared with literature and materials when you go in.

Libraries in larger cities will have access to Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS.) This is an expensive subscription service, but it’s a gold mine of information. You also can go through Standard Rate and Mailing Service (SRMS), where you can get any kind of list you want. They are incredibly powerful because the list brokers will compile a custom list for you. It isn’t cheap, but it can be incredibly precise.

Communities form around interests; the bigger the interest, the bigger the community. How do you reach these people? Use Facebook’s Graph Search again. Begin by typing “contractors associations.” You’ll quickly see pages for specialty contractors that aren’t in the mainstream, like marine contractors. This will give you ideas of
directions in which you can specialize.

You also can search for individual contractor pages. You want to learn from what they’re posting. Even though most of the content will be blatantly promotional, it’s exactly what you want for your purposes.

The second group includes those that will buy in the next two to six months. This is a broader audience with which you’ll cultivate awareness. This is the lead-generation or lead-flow audience. Post pictures and run ads to this group of the work you’ve done with other contractors. When you place ads to this group, make sure they are in the news feed and not the right-hand-side ads.

One of my favorite techniques with this target group is to look for association fan pages, or “You Know You’re a Contractor if…” (or similar) pages. Because contractors hang out and share their stories on these pages, they constitute an excellent place for you to post case studies on how a certain contractor uses your services. This is called “Link Bait” because you’re posting to draw them to your page, where the full story is posted with pictures, videos, etc. These posts do not sell, they educate. Keep it on Facebook by sending them to your page and you will get more exposure than if you link to your website.

You actually can create this kind of page and own it. Create a “Like” campaign aimed at your audience. Begin posting content, pictures and stories, and encourage the people who visit the site to post and engage.

Also, let them know it’s OK to post their work. Encourage people to post their pictures and stories. Ask them questions to initiate dialog. Before you know it, you’ll have a thriving community page comprised entirely of your precise prospects.  

This is not about pitching your services. Rather, it’s about creating an active community where your imprinted apparel has a presence. When you have an engaged fan page of several thousand, you have an active traffic source to which you’re connected.

Most people miss the bigger picture — conversion — in the targeting equation. Generalized traffic is super cheap, but it does not convert well. The more precisely you target, the higher your conversion.   

Right now, Facebook is the single most powerful source for the data and populations you’re seeking. In the next installment of this digital marketing series, I’ll go into how to use Facebook’s precise targeting and audience insights, and the exact steps to place highly converting ads you can measure.

Mark A. Coudray has been an active member of the Academy of Screen Printing and Digital Technology since 1989, and has written for Impressions since 1978. For more information or to contact Mark, email him at