Helping small business owners develop extraordinary businesses that really work for their customers, their employees, themselves and their families

The most important element for an effective marketing campaign

Many years ago, marketing guru Gary Halbert posed this question to a group of students: “Let’s say I have a business selling hamburgers. I believe I can beat any of you at making it successful. How would you do it?”

Some students suggested having golden arches. Some suggested using a clown to promote the hamburgers. Some said to spend a fortune on national advertising.

Gary Halbert said, “All I need to beat all of you is to find a starving crowd.”

Most of us have seen “roach coaches”, mobile eateries that park next to business locations at mealtimes. Arguably, you shouldn’t eat what they offer, but they usually have big lines of people buying a quick meal.

The most important thing needed for an effective marketing campaign is finding a group of prospective customers who are likely to be interested in what you have to offer. Then put an offer before them they are likely to respond to. This is called a message – market match.

Putting your message before a group that isn’t likely to respond is like putting a fishing line with good bait into a bucket of water with no fish. Nothing happens! A good fisherman or fisherwoman knows how to spot a location where fish are located. Sometimes these “fishing holes” are a closely guarded secret. Then they know how to use the right bait or the right lure to attract the fish.

If you want to attract a deer, don’t put out cheese. Put out a salt lick or roses.

The most responsive group for your products or services is the people who have bought from you before. They already know you and hopefully have had a good experience with you. They responded to an offer as you stated it, so they “speak your language.” This is always the place to start marketing new products or services.

The next most responsive group is referrals from your customers. They have some reassurance from their friend or family member that they are sharing a good experience dealing with you. They also tend to have things in common with their friends and family members that will make them more responsive to a similar message delivered with similar language. You must encourage your customers to make referrals, including giving them tools and resources to do so, like a special introductory offer or coupon to give their friends and family members.

Another resource is finding affinity groups. For affluent customers, you can try advertising in The Robb Report. For people with the same occupation, you can advertise or get subscriber lists from trade magazines. For investors, you can advertise in The Wall Street Journal, Barrons, or Investors Business Daily.

In order to sort out the people in affinity groups who are likely to buy from you, make a preliminary lead generation offer of a “special report”, “white paper”, an informative book, CD, or DVD. You can also direct them to an online resource, such as a PDF, mp3, or online video, but you will usually only get their email address, making follow up less effective than having a physical address. Invite them to subscribe to a print or online newsletter or blog. Again, print is more likely to be read than online communications.

There are also companies that rent or sell mailing lists. Some of them are compiled lists, pulled from public access information. It’s usually more expensive and more effective to get response lists, which are lists of people who have actually made a purchase by responding to an direct marketing offer. One resource for these lists is the Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS). (Find them online at There are also list brokers that sell direct mail and email lists. A good list broker can be a good investment to help avoid spinning your wheels finding out what’s available. Be sure to request a copy of the advertisement, email or sales letter that people on the list responded to. You might discover information about what you should include when appealing to that audience.

Internet tools like search engine optimization and Google Adwords are designed to help people searching for what you offer find you. Facebook’s advertising service has tools to help get your message before affinity groups and possibly customers like your own on Facebook and Instagram.

Unless your item is designed to appeal to the general public, advertising to “the unwashed masses” in the local newspaper or on television or radio is usually too expensive and has too much waste talking to people who have no interest in what you have to offer. Then the public sees you as an irritation that interrupts their favorite show, song or story.

Remember when you design your next marketing campaign to dedicate at least as much effort to identifying your likely customers and where to find them as you do to crafting your marketing message and deciding how to get that message before them.

Would you like my help identifying an audience for your business? To start a complementary discussion, please send me at email at

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Helping small business owners develop extraordinary businesses that really work for their customers, their employees, themselves and their families