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Engage your customers or die

Steve Inch

Steve Inch

If you haven’t already, it’s well past time to wake up to the reality that “this isn’t your father’s marketplace anymore.” Consumers are in control and you’re not.

They consume your advertising messages when, where and how they want to. They ignore you when, where and how they want to. They buy your products and services when, where and how they want to. And, perhaps most importantly, they even create your advertising messages for you when, where and how they want to by sharing their product experience with all 5,000 of their Facebook friends, all 10,000 LinkedIn or Plaxo contacts and 2,000 of their Twitter followers as they express exactly what they think of your product or service – either good or bad.

This is definitely true if their experience with your product or service is a bit off the mark. The Internet and its digital environment, along with myriad technological advances coupled with cost reductions in content creation tools, have changed the rules of the game and have placed a great deal of power in the hands of anyone with a mouse or trackpad. Their potential impact on your brand and consumer perceptions can be substantial and instantaneous.

Bottom line: Engage your customer or die.

Customer engagement begins with “surgical targeting.” The process of surgical targeting is called Geolytical Analysis in our application. For example, if you are the head of marketing for a ski resort and you have compiled years of demographic and behavioral data on current skiers who frequent your resort, how do you identify geographic opportunity markets that you can mine to attract new, destination visitors who are not familiar with your resort?

Who are the best to target? Where are they? Are they concentrated in any specific geographic area?

At the outset, we will ask the perhaps obvious questions of, nationally, where do skiers and snowboarders live and do they have direct flight access to our resort? We know from basic lifestyle demographic data that people in Butte-Bozeman, Mont. are 217 percent more likely to ski frequently than the national average. People who live in Denver are 194 percent more likely to ski frequently and those who live in Bend, Ore., Anchorage, Alaska and Idaho Falls are 174 percent more likely. Boiseans are 119 percent more likely to ski frequently than the national average.

Today, many marketers and/or their advertising agencies will take this data in addition to other supplemental analysis and develop media plans and recommendations for expenditures to target these Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with all media options at their disposal, including Internet, search engine marketing, and social media display ad geo-targeting.

An integrated media and messaging approach is frequently not a viable option for small and medium businesses that have limited funds and require a higher return on investment from their marketing expenditure. Where this traditional approach leaves off, surgical targeting takes over and we drill down to an even greater geographic and psychographic depth of focus.

When conducting a surgical targeting analysis, the term “market” is no longer the traditional MSA or Designated Market Area (DMA) designation. In surgical targeting terms, “market” now refers to the equivalent of the head of a pin: “a block group” of 400 homes (much smaller than a zip code area). With this depth of focus, we can add profile behaviors we know to be consistent with our desired prospective skier customers such as:

1. People who have skied in the past 12 months.
2. People who have spent $3,000 on a vacation in the past 12 months.
3. People who have booked a vacation online in the past 12 months.
4. People who have purchased winter sports equipment in the past 12 months.
5. People who have a household income between $75,000 and $150,000+.
6. Presence of children in the home.
7. People who mountain bike in the summer.

The Geolytical Analysis process of surgical targeting is part art and part science. We consider this profiling step as some of the “art” of surgical targeting. Once we have identified the behavioral and demographic profile attributes of our prospective skier customers, we can conduct the “science” part of surgical targeting.

Each of the seven profile datasets are then programmed and mapped. Datasets are available for local, state, regional and national analyses, covering myriad industry categories and topics. In addition, datasets of television viewership, radio listenership and magazine/newspaper readership are also available and can be cross-tabulated with demographics.

Each of our seven skier profile datasets is then assigned a unique circumference measurement and appears on our targeting map as a series of colored dots, each with varying circumference. The resulting map of the U.S. clearly reveals the areas of highest concentration of prospective skiers/snowboarders (who exhibit our seven profile attributes) down to a block group of 400 homes.

Perhaps most insightful in this example was the discovery that in the Minneapolis market, our sweet-spot geographic area of target focus was a mere two zip codes. Why then would we embark on a media and advertising strategy that would have excessive waste by covering the entire Minneapolis DMA when all we truly wanted was to engage prospective customers in only two zip codes?

From this point onward, our ski resort has the ability to embark upon numerous media and messaging strategies and tactics to engage our prospective skier customers in a series of creative introductions/appeals from our resort brand that could include direct marketing, e-mail marketing, podcast sharing, viral video, geo-targeted search engine marketing, social media geo-targeting, webinar invitations, and creative promotional opportunities in addition to potential co-marketing activities with geographically-relevant retailers in the local target markets.

Through thoughtful and cost-effective strategic approaches like surgical targeting, small, medium and large enterprise businesses can maximize marketing expenditures, minimize marketing waste and drive engagement with new customers for long-term growth.

This article was written by Steve Inch, managing director of Propel Communications. He may be reached at (208) 850-7058. For more information, visit www.propeladvisor.com.

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