RIP mass marketing. Targeting is the name of the game.

If you’ve ever seen an old print advertisement, you may have rolled your eyes. There are ads with so many words. Some have messages we now know are crazy. Plenty of them are shocking or offensive (so I won’t link them here!). But at the time, those companies and their marketing departments were working with what they had…relatively little information about their audience as a whole and a relatively small number of outlets in which to place their messages. 

But, for most companies, the days of throwing out just any message to anyone who will listen are over. Mass marketing may still be a piece of the puzzle for marketing products like cars, as most Americans need one. But for more specialized products with smaller groups of buyers, targeting is the name of the marketing game. 

The stats

Let’s start with the numbers. Research is rampant these days. We know more about our audiences thanks to website cookies collecting data, social networks where users volunteer information about themselves,online shopping records and even credit card companies that sell data (yes, that happens). Then there’s the data you have on your existing customers, like how often they come to your store or the specific services they like best. 

But is the effort of targeting worth it? Absolutely. According to research from Hubspot:


In 2015, I attended a Public Relations Society of America professional development conference. One of the sessions focused on measurable objectives and “speaking the same language” as a business owner. It changed my work. The presenter made a valid point that business owners don’t value vague awareness or the number of views a video gets if it doesn’t demonstrably impact the bottom line. So (just like Ross Geller in 1999 and everyone else in 2020), we pivot. Targeting is both more cost-effective and generally easier to measure. 

Consider a TV commercial. That might be a valuable spend for someone like Walmart…because they sell almost everything. But for a small spa, it may be better to specifically try to reach women in a certain area with a certain income level…and maybe also their significant others. 

Let’s take the example of that spa. How would they measure the return on their investment? I’d suggest things like:

  1. Send a “revisit” or “refer a friend” offer by email to people who come to the spa. Use a unique discount code to track the income. 
    1. As a bonus, set up an automated follow-up (available with many email platforms) to people who don’t open or click the email within a certain time frame.
  2. Run a display network campaign online. Options here include targeting by income level, ZIP code, interest (available via individual internet searches) and even people who previously visited the site (called retargeting). 
    1. To most effectively track this, consider creating a custom landing page and ensuring you’ve got Google Analytics on your website. You can set up goals with Google and find out how many clickers actually contacted the spa or booked services online. 
    2. If you’re running on social media sites as well, make sure to install the Facebook Pixel to track activity.

The limitations

Let’s be clear. Targeting isn’t perfect. For the longest time, I got ads in my Facebook feed meant to sell exam equipment to optometrists. Ultimately, that was poor targeting. The person behind the ads got to me because I liked my client’s page it was an optometry school). Still other mix-ups occur like those for my uncle, who gets ads meant for his son (who has the same name but no Facebook page). 

And digital campaigns shouldn’t stand alone! There is certainly value in a healthy mix of marketing tactics. That’s when it makes sense to evaluate your product or service, set your goals and trust the experts. A great marketing director or agency can truly make all the difference.