The Trouble with Targeting

The trouble with targeting in business is that a lot of people don’t do it well. It reminds me of that line from one of the Godfather movies where Michael Corleone says something along the lines of, “if history has taught us nothing else, it’s that you can get to anybody.” Right?

And that is now true in terms of advertising. You can get to anybody, but what is the cost?

David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. In today’s episode, co-host Jay McFarland and I discuss the trouble with targeting. Welcome back Jay.

Jay: Hey, David, once again, I’m excited to be here and I’m really excited to get your feedback on this, because when you first said we’re going to talk about the trouble with targeting, I kind of thought in my head, well, isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing?

Aren’t, aren’t I supposed to be targeting?

David: Oh yeah. Yeah. We definitely have to target. We definitely need to target. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with targeting. The trouble with targeting that I was thinking about is that a lot of people don’t do it, and a lot of the people who do do it maybe don’t do it as well as it can be done, and as a result, they don’t get the results they’re looking for.

Some people think they’re targeting and they may be doing that, but if you’re not targeting to the point where it’s resulting in better quality prospects, better quality clients, and conversations that lead to sales, then you might need to hone in a little bit better in terms of your targeting efforts and your targeting approach.

Jay: Yeah, so as I think about targeting, there’s a lot of work to be done upfront, right? If you’re going to target somebody, you’ve got to know who the target is. And that can take a lot of research on your own part. A lot of experimentation, a lot of looking at past contacts, how those contacts came into your funnel, and understand those things before shooting arrow in different directions. The odds that you’re going to hit anything that looks like a target are pretty slim.

David: Exactly. And I think a lot of the reason for that is, many people think of the term targeting in terms of what you said, targeting’s like aiming at something.

But it’s not just aiming at something, it’s having an idea in advance of what it is that you want to hit. And if we think in terms of some of the more common ways of targeting. Some people don’t even get this specific about it. But if you look at the different ways to target, I mean some people target geographically, I’m going to target everybody within a certain geographic area.

If I’m a realtor and I’m working in a particular neighborhood… Great example of geographic targeting. Some people target by industry. If I’m selling B2B, I might target a particular group of people in a particular industry. I might target companies that deal with technical kind of things, or I might target education, or I might target finance, right?

So that’s a different way to target, by industry. I can target by need if I’m selling something like whatever, insurance, and I’m targeting people who need insurance. Okay. They could be wherever they are.

Now, it’s harder to do that when you target by need because so many people might need it and you might have to pare things down a little bit to be able to get to the people that you want.

In the promotional products industry, where I do a lot of work, people can sell by program specialty. In other words, people who are looking for a specific result. If you’re selling to people who are looking to increase safety in the workplace, then you could potentially be selling them a safety campaign, a safety program.

There are some people who target by product specialty. There are different companies who might be looking for a specific kind of product. There is a company that’s been in the promotional products industry for ages. You’ve probably received pens from them in the mail, and they’ve been doing that for years.

There’s a cover letter. Very often the pen will have your company name on it, and they’ll send that to you in advance. And then there was just a sheet of paper and a place where you could say, all right, if I want 200 of these, I send a check, I mail it in. And that was an example of targeting by product.

So you can have a very successful business that does just that, right? Targeting by a particular product. And then some combination thereof. I could target a particular niche, a particular group of people. I could target financial institutions within a certain geographic area, or I could target a certain type of industry with a specific need. So, industrial companies that need safety programs.

So lots of different ways to slice it, but if you don’t think through your options, then a lot of your targeting can just leave you confused.

Jay: Yeah, absolutely. But I think it’s important to know, I mean, never in the history of the planet, have we had the ability to target like you can today.

If you know what you’re looking for, you talked about geographic areas, age groups, people who listen to a particular radio station, people who shop at a particular store. Never in our history has there been the ease and ability to target people.

There are people whose profession, and think about this, their profession is SEO, search engine optimization. That’s all they do is they look at your company, and who your targets are, and they figure out how to reach that specific group.

I think about what we did 20 years ago for targeting, and I’m like, how did we even do that?

I think part of the problem is that a lot of people are just going in and they’re kind of faking it until they make it.

SEO is complicated and you have to first know your target, your needs, and then you have to know how to turn that into keywords and other things. It’s a real process, real powerful, but a real difficult process many times.

David: Right. And when you’re talking about something specific like that, like SEO, yeah, it’s really a specialty. And even targeted advertising, if you’re looking for a certain group of people on Facebook or whatever, you’re right, it’s easier than ever to target those people with paid advertising.

But for salespeople who are in the field who aren’t doing SEO, and they’re not doing targeted ads, and they’re looking for prospects, looking for people to sell to, and still, to some extent, having to do it rather manually, then at least having a clear idea of who you’re after gives you a much better chance at potentially reaching some of those people.

Jay: Oh yeah. And we talked about this in the last podcast. If you know who to target, you’re not making a hundred calls today. Maybe you’re making 20 calls today and you’re increasing your close rate.

It is hard for me to think, you know, that there are still so many people out there picking up a phone and dialing it and cold calling.

David: Mm-hmm.

Jay: But it is still a regular part of businesses everywhere and it’s a successful part and can be successful. But if you don’t know who to target, you’re going to be wasting a lot of time.

David: Right. Which brings us back to the title, the Trouble With Targeting. If you’re not doing it well, no matter how you’re doing it, whether you’re trying to do it with SEO or paid ads. Because there are people who really want to get the paid ads thing dialed in, and many of them are still spending enormous amounts of money to make that work.

And as the algorithms get smarter, theoretically it gets easier, but it also then becomes more expensive because more people are doing it, which drives the costs up.

So even those who now understand that, yeah, you can probably reach pretty much anyone you want to reach with targeted ads you might not be able to afford to do. It reminds me of that line from one of the Godfather movies where Michael Corleone says something along the lines of, if history has taught us nothing else, it’s that you can get to anybody.

Right? And that is now true in terms of advertising. You can get to anybody, but what is the cost? What’s the cost in time? What’s the cost in money? And are you going to be able to do it? So a lot of that has to do with what you’re charging for your product, what your profit margins are.

If it costs you a couple hundred dollars to acquire a new customer, you have to make sure that whatever it is that you’re selling them provides enough of an adequate profit margin to cover the cost of the product, to cover the cost of the salesperson, the overhead, and whatever the advertising is. So as long as the math works, you’re in great shape.

Jay: And not just the math. I was thinking as you were talking about this, let’s say you set it up right. You figured out who to target, you’ve got your keywords in, or whatever your advertising method is going to be, and you have actually reached the face of your target.

Well, what if your ad doesn’t appeal to them at all? So you’ve managed to hit your target, but it just bounced off of them because you didn’t have the right message.

David: Yep.

Jay: And that’s a problem we see a lot with SEO, with cold calling. Are you saying the right message? And I know when it comes to SEO, that’s why you do A/B testing, right?

You send out two different versions of the same ads, see which ones resonate, see which ones don’t. And you have to keep track of that regardless of what your effort is.

Because man, it’s really sad if you have managed to figure out how to reach that target, but you didn’t manage to figure out how to get them interested. That’s a real waste of time and money.

David: Right, because you may not even know that you reached that person if the messaging’s off. This really all goes back to something we talked about in a podcast quite a while ago, the MVPs of marketing and sales.

What’s the message that you’re communicating? Which combination of marketing vehicles are you going to use to communicate the message? And who are the people or prospects that you need to reach?

So if you’re getting to the right people, people who could be doing business with you, and you’re reaching them through a marketing vehicle that gets to them, like SEO or like paid ads, and your messaging is off, the only thing you’re going to do, the only thing you’ll succeed in doing is alienating those people faster.

You got to get those three things dialed in or you’re toast.

Jay: Yeah, one chance sometimes. Now, the other part of that is we know sometimes you have to get in front of their face six or seven times before they will actually call you. But it needs to be six or seven times where you are resonating.

If it’s six or seven times with a message that they can’t stand. I mean, I think about the Super Bowl. And some commercials are hilarious and some are terrible. And they’ve spent all that money on that one spot that for the next three months, I see that exact same commercial over and over and over again.

And if it’s a bad commercial and I hated it the first time? I’m going to hate it even more the second or the third or the fourth or fifth time. So I mean, did that money, did those millions of dollars really work for them or not?

David: Right. And what do I think of the company? What do I think of what they’re selling?

Because there are some places that have advertising that’s annoying. But if I like the place, if I’ve had a good experience, I will very likely continue to spend money with them. And I might say to them, “Hey, your ad is terrible.”

But on the other hand, if I’m not familiar with the place and the advertising alienates me, then the likelihood that I’m even going to give them a try is pretty much slim to none.

Jay: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I like the title, the Trouble with Targeting. Everybody listening, is probably doing some type of targeting, but have you really taken the time to assess who your target is? How are you going to get to them?

And when you do get to them, are you going to have the right messaging? And if you haven’t looked at each of those three steps at the very least, then your system is probably going to fall down.

David: Exactly. And ultimately the better we target, the more money we will very likely make, as long as we have the qualification procedures in place as well.

But that’s a subject for another podcast.

Jay: Yeah, absolutely. How can people find out more, David?

David: Well, you can go to That’s

If you’re having trouble with your targeting, if you can’t seem to get to the people that you need to reach, let’s have a conversation. We’ll figure it out. At least have a conversation about and see if we can figure it out.

If we can help you, we’ll let you know that. If we can help you, we’ll let you know that, too. Sometimes it’s just good to have somebody else to talk to about a situation that you’re running into. Somebody who’s actually done it, who knows what they’re talking about in this regard.

So once again, if you’d like to have a conversation, we are happy to do that. Just go to that web address and set up a call.

Jay: I love it. David, thank you so much for spending time with us today.

David: Thank you, Jay.

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