Today, a topic I first picked up from Perry Marshall, that reveals something incredibly interesting about how online marketing is different from every media that preceded it.
First, the context of traditional media, and the markets that consumed it…
Rewind back to the early 1990s, before the internet really came on the scene.
If you wanted to reach out to a specific market, you’d have the pick of a few…
You could go to newspapers. In this case, the market you’d have access to would be primarily the readers in a certain geographical area.
Or magazines, including trade publications. In this case you’re targeting an interest area, or a particular industry.
Or you could do radio and TV buys. Either one of these would allow you to target based on market area, and as the number and diversity of stations grew, based increasingly on broad areas of interest.
But in every single case, in order to be scalable, you had to find something that piqued the interest of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of people. You were looking at broad brush strokes of shared interests, not tight targeting.
Even with direct mail, the most targeted medium available, the best way to get good scalability was to be looking at mailing lists with minimums of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of names on them. And in some cases, these names were added to the list months and even years ago, and so they may have been interested in a topic previously, but not anymore.
No matter how you sliced it, the targeting was imperfect at best. In order to get economics at scale, you gave up laser-focused targeting of a specific market.
The internet changed all that…
Fast-forward to today.
Online advertising can be split into two basic categories. Reactive, which applies primarily to search marketing where you’re reacting to someone’s behavior online. And proactive, where you’re going out and capturing their interest.
In reactive marketing, you can target down to the keyword phrase level.
And based on technology widely-available today, you can largely build unique funnels for every single keyword phrase.
If you’re at a high enough level of sophistication, you can do this across your entire business. You can recognize that someone that searches for “dog foods” and “best dog food” are different customers, at a different state in the product evaluation process. (Not to mention all the other related keywords!) And you can go keyword phrase by keyword phrase through your entire business, and create funnels unique to the needs, wants, and desires of each tiny subset of individuals who may eventually want to buy your product.
Proactive marketing can be similarly targeted, even if it may not seem so at first.
Gone are the mass-buying days of putting a banner on a website for a month. Today you can buy space on advertising networks where your ads only appear to people who have visited a certain category of sites that indicate specific interests. You can proactively target different groups of prospects for your product, based on recent behavior.
This is very different than the previous interest-based targeting of offline media. Today you can put your ad in front of someone within minutes of them hitting a related site online. If suddenly someone starts liking puppy-related things online, or watching puppy YouTube videos, or whatever, you can put your dog food in front of them. And you can distinguish between the video watcher, the article reader, the topics covered (puppy potty training versus puppy nutrition), and more.
The best mental image for understanding this is a tree…
Imagine your business is a tree. The core offering is the trunk. The sales funnels are the branches.
Offline, an ambitious, sophisticated marketer may be able to find 10 or 12 main branches they could tap through different media, feeding prospects into the business.
That meant your targeting was limited to those 10 or 12 broad markets.
Online, you CAN get so granular as to be sending targeted traffic in at the leaf level, or even the individual veins of the leaves.
Years ago, I attended a mainstream marketing conference, where an executive from Dell stated they had over 10,000 pages on their website. Each a different entry point for their market. And they were paying to send traffic to a substantial number of them. (They weren’t just support questions answered online.)
Today, that number has probably multiplied 5- to 10-fold.
The level of targeting for your online marketing today is so granular, diverse, and plentiful, it’s mind-boggling. When you’re starting online, you still need to get your trunk right, and then move out to the main branches. But as you start to grow your business (or a client’s), this is the level of thinking you need to have from today forward (and even yesterday).
This is the level of thinking that will dominate markets tomorrow.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
P.S. — If you consider this to be breakthrough thinking and you haven’t yet read Perry’s 80/20 Sales & Marketing book, you’re committing a grave mistake. It’s a penny plus shipping, and you can get it here.