Are You «Shooting» Your Marketing Dollars with a Shotgun or a Rifle and WHAT’s the Difference?

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Sandra P. Martini In marketing your services or widgets, what approach do you use? Do you scatter your marketing efforts over a range hoping to hit something? Or do you take careful aim, hitting the target more times than not? Shotgun Marketing Gun aficionados are going to shoot me here (no pun intended), but whenever I use the term “Shotgun Marketing”, I have this vision of Al Pacino blasting away in Scarface – I’m repeatedly told that he does not use a “shotgun”, but you get the idea.

A shotgun shoots shells over an area with the hope that at least some of them hit the target. The word “shotgun” is actually defined as “covering a wide range in a haphazard or ineffective manner”. Examples of shotgun marketing include cold calling, bulk mailings and advertisements in large circulation general newspapers. In the online world, shotgun marketing includes banner advertising on sites that get large quantities of generic visitors and spamming emails. If you are a professional services business (virtual assistant, web designer, etc.) and haven’t adequately researched your prospective clients, your marketing is going to have the same ineffective scatter-type effect. You will blanket an area with postcards, direct mail campaigns, newspaper ads or online advertising without ever actually knowing if your prospects are “being hit”. Depending on your business, this could be good or it could be bad – either way, it’s going to get real expensive real quick. You naturally get wider coverage using the shotgun approach to marketing – this could be good if you are trying to blanket an area to let them know you exist (for example, a new coffee shop or a new mechanic in town). The downside is that it’s costly as studies show that you need to be in front of someone 7 – 10 times before they even recognize your name. Rifle Marketing I think you know where we’re going with this one. Rifles bring things into focus, allowing you to take careful aim before pulling the trigger. If you know your target audience, really know them, you should be able to initiate marketing campaigns with sniper-type accuracy. “Rifle Marketing” allows you to be more personal in your marketing campaigns. You can also devise campaigns that are made up of more than just a simple postcard or letter. For example, to symbolize how much time (or business) your potential clients are wasting (throwing away) by not hiring you, send your sales letter in a small trash can with a label on it (always send First Class). Your letter is bound to be opened more often (and more quickly) than all the other letters arriving in envelopes via Third Class mail.

Innovative campaigns such as the preceding not only increase the chance that prospective clients will call you, they tell the client something about you before you even speak: you are results-oriented, you think outside the box and you think before you leap. This is the type of person that smart business owners want on their team. Which is better? At first glance, you may want to say that the “rifle” approach is better than the “shotgun”. However, it depends on your business, your personality and your target audience. Shotgun campaigns are, by their very nature, less personal than the rifle campaigns. This may be appropriate to your business. I generally think of shotgun marketing as creating awareness and rifle marketing as getting results. Whichever your preference, remember to keep your marketing campaign true to your personal style and that less done well is much better than more done poorly.

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