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grow: ryan caligiuri

Everyone has been the target of a 'spray and pray' marketing campaign – you know, when marketers spray large groups of potential target customers with their message, sending out mass mailers, plastering ads on buses and filling in-boxes with irrelevant information.

Then they sit back and wait, praying that someone will notice and take action.

More often what happens is that recipients toss a direct mailer in the recycle bin, ignore the ad or delete the e-mail without even giving it a read.

Spray and pray marketing is expensive, wasteful and can harm an entrepreneur's credibility before he or she even gets a chance to put a foot in the door.

Knowing that this is often the end result, why would an entrepreneur use such a tactic?

Thoughtlessness, for one. When trying to grow a small business, many entrepreneurs' first instinct is to try to get as much information about their product or service in as many hands as possible. They may lack or don't take the time nor display the empathy to really understand what their prospects really need or want. Their only focus is on making money.

Ironically, that's the very thing they won't make. For the real problem is a lack of understanding about how to connect meaningfully with the marketplace. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in the market you want to reach.

Homing in on smaller groups, targeting specific people and tailoring each piece of communication to be hyper-relevant to the recipient is the approach that small businesses need to take to penetrate, and succeed, with their target market.

When it comes to marketing, the difference between whether an organization grows consistently and sustains that growth or grows sporadically and stagnates often results from how they communicate with their market.

Unlike spray and pray marketing, investment marketing means entrepreneurs hand-pick a smaller, more controlled and controllable group to communicate with.

They take the time to learn about each person or organization in the group, make notes and think deeply about how their product or service can really help the specific target.

When they begin marketing, they never send mass mailers, phone unexpectedly or fill in-boxes with irrelevant information that is not directly addressed to the recipient. Each marketing ploy is specifically addressed to that individual, is helpful and, most importantly, does not try to make a sale right from the first few touch points.

It's about investing in the prospect before you are paid dividends. Investment can come in the form of professional advice or several helpful interactions that will establish rapport.

After investing some time in understanding the prospect, you can introduce them to the value you can bring to the table.

Don't forget that the investment also goes both ways. Yes, you need to understand, research and decide if a prospect is right for you, but the prospect must also go through the same process. Best is to go through it together.

I once worked with a registered education savings plan (RESP) dealer whose sales were falling drastically. It became clear his failure was a result of spray and pray marketing.

So he changed his tactics. He went from essentially spamming thousands of potential customers a week to identifying just 100 prospects. Then he began to work with them one by one.

He spent time learning about their problems, was in touch on a regular basis and provided valuable information that would help them make up their own minds about whether to do business with him.

After several months of investing in his prospects, he started to see results. Within months, 35 of the 100 prospects – more than a third – made purchases. More of the remaining ones came through many months later. And all of them produced referrals that fuelled even more growth.

He now receives the majority of his business from referrals. Moving from spray and pray marketing to investment marketing is now paying dividends.

The takeaway

The spray and pray technique may have been successful 50 years ago, but we live in a different world now – a world where you get what you put in and where people are always looking for reasons to say "no" rather than "yes."

It doesn't matter whether you are using old-style marketing tactics, such as direct mail and advertising, or new style-ones, such as social media. Sending out a blitz of direct-mail ads or spamming private Twitter messages will produce the same useless results.

Invest in your market before you expect something in return. It will take more time, patience and research, but the payoff is definitely worth it.

Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who believes that many organizations are wasting their money on ineffective marketing tactics, that many professionals and students feel lost because their actions don't translate into positive results, and that all three groups are too comfortable following the status quo. He is driven by the desire to refocus their efforts to resurrect the impact of marketing.

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