On Saturday September 24th I spent a beautiful evening with my family at Fisher Stadium in Easton, Pennsylvania, watching the Lafayette College Leopards play football against the Villanova Wildcats.

The weather was about all the Leopards had going for them.

Though the offense and defense each enjoyed a few moments of glory, the majority of the game frustrated the team and the fans.  The frustration came from the repetition of a single play.

Even if you don’t follow football, stay with me here.

The Leopards attempted 38 running plays.  For most of those plays the ball carrier ran straight up the middle into a pack of defenders.  In one running play junior tailback DeSean Brown gained 24 yards.  But the remaining 37 plays moved the ball just 46 yards.

You don’t need to be a math major or a football statistician to figure out that averages little more than one yard per play.

They were getting nowhere.  Slowly.

After the game Villanova’s senior defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon said “Our first focus was to stop their run and I think we did that.”

But that plan was apparent to the players and the fans well before the game ended.  Before half time even.

I kept wondering why the Leopards didn’t try something else.  Then it dawned on me.  The run up the middle was safe.  It risked losing fewer yards than a run to the side and offered no possibility of interception.

And the few times the Leopards deviated, their gambles proved high risk.  Two of the passes they attempted were intercepted for Villanova touchdowns.

So while facing such a formidable opponent the Leopards stayed with what was safe, even if it didn’t yield much.

This same kind of fear and risk aversion leads many business owners to repeat the same marketing tactics they have used for years, even if they feel they have reaped little.  They fear trying something new more.

So they keep renewing their advertising in the paper or trade publication, wondering if anyone sees it.  They keep running coupons or discounts, fearing that without that incentive customers would not buy.

It doesn’t have to be this way though.

Like the most successful football teams, your marketing would benefit from a diversified playbook.

To develop new marketing plays:

  • Begin with a specific goal in mind. Villanova’s defense came with the goal of stopping the run.  What is your goal?  Strengthening your brand?  Entering a new market?  Launching a new product?  Generating repeat business?
  • Identify who you need to reach to achieve that goal. The more detailed your target profile, the better.  Not just men or women, prospects or current customers.  If you are looking to generate repeat business and strengthen your brand in Condemned Bar, California or Disco, Tennessee or Cranky Corner, Louisiana, how about targeting customers in those towns?  Now we’re talking.
  • Use the most effective means to reach those people. And as much as possible, only those people.  Laser targeting is how you minimize the marketing cost and maximize your return.  In our example, if you are looking to generate repeat business in funny town-name USA, you might use an email campaign to reach customers living there.
  • Engage your audience with an offer of value. That doesn’t mean throw them a discount each time.  Again go back to your goal.  If you want to encourage repeat business, how about an entertaining customer success story?  Or some helpful tips?
  • Include a call-to-action. This is marketing speak for asking your targeted audience to do something as a result of seeing your marketing.  Like buy something or request more information or share your entertaining story on social media.
  • Test your campaign and tweak it before launch. Many media now enable you to do a small test run or several if your audience is large, for minimal cost.  In our example, send your email offer to a few customers and see if it motivates them to open the email, click a link and buy.  Or call.  Or whatever action you are prompting.
  • Assess your marketing campaign. Measure your results quantitatively and qualitatively.  Anecdotes and data together can provide insights that advance your learning for the next time around.

Blanket marketing campaigns aimed at no one in particular are as effective as a Hail Mary pass.  Very exciting for you as you toss it out there and most often disappointing in the lack of reception.

Highly targeted, goal-driven marketing campaigns on the other hand can be less risky and generate a much better return.  They also help you build a successful marketing playbook that you can return to in the future.

Let me ask you then…

  1. Had you ever heard of Cranky Corner, Louisiana?
  2. Do you have a favorite football team that frustrates you?
  3. What marketing tactic have you been using for years that makes you wonder if it is worth it?

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