Commentary & Analysis
Targeted Communications: What's In it For Your Customers?
By Barbara Pellow July 26,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: August 2, 2006
By Barbara Pellow July 26, 2006 -- A target market is the market segment to which a particular product or service is marketed. As the graphic communications industry evolves in terms of technology, education and specialization, many owners are learning to "position" their businesses to draw a specific type of customer. Target marketing is one of corporate America's most effective business strategies. The idea is to increase sales by first identifying, and then targeting smaller yet more profitable groups within the total market. The prospective customer needs to understand why they would buy from you. What they are really asking is, "What's in it for me" Graphic communicators are taking both vertical and horizontal approaches to segmentation. Those taking a vertical approach are focusing on specific industries such as not for profit, financial services or government. Others are taking a horizontal approach where they have identified a target audience that shares other characteristics, but can be found in multiple industries. It could be the human resources department, marketing, manufacturing or franchise services. When marketing in these Business to Business (B2B) markets, graphic communications firms frequently forget to consider the most important issue--the language with which they speak to the marketplace. Because graphic communicators are so immersed in the technology they use, they communicate in arcane jargon that the target audience doesn't understand. The problem with jargon is that selling to a business market is a complicated process and involves communicating with many audiences. The prospective customer needs to understand why they would buy from you. What they are really asking is, "What's in it for me". In my experience, graphic communications firms frequently wind up talking to themselves. While their products and services may be ideal, nobody listens if you talk to yourself. And if they do listen, they won't understand. The Worst of Times While the guilty will remain nameless, there are a number of examples of graphic communications organizations that have not taken the time to effectively articulate their unique ability to meet the needs of their client base. Here are some examples of the messages being articulated on web sites and in brochures that are truly in a language that no target market will understand. * "XXX Printing is the largest single location commercial sheet-fed printer in the Northeast corridor. XXX is a vertically integrated, state-of-the-art, full-service printing company. At XXX, you will find more Heidelberg units than at any other location in North America." * "Today, using state-of--the-art digital technologies, we create process-predictable, version-loaded, plate-ready files for delivery to print or alternate media. Whether it be composition, premedia, or electronic distribution, YYY has the resources and professional expertise to handle all aspects of publishing projects. In addition, all of our printing facilities are equipped with Prinergy Digital Workflow systems. Our experts are trained to prepare your job for fast, glitch-free production using Prinergy and the latest in computer-to-plate technology." * "ZZZ offers one stop custom-designed services to give you total control of the print and distribution process. All work is printed on high quality, high speed Heidelberg sheet-fed presses with in-line scoring, perforation and coating capabilities. We trap and impose all files for optimal print configurations. All qualifying mailing lists are prepared as USPS presorted CASS Certified for maximum postal savings." The products and services the graphics communications firm is delivering are fairly expensive and represent major budget expenditures requiring approval by multiple individuals in the organization and have a relatively long sales cycle. The market dynamics of selling a more complex solution will force graphic communications firms to communicate value to a broad range of people. Target markets may include the end user, the department manager, the financial officer, the marketing executive, the procurement officer, an agency production manager, as well as news media that cover your market. Each of these audiences has a different level of comprehension about graphic communications services and requires varying forms of messaging in order to understand the value in what you are delivering. Each will understand the product/service offering in terms of a slightly different set of benefits and business challenges. The procurement director will care about the most cost effective solution; the department head will care about productivity; the marketing executive will be looking for improved revenue and business results. The market dynamics of selling a more complex solution will force graphic communications firms to communicate value to a broad range of people. And the Winners Are: The successful providers are taking a two pronged approach to graphic communications. They have developed a set of "macro-targeted" messages aimed at the market influencers. That includes media, analysts and broadly based market influencers that can validate the business model as well as build awareness. By leveraging market influencers, your business builds important third-party credibility. For example, Rochester based Cohber Press was ranked number 81 in the Rochester Top 100 by the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper. Philadelphia based Bartash Printing was included in recognition for one if its clients, The Catholic Advocate. In this article (1.97 MB pdf), the client specifically recognized Bartash as a reliable strategic partner for the newspapers operations, and Bartash used the opportunity to thank its client in the same edition. Establishing a positive reputation like Cohber and Bartash have done is important in generating sales leads. The objective is to build a positive reputation and confidence in your company. To the extent that you are perceived as a trusted partner, sales people will have an easier time getting in the prospect's door. The macro messaging, however, is too broad for the people that are specifically interested in your services and needs to be augmented with what is referred to as "micro-targeting." The concept of micro-targeting means that you will deliver a specific message by industry, job function, organization. It is where you communicate the specific value of "What's in it for the customer." The concept of micro-targeting is where you communicate the specific value of "What's in it for the customer." You need to develop micro messaging that clearly differentiates your business within selected micro-target markets. The four critical elements you need to make sure you incorporate in your micro message include: * What is unique about your business versus any competitors for the targeted audience? * Which of the distinct benefits has the most value to the targeted client? * Which of these benefits will be most difficult for competitors to replicate? * Which of these can be most easily communicated by target market? Effectively Combining Macro and Micro Messaging St. Paul, Minnesota-based Merrill Corporation has demonstrated a clear understanding of the importance of targeted communications. From a macro targeting perspective, Merrill tells prospective purchasers and market influencers, "Our services include document and data management, litigation support, branded communication programs, fulfillment, imaging and printing. Our solutions enable our clients to create, access, control, analyze and communicate critical information for key business initiatives, such as targeted customer marketing, complex regulatory compliance and business decision making. We integrate proprietary technologies, industry-specific processes and outsourced services into flexible, easy-to-use, comprehensive service offerings." Merrill has also identified three distinct target markets that it wants to service: * Legal Solutions * Marketing and Communications Solutions * Transaction and Compliance Services Merrill has developed micro-targeted messages that communicates to each segment in a language that they will understand. Here's how they do that for three different micro targets. * The litigation services value Merrill delivers is articulated as follows: "The professionals at Merrill offer a single source for legal solutions that keeps cases on track and expenses down. From litigation support to information management tools to electronic and print document management services, our comprehensive and integrated suite of services and advanced technology adapts to your needs throughout the litigation process." * From a marketing and communications solutions perspective, the value proposition is clear: "Merrill maximizes the effectiveness and efficiency of our clients' strategic communications initiatives by providing integrated design, production and distribution services. Our extensive knowledge of the industries we serve combined with our technical innovation and consultative approach distinguish us in the marketplace As a single source provider, we protect your brand's consistency across the globe. By offering easy-to-use, technology-enabled services, we empower individuals to personalize a wide variety of marketing and communication." * And when it comes to transaction and compliance services, Merrill's micro message is as follows: "Merrill Corporation is a global leader in comprehensive, technology-based, value-added services that support those who are charged with the commission of transaction and regulatory compliance filing activities. From document composition, editing and SEC filing services through to the printing and distribution of a finished product, Merrill provides knowledgeable assistance and technical solutions that help companies streamline financial documentation. Merrill DataSite is a complete and secure virtual deal room solution designed to optimize the due diligence process by overcoming the many limitations of a traditional paper-based data room. Accessible from any Internet browser, Merrill DataSite dramatically reduces transaction time and expense and allows for multiple parties and prospective buyers to participate concurrently in the due diligence process." And In Conclusion Target marketing is critical to enabling your sales/marketing efforts to focus on the subset of prospects that are "most likely" to buy your products and services. If done properly, this will help you ensure the highest return on your marketing/sales expenditures. An important component is communicating to the target market in a language that they understand. No company would sell a product in Italy and advertise its benefits in German. The same principal applies to the world of graphic communications, where using the proper language is critical to effectively reaching prospective customers.