Setting your sights on the (right) targets

“Ready, Aim, Fire.” vs. “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

When an organization deploys tactics before putting energy into segmentation and targeting strategies, impatience is really driving its development approach.

And that impatience can lead not only to “fire before aim” methods but also to “fire, fire, fire” programs that usually result in inefficiency and poor stewardship.

Even worse are marketing efforts mired in inertia – i.e., “ready, ready, ready” program planning that fails to seize opportunities and/or fears failure.

Targeting, the second step of the STP concept is about setting your organization’s sights on specific audiences, interests, and needs.

A Case Study: The American Cancer Society

A classic case of targeting was outlined in Philip Kotler and Alan Andreasen’s book, Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations, which documented successful outcomes the American Cancer Society experienced when it became a target audience-driven organization.

In the 1990s, because of competitive pressures from other specific cancer-type causes, the American Cancer Society experienced significant decreases in donation growth.

As a result, the organization’s first move was to focus on a small number of target areas: the elimination of tobacco use, promoting early detection of breast cancer and intensified efforts in school health programs. Targeting these specific audiences and interests, combined with a few other organizational changes, resulting in increased donations, including the launch of a new program that is now generating more than $300 million annually.

While the way the American Cancer Society arrived at these targeted areas was not specifically documented in Kotler and Andreasen’s book, it appears to be a clear case of target segmentation research and/or analysis.

Here’s how you can follow suit.  Once you’ve segmented your targets into various demographic and psychographic groups, you should ask the following questions as part of your planning process:

  • Who is the “lowest hanging fruit” to target (largest, most obvious segments), and how many can your organization afford to go after?
  • Where can they be found?
  • What are their current perceptions, interests and needs?
  • How satisfied are they with the organization’s brand promise, purpose and success?
  • Why does the target support/not support competitive* organizations?

Regardless of whether or not you’re planning to conduct target research, you should force yourself to mine the data you have or that others have (via secondary research) on your target audiences to see if there are new and/or more effective places to aim your organizational and marketing efforts for a better result.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will conclude our discussion of the STP concept with ideas on how positioning can help you differentiate your organization.

* Competition is another organization that offers the same or similar services as your organization and/or seeks the support from the same or similar donors.

Bill McKendry