We love to hit the bull’s-eye on our tar­gets. Some­times it’s fun, or icing on the cake. Other times it’s sheer sur­vival. Whether it’s a bas­ket­ball hoop, a bead on your din­ner, or a mar­ket­ing coup, hit­ting your tar­get feels great.

In mar­ket­ing, hit­ting the bull’s-eye with a prod­uct mes­sage trans­lates to sales. Putting together the right ele­ments that prompt cus­tomers to romp through the sales cycle is pos­si­ble today more than ever before. Big Data pro­vides details about demo­graph­ics, pref­er­ences, and online behav­ior that pre­cisely guides the aim of our mar­ket­ing arrows.

The per­son­al­ized pitches we make today are the result of huge advances in tech­nol­ogy. Because of the pre­ci­sion pos­si­ble with Big Data, we can cre­ate unique seg­ments of one, appeal­ing to an indi­vid­ual cus­tomer to close the deal. Com­ing up with a scal­able way to cre­ate all that unique con­tent is our quest, but you’ve got to ask your­self some­thing as you pull the next mar­ket­ing arrow from your quiver and aim at your tar­get: Have you nar­rowed your focus too far?

I recently went online to buy a pair of shoes. I hap­pen to like Ecco Wind­sors. In brown. Sans laces. I found them on Zap­pos, put them in my cart, clicked all the way through the fun­nel, and boom, they were on my doorstep two days later. Zap­pos is great. Some­times, how­ever, since I am inter­ested in mar­ket­ing, I toy around a bit. I’ll put sev­eral pairs of shoes in my cart, then aban­don my pur­chase to see what hap­pens next. If mar­ket­ing is work­ing right, I will get a mes­sage dan­gling a deal car­rot to prompt a buy. That’s clas­sic mar­ket­ing that every­one should be doing.

Where can that go wrong? Let’s say that when I went look­ing for my Eccos online I found them on another one of my favorite sites and put four pairs in my cart, then clicked away from the page with­out com­plet­ing the pur­chase. I con­tin­ued my online shop­ping trip, later receiv­ing a text mes­sage remind­ing me that the shoes were still in my cart, along with an offer of both free ship­ping and a 10 per­cent dis­count if I buy today. Bull’s-eye? Nope.

In this case, the ven­dor thought they knew exactly what I wanted, main­tain­ing that nar­row focus on the shoes in my cart. What they couldn’t have known was that I had just found the exact same brand and style of shoe, with a smaller price tag, on another web­site. Their nar­row mar­ket­ing focus on the shoes alone turned the prob­a­ble bull’s-eye into a com­plete miss. Had they broad­ened their mar­ket­ing approach, high­light­ing a hand­some belt and some great designer socks to show off the shoes that were still wait­ing in my cart, they might have sold me those acces­sories even though I had already bought the shoes.

I’ve watched sim­i­lar sce­nar­ios hap­pen in many sec­tors, from prod­uct mar­ket­ing and finan­cial ser­vices, to home appli­ca­tions and even news sto­ries aimed at automat­ing media for adver­tis­ing sales. A mar­ket­ing group, so sure of its deci­sions, iter­a­tively con­tin­ues to hone in on try­ing to beat the con­trol, when widen­ing sights would bring new tar­gets and oppor­tu­ni­ties into the field.

In the real world, I’ll go with that iter­a­tive approach about 70 per­cent of the time, but 30 per­cent of the time I’ll pull an arrow out of my quiver, focused on a tar­get cre­ated with wildly dif­fer­ent vari­ables. As the tar­get moves into the broad­en­ing range, I let the arrow fly. Bull’s-eye! Those wild tar­gets may be harder to hit, but when the point pierces dead-center, it’s all the sweeter, espe­cially when you stay hun­gry for the win.

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