I've cajoled, poked and prodded. I've shouted from the hilltops. The silence was deafening....

Last year, I wrote an article for the MarketingProfs newsletter titled Who Comes First: Good to Great Marketing in which I argued that too often marketing professionals are focused on "the WHAT." What tradeshows should be reviewed, what types of direct mail should be sent, whatInternet portals should gain the most ad spend, etc.

Instead, to make marketing more effective, marketing executives needed to focus on "first WHO."
If it sounds elementary, perhaps it is. Too bad few companies practice it.

I stated, "In the B2B world, the application of 'first WHO' means it is no longer acceptable to have a target list of 500, 100 or even 50 companies. Instead, the list would be narrowed to a group of 10 or 20 key companies. Next, a marketer must ensure that he or she has a deep and thorough mastery of the 'WHOs,' or core decision makers within those target organizations."

Too obvious? Too simple?

Then why do we still see B2B, Fortune 500 companies taking out full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal? Why do companies still spend over a million dollars on the largest trade shows in their particular industry? Why do we still do "spray and pray" direct marketing and accept 1-2% return rates?

Depressed and contemplating medication, I was elated to see a recent Wall Street Journal article titled Unisys Pitch Finds the I in Niche. The article described the efforts of Unisys to customize and target media and advertising to reach a very small group of CIOs.

Through a special deal with Fortune magazine, Unisys is customizing the covers for 20 high-ranking executives on its target list. Each magazine shipped to these individuals will have a mock Fortune cover with the executives own face gracing the cover. In addition, he or she will discover a letter -- individually tailored from a senior Unisys manager -- describing challenges in the target's specific industry.

According to the article, "Fortune cover-wraps also offer personalized Web addresses where executives can find mock news videos that mention their names and how they achieved business success."
This, my friends is niche marketing at its finest. It's tailored, it's focused and (in this instance), it's all about stroking the egos of the target audience.

I wrote in my MarketingProfs article, "Applying 'first WHO' to the marketing organization means marketing dollars will no longer be spent on gaining awareness. For example, marketing dollars will now be spent on gaining awareness with the right WHOs. Advertising, once focused on a few publications, will be halted until research can clearly show the target audience reads the publications in question. If a marketing dollar does not touch the right 'WHOs,' then it is a wasted dollar."

The concept of deeply understanding your target audience and tailoring marketing programs to reach them, and only them, isn't a new idea. It's just rarely practiced.

--advertising dollars focused on the right audience–
--a message tailored directly to customer needs
--awareness gained with the people actually responsible for buying your product/service–
--an actual return on investment from a marketing dollar spent!

I love this quote from Ellyn Raftery, VP of Marketing and Communications for Unisys, "We're not trying to have grandma at home understand who we are and what we do–it's a very narrow set of executives we really want to reach."

So the bigger questions are: Why is "First WHO" marketing not widely enacted? Is it because "First WHO" requires more analysis and legwork than "spray and pray" marketing? Why does an article of a company enacting focused, targeted and tailored marketing make the front page of the WSJ?

Are marketing professionals too lazy to really dig deep and attempt to segment, understand, and then market exclusively to their target audiences? Ask yourself, who is the "I" in YOUR niche?

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Finding the 'I' in Niche

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Paul Barsch directs services marketing programs for Teradata, the world's largest data warehousing and analytics company. Previously, Paul was marketing director for HP Enterprise Services $1.3 billion healthcare industry and a senior marketing manager at global consultancy, BearingPoint. Paul is a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs DailyFix, and has published over fifteen articles in marketing, management, technology and healthcare publications. Paul earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He and his family reside in San Diego, CA.