Single Point is Pointless

If there is one marketing method I refuse to entertain the thought of executing, it's single point targeting. 

Single point targeting is the practice of making sweeping assumptions about people solely based on a single data point, e.g. if John has blonde hair and happens to enjoy skateboarding, then all blondes must then enjoy skateboarding. This is not smart marketing. In this day and age, when agencies and brands have access to more data points than they sometimes know what to do with, how is it that some are still making the mistake of investing capital into single point marketing?

As the co-founder and business end of a digital marketing agency in James & Matthew, I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to better understand the current marketing landscape. I know how to get our clients’ products and services in front of the right people and I know what we can do to help their businesses grow. But regardless of my background, there are just some tactics that deserve to be shelved or shuttered — or left back in the 80’s or 90’s where they originally came from, as they’ve long been replaced by today’s digital standards.

Why the full-on attack on single point targeting? Let me give you a first-hand accounting of how this tactic has recently affected me personally...

I fancy myself a military history buff. Knowing this, a friend recently got me a suitable gift in the form of a magazine subscription I had been eyeing. Here's where it gets interesting: The funny thing about that gift is that as a joke, he registered the subscription to a one “Master J. Pond” as the recipient.

Days after receiving it, I also received a piece of direct mail from the NRA. A coincidence? Impossible. It was addressed to the same name.

Hmmm... I wonder how they found me.

Editors Note: From here on, Jim will be referred to as Master J. Thanks. 

Editors Note: From here on, Jim will be referred to as Master J. Thanks. 

Now, if you don’t mind, a little more about me... I live in Massachusetts, which is not a big gun state. However, I am very middle-of-the-road when it comes to guns. I believe in the Second Amendment. I’ll even go shooting with my clients up in Michigan on occasion. But, I currently have no desire to own a gun, nor become a constituent of the NRA.

In short, I am not their audience.

What the NRA assumed — incorrectly, I must say — was that because I’m interested in military history, I must also be interested in guns, historical or otherwise. Sadly, I’m afraid they were mistaken, and I have to imagine I’m not the only one for whom they wasted their direct marketing dollars.

What could they have done differently? Here are a few choice thoughts on how their efforts, and their marketing budget, could have been better spent in trying to target the right customer:

As I’ve mentioned, a single data point simply isn’t enough. Even still, though, if one data point is all you have, there are better ways to put that information to use. Had the NRA used my interest in military history to target me with a military history-themed piece of direct mail, I probably wouldn’t have laughed at it as much.

Instead, they made a hard push on their own agenda, and they sent me a piece of direct mail simply because I was next up on the list. And that, more often than not, will be a much less effective strategy, for obvious reasons. If you are going to push your agenda or beliefs on others without having a clear understanding as to who they are or what they might be interested in, you at least need to find common ground.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the NRA was a client of at our agency. Their goal? To drive membership and push their political agenda. How would we begin? Well, admittedly there is a lot to be gained by developing an understanding of the behavioral and psychographic aspects of their potential customer base, so we would probably start there.

Then, we would reverse-engineer where that audience is spending their time and communicate with them through the platforms and mediums in which they feel most comfortable. On Facebook alone, there are between five and ten thousand different areas in which you can target someone based on (kind of important) things like their interests and behaviors, and this opportunity exists on other platforms as well. As far as cyberspace is concerned, the targeting opportunities really are quite infinite. Single point targeting has no place in a brand’s marketing strategy anymore because there are infinitely more, better options available to you at nearly every turn. All it takes is an understanding and a willingness to create and nurture relationships with potential core customers. Then, armed with all the latest data points, you can effectively target them with your messaging.

No one has an infinite war chest, so spend your marketing budget wisely. If you’re funneling time, energy, and marketing dollars into campaigns built on making assumptions using a single data point, more often than not you’re just wasting precious capital.

Cicero proclaimed that “the sinews of war are infinite money.” Today, we might say the sinews of marketing are infinite data, as greater data leads to greater ease.

Knowledge BombJim Pond