13 June 2022
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Stop treating the internet as a mass-market medium. It isn’t one.

With an estimated 5 billion users, the internet is undoubtedly massive, dwarfing even radio and newspaper reach. Only television currently surpasses the internet in global adoption, but the internet is likely to overtake that within the next few years too. It’s tempting then to think of the Internet as another mass market, but I firmly believe that doing so is wrong and on the path to blowing marketing budgets and achieving poor results in return. 

What is a mass-market medium anyway?

Mass marketing is the strategy of broadcasting a message to the widest possible audience. By reaching a LOT of people, you also reach a number in your target market. Traditional broadcast TV is a great example: If you show an advert during an ad-break of the evening news, then it will be shown to everyone watching that program (or at least everyone who doesn’t get up to put the kettle on, or is lost in a game of Candy Crush on their phone when it airs). There is some level of audience targeting in terms of the slots you choose, but it’s essentially a shotgun approach. 

Why the Internet is different

The way we use the Internet is different. When we go online we are not “being served” the same web as everyone else. We might be searching for the specific thing we are after, visiting our frequent bookmarks or scrolling through a social media feed that has been specifically targeted to engage with us personally. Even when browsing popular, and generic websites, the content may have been targeted specifically to us and the ads almost certainly will have been. 

In terms of these types of markets, I find it useful to think of TV, Newspapers and Radio as giant supermarkets: Places everyone goes knowing there is a good chance of finding something they want. In contrast, I see the internet as some crazy bazaar full of millions of small shops: A place where anyone can find anything they want if they are prepared to look hard enough. 

 

So what? How does this help me?

Understanding this difference can help us market our businesses online better. Rather than blasting our message out to everyone online, we can target our messaging to “our people” – the audience we know will be most interested in what we have to say, and tailor it to best fit them. We can do this by embracing three core ideas:

Bigger often isn’t better

When we think about our audience we need to think about balancing the size of that audience vs how tightly targeted it is. It is better to talk to an audience of 1,000 who are all exactly right for your business, than 100,000 who have no interest. 

Get to REALLY know your audience

Use every opportunity you can to learn more about your audience. As you learn more, you are not only able to serve them better, but it also becomes easier to find more similarly minded people.

Go narrow, but deep

As we hone our audience, we have the opportunity to go deeper into our messaging. That gives us the opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in our niche and build a real connection with our audience. 

Summing up

The sheer size of the internet can be daunting, and finding your audience online can feel like searching for a needle in the proverbial haystack and if you “shotgun” your message to everyone it is unlikely to hit its intended audience. Thinking of your business as one niche stall in a bustling bazaar can narrow that down. You want your business to instantly and clearly communicate what it does, you want to be great at what you do, and you want to build something that “Your people” will connect to and love. 

Mat Bennett , Coach

Mat Bennett is a self-confessed “Digital Business Nerd” who has been helping businesses make better use of the internet since the very early days of the web. He’s built and sold a number of successful online businesses, including a digital agency and now works to coach and mentor small businesses looking for similar online success. He writes regularly on his own Digital Business Blog as well as being a frequent contributor on LinkedIn

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