Targeted marketing tools for the rest of us

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Gary Cottingham
Gary Cottingham

So often the marketing advances that we read about, while tremendously innovative, are aimed at companies with six-figure ad budgets. But that's not a reality for most businesses. Small businesses, with their small ad budgets, tend to be a forgotten entity in the advertising and marketing arena. This leaves them to their own devices on how to market their services, with the result being trial and error and wasted money. But there is hope and it lies in fairly recent advances in the world of direct marketing.

Over the last few years, advances in the quality and quantity of data compilation, statistical software, low-cost supercomputing, and innovative thinking have led to the availability of targeting tools at historically low costs. For example, a predictive model that would have cost fifteen thousand dollars and taken seven weeks to produce eight years ago is now available in days often for no up-front cost with very reasonable annual minimum list purchases. 

These new, inexpensive tools allow small business marketers to identify the best prospects based on data rather than relying on purely intuitive demographic selects, which are often a guess. Moreover, the tools tell them which prospects not to target. The net result is more cost-effective marketing. Predictive Models can score a prospect's marketplace footprint based on each household's likeliness to respond to an offer or buy a product. Small businesses can mail fewer pieces at a higher response and realize a higher ROI. 

For businesses without enough customers to create a statistically valid model, low cost profiles can also be created in a matter of days. Profiles will show the business what key clusters exist within their customer base and how those clusters compare and differ from each other and from the general population. 

Finally, the latest and most intriguing development in analytical marketing is the extension of offline computer modeling to effective online targeting, often at a much lower cost than traditional cookied ad targeting. Some really smart people are working with online networks to develop effective interfaces that take those same models described herein traditionally used for direct mail and leverage them to target online buys at prices most small businesses can afford. It will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve for small businesses, the true heart and soul of American enterprise.

Gary Cottingham is the president of Cottingham Data. He can be reached at

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