Marketing Secret #1 – Divide & Conquer

black-belt-secret-bugDo you know what sets successful marketers apart from the vast majority of businesses? Truth is, there are lots of things that highly successful marketers do…that most businesses do not (and you thought I was going to tell you the ONE secret to marketing).

But underlying all of the many things that the most successful marketers do is one important principal. The principal of “divide and conquer”. This time tested method for segmenting your market into smaller and smaller “sub-markets” is the key foundational idea behind all successful marketing.

Most businesses market too big.

When asked who their target customer is they’ll tell you “everybody who needs XYZ”. This is never true. In fact the words “everybody”, “anybody” or “all” are red flags when I ask someone who they want to sell to. It’s obvious they haven’t done their homework.

So what do I mean by “divide and conquer”? It’s really simple, but requires some thought…not a lot, but some. Let’s take by way of example an engineering firm that sells design services. They can design any type of commercial building—offices, retails stores, restaurants, fast-food joints, strip malls, schools and fire stations. All of these building sites require essentially the same design services, done by the same people in the firm.

Logically, the firm creates a brochure, business cards and a website that talks about the design work they do, the qualifications of their engineers and the places they work. And, somewhere on each marketing piece (I often find it on the back cover of brochures) they list, in bullet form, the various types of building sites that they can design.

First Divide

All the money the firm spends on it’s pretty brochures, cards and website will be wasted because in trying to speak to ALL of the possible types of customers they want, they’re not speaking to any of them. Prospects are people. People who have a plate full of problems in their own world. If you’re not talking to them in their world, individually, you will be ignored.

So in the case of our engineering firm, they need to divide their prospects into categories like:

  • Office building owners/developers
  • Retail store owners
  • Restaurant (not fast food) owners
  • Fast food franchisees
  • Strip Mall Developers
  • School Districts
  • County & City Fire Departments

When you separate it out like this and think about each type of client and what problems they face every day, it’s pretty clear that you need to communicate with the office folks differently than the restaurant people and differently still from the school district’s facilities planner.

Then Conquer

Now that we’ve divided the firm’s universe of potential clients into logical groupings, we can devise a plan to conquer each sub-market. Instead of one brochure and website, I’d create 7, one to two page brochures and 7 sub-market focused websites. I’d even look for web addresses like or for each sub-market. With each marketing piece, we’re now able to focus the message on the specific individuals in each sub-market. We can speak their language and talk about the challenges they face without alienating prospects in the other groups.

So set aside an hour to think about who you’re marketing too. Divide them into groups and conquer each one.