Traditional advertising is failing as an effective means of reaching new customers. The future has been touted as online, but banner ads are ineffective except for general awareness, and search ads don’t extend your reach beyond people already looking for what you’ve got. Social Media is promoted as the vogue, but it has severe limitation: 1) selling is generally ineffective; 2) it has little reach or effectiveness in B2B and is limited to consumer products; 3) finding new audiences and followers still requires other business development/advertising – which can be a vicious circle.

But there is a valuable lesson to be learned from Social Media – focus on a relevant community. And by community, I mean a broader sense of shared interest group – which could be based on geography, demographics, hobbies, occupations, obsessions or beliefs.

It’s interesting that while our global reach can now be taken for granted, we are needing to return to community based marketing to be effective. Generating word-of-mouth within an interest group is better than active selling. In fact active selling promotes a backlash. Finding ways to promote expertise, or a specilized solution relevant to the targeted community can be your single most powerful means of business development.

The trick, of course, is determining who these interest groups might be, and gaining access to them in an acceptable manner.

And this is where learning from the B2B world comes in. In Business-to-Business interactions, sector specificity has long been the number one deciding factor in choosing a service or product provider, or partner. So sector specific targeting has been paramount – including means of gaining access to these targets. In the B2B world, that can mean professional associations, trade shows, journals, and on-line forums.

And with that last, now the path becomes clearer. So many of the communities we need to target have online presence, that searches for what you do will usually turn up your target audience as well. But there will be many, many interest groups. The online world is a vast one, so niches thrive. There may be only a few thousand other people in the world who share your passion for old-time radio, for example, but you can unite with them online very easily. And start an old-time radio serial forum with 25 people interested.

The challenge becomes one of identifying the communities with sufficient volume, accessibility, and clout with adjacent communities. There is bleed-over from one online community to another, and identifying that can gain you access and credibility.

It’s ironic that now that we have the ability to reach more than 90% of the planet, targeting smaller communities becomes more important than reach. But if the ground rules didn’t keep changing, what fun would all this be?


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