Several years ago when our fledgling company was just taking off I had a conversation with one of our friends who was a rising corporate star in a Fortune 100 company. Ever one to listen and pick up on new thoughts on every aspect of business I steered the conversation towards a hypothetical: what would it take for our company to handle all of your company's trademark filings?

Over the next hour or so we went back-and-forth on what they looked for in outside help and how we could satisfy those needs. Of note, my consistent theme was how much money her company could save by using our services rather than their current service provider.  We eventually shifted the subject and moved on, leaving me with a feeling that I really had not learned anything as to how to market to this entire new segment of potential customers for our services.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Several years have now passed since that conversation when another old friend called me, stated that he had taken a new job, and would like five minutes of my time to come and pitch me his company's services for our business.  Understand, in the few years that have passed since my conversation with  friend at the Fortune 100 company our business has growth from being a scrappy upstart to one of the global leaders in our industry. So as a friend I agreed to hear his pitch and we set up a time for him to come in and chat.

He arrived at the appointed time and we sat down and began to speak. As he handed me his business card he explained that he is now working for a start-up internet service provider (ISP) and would like to take over all of our ISP and web hosting needs including, but not limited to, email and website hosting and related services.

Understand that ten years ago I knew nothing about technology, ISP, and hosting. Today, however, I am moderately well-versed in all of the terminology and technology required to maintain our business's Internet footprint.

As such, during our conversation his pitch almost exclusively revolved around the cost savings we could have if we switched our business to his new employer. Of note, during the conversation I would occasionally ask what I now consider to be basic technical questions (e.g., Do you have redundant server farms). He had no idea. In short, he could only methodically focus on price and had little ability to discuss ability.

In a flash I was transported back to my conversation with my Fortune 100 company friend and suddenly realized the errors of my ways. Back then I too had focused so hard on one aspect of a pitch I had failed to recognize that ability, and not price, was the most important thing to that consumer. Price and cost savings may have helped to close the deal, but it was not then, nor now as my neighbor pitched me on his company's services, the most important point of consideration that particular consumer.

So what can we learn from this experience? Know your market, know your consumer, and alter your marketing accordingly.

1. Research

You must know what your target consumer is seeking. Maybe it is the lowest cost provider. Maybe it is not. Perhaps they are most concerned with ability or some other assurance you can provide. When marketing your goods or services, however, you must first understand your target market and what they are looking for. Conduct research to identify why they are seeking your goods or services so that you can create a more targeted marketing campaign.

 2. Define Segments

Perhaps you will only have one demographic. But if you are like most goods or services providers you will have multiple. Your multiple target demographics will, correspondingly, have diverse triggers they will seek when deciding upon a goods or services provider. As such, you must define your target segments and the key factors that influence their purchasing decision in advance of initiating your marketing campaign (e.g., price, ability, etc.).

3. Specific Messages for Specific Segments

Finally, once you have identified your target consumer groups and have defined those segments with the traits that will motivate them to purchase your goods or services create specific marketing messages for those specific consumer segments. For instance, for one group competing on price alone may be sufficient. However, for another, they may be more concerned about ability and price can only be used as a closer once they are convinced you can deliver on your goods or services promise.

So rather  than repeatedly pitching the same benefit of your goods or services blindly to all consumers break down your target markets, identify the traits they retain and why they are seeking your goods or services, tailor your pitch to their specific needs, and watch your sales reach new levels.