I once had a conversation with the owner of a car dealership who was looking for some direction as to how he should be spending his advertising budget.

As I went though the customary set of questions for which I needed answers in order to provide recommendations, I asked him who he thought was his target audience.

“Anyone who wants to buy a car,” was his response.

I chuckled.

He did not.

“Okay,” I said. “But realistically, you know not EVERYONE is interested in buying the kinds of cars you sell here. So who is your typical customer?”

He was able to fill me in on the average age of his customers and the areas where they tended to live. We also used manufacturer data to gauge the range of the clientele’s household income.

We were able to come up with a strategy and tactics that would allow him to efficiently spend his marketing dollars on the consumers most likely to purchase his vehicles.

In the end, sales increased because we were able to deliver the dealer’s message to his core target audience more frequently which led to greater recognition and top-of-mind awareness. And we spent less money than he had originally budgeted!

I can repeat similar stories from meetings with business owners and sales and marketing professionals from businesses big and small in B2C and B2B industries all over the country.

They have a product or service that could or should appeal to a wide range of individuals regardless of age, zip code, household income, or any other demographics.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of companies in the world that can afford to successfully target indiscriminate quantities of consumers.

I say “successfully”, because there are plenty of businesses that will spend a lot of money for a little while to build awareness. But effective marketing efforts generally require a consistent effort to impact an audience most likely to purchase their product or service in order to achieve a measurable ROI.

Many decision makers I speak with are too busy running their business or their departments to analyze the data relating to who is their true target audience. It’s not ANYONE who wants to buy a car, or needs an accountant, or has a house, or has a certain professional title.

Effective marketing requires gathering, examining, and organizing data about a company’s industry, its competition, and consumers in order to ensure dollars are spent on efforts that will drive sales.

Whether it’s search engine optimization, social media, pay-per-click advertising, email blasts, TV, radio, print, or trade shows, starting with data and analytics will provide an unbiased examination as to how best you should spend your time and money on marketing efforts.