We have all heard references to the rifle vs. shotgun approach. While it’s true that the latter allows you to reach a broader area and generate some sales, the rifle approach allows you to hone in tighter on your targets. However, if you take the time to “sight in” your rifle, you can often look your quarry right in the eye and the results will speak for themselves.

So, what do we mean by “sighting in” our rifle? Those that might not be familiar with firearms might be surprised to learn that not all rifles hit the intended target and sighting in is a process that makes adjustments to help us be more accurate with each shot at different distances. It is like saying I want to target wheat growers in area 3 of Southern Ontario with this specific variety of seed for winter wheat rather than saying I want to target wheat growers in Southern Ontario. As you can see, there is quite a difference and, as you might expect, the former will simply drive better results.

Inasmuch as sighting in your rifle will allow you to reach more highly defined targets, you can also incorporate other techniques that will allow you to load up and increase the impact of each message you deliver.

So, what do we need to sight in our rifles? The answer can be summed up in two words, strategic data, the kind of data that tells us that Joe suffers from headaches and uses a competitor’s Ibuprofen as his favourite remedy, or that Susan and Jerry are wheat farmers in Palmerston, ON or that Mary suffers from acid indigestion and takes antacids 3 times a week. The first question then is do you have this type of data? If not, the next question becomes can you acquire it? There are companies that profile consumers and can supply rented lists. Additionally, some magazines can target by specific criteria. You might also attempt to gather it yourself via online surveys or other means.

Assuming that you have the right type of data to sight in your rifle, the next step is to load your message to ensure it has impact and delivers results. There are different ways to do this, but we often recommend insightful connections through tastefully personalized direct mail pieces and pURLs (personalized URLs), coupled with persuasive offers. All markets are different, but if you are honing in on highly-targeted prospects with the potential for significant recurring revenues or large one-off sales, as in the case of expensive equipment, an attractive offer only makes sense. This is especially true if you are grooming new prospects. It often comes down to, what does it take to get them into your shop or to set up a meeting?

We have seen some wonderful successes stemming from sophisticated direct marketing pieces as well as the placement of personalized cards and inserts on display ads inside magazines. As today’s technologies support it, this can be taken to a higher level by using an integrated physical direct marketing to web concept, that can add even more impact. An example using a fictitious company, GroPro Seeds, follows below:

Direct Marketing to Web Example for GroPro Seeds


To convert the maximum number of selected readers of a magazine or recipients on a rented list to active prospect status. In our example, prospects are highly valued, as new sales can result in significant ongoing annual revenues.

For readers that might not be aware, many lists are rented on a one-time use basis and businesses renting these lists can only add those that respond to their prospect list and, hopefully, their customer list at some point. Secondly, when an ad appears in a magazine, advertisers only get to engage with those that respond. Thus, the objective of maximizing response rates.

Initial Offer:

A (hypothetical) highly personalized card (die cut or rectangular) tipped inside a magazine or mailed via a rented list. The reader would then access a pURL (personalized URL) to learn how to collect a valuable incentive. Prospects that respond can be added to the GroPro active prospect file.

Prerequisite Data Work:

  1. Mapping communities to heat zones in Southern Ontario
  2. Correlating GroPro seed varieties to communities
  3. Vetting data to ensure there are no embarrassing substitutions (e.g. “Hello D.”) and that all variable data merges correctly
  4. Testing merge results for communities, heat zones and seed varieties


High-value item to motivate readers to:

  • provide contact information, making them GroPro prospects
  • take time to visit seed dealer to collect valuable incentive

Note that we have also set up an example of the GroPro site (personalized URL set up for Dave in Fergus) that you can visit at:


As you can see, the site contains highly personalized data that speaks to the needs of individuals within specific communities. It also features a strong offer that is consistent with the value placed on establishing a relationship with the prospect.

Important Note: This site is set up as an example and, as such, there are no promotional hats available.

There are many businesses today that are already sighting in their rifles and using “touchy-feely”, personalized messages to engage their best prospects, across different platforms. If you have not entered this arena as yet, we hope that this article might provide food for thought and a basis for you to move forward with some of these exciting direct marketing concepts.

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Dave Ward

Dave Ward is President of Highland Marketing and a proponent of intelligent direct marketing, which combines the practical elements of using the right mix of direct marketing services and Canada Post products together with options that serve to heighten engagement and improve overall ROI.