Targeting the right people is a fundamental issue, although often overlooked. Just because modern media can target everybody does not mean you should be trying to targeteverybody.

Universal recognition of a message was once the mark of a great populist campaign but now indicative to poor targeting and wasted resources. Growth hacker marketing has found success by exclusively targeting early adopters first. No matter what the category, early adopters have one thing in common, they tend to cluster around a specific set of communication channels: blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, they also influence and attract later adopters.

An early adopter targeting success story is Uber, who focussed on tech-obsessed high income thirty somethings in both San Francisco and New York. Many people questioned this approach because that market was already well served with limousine services. What they overlooked was Uber’s strategy; if they could seed their service into this group and become successful, it would be easier for them to branch out across other demographics who traditionally follow early adopters.

An important question to ask yourself is where can I find the right people? If you don’t know the answer you don’t know your own market well enough. Intense focus on driving an initial set of new user signups and customers is paramount.

Remember the job of growth hacking is not so much to build a brand but about building an army of immensely loyal and passionate users. To start a new army, you always start with the few who self select by stepping forward.

Take the protein smoothie powder brand Kura. Their objective is to take protein out of the gym and market it as a more family friendly product. They could have gone after thefamily market – busy parents trying to feed active and hungry children or, female millennials who lead active lifestyles. Both targets are broad demographics and, seen through a traditional marketing/media buy lens would be expensive to reach.

The growth hacker would see it differently. If choosing the female millennial, therecruitment drive for Kura’s army would begin with two questions – “where do they spend their time?” and “what’s important to them?”. But in the execution, the net is cast wider. Conventional thinking would have this target pursued through the gyms and yoga studios of northern California, identifying the relevant advertising channels and promotional partnerships offered at those properties.

Growth hacker thinking is asking “what is the next circle of influence these people have?” This would be using a combination of the obvious – that a lot of them attend gyms and yoga studios – and the not so obvious. where they are likely to work and their particular industry, relevant industry blogs, influencers and commentators are all rich pickings. You are able target the right audience, for a fraction of the price of reaching them through traditional channels.

Tim Ferriss, best-selling author of the 4 Hour Body, blogged about how he selected an audience to market his book to. Again, conventional thinking might have led down thefitness channel path. Instead, he looked at the type of people he knew best and asked himself if they worked out would they then be interested in a book like his.

They were 25-35 year old, tech savvy males, earning close to a six figure salary working in either finance or technology who were aware that their fondness for beers after work every Friday was starting to take a toll on the waistline. He knew exactly what blogs they read, what podcasts they listened to, the websites they bookmarked and the “heroes” of this sub-tribe. His strategy was to seed his campaign through these channels – appealing to the people he wanted to reach, in relevant and trusted media with a message they perhaps weren’t expecting but nevertheless found compelling.

To a growth hacker, the fragmentation of media is actually good news. More choice, more depth and more commitment from the audience to your message as a result.

Effective targeting is not only confined to the concentric approach – it can also be about understanding that techniques rather than proximity are more effective.

Personalisation of marketing messages to specific targets is becoming easier thanks to new technology and particularly the development of marketing automation software. While it’s still early days a recent study on personalisation of marketing messages by VentureBeat found that nearly 94% of the 506 marketers surveyed had seen an increase in effectiveness of their messaging by using personalisation.

This goes beyond just getting the right name in the email salutation to the recipient – it’s about ensuring that the right message is delivered at the right time. A study by software firm SAP found that email messages decayed significantly after 12 hours in the inbox – with only a 30% chance it would be read.

Effectively targeting the right people has never been more fundamental to getting your product or service in front of the right people. In a B2B context, what matters is where in the sales funnel your message hits, consequently the message requirements and targetingfor new prospects and lead nurturing will differ.

If you’re thinking more like Tim Ferris than Don Draper you’re more than halfway there.