I don’t know much about guns, but I know this: shotguns use bullets that explode everywhere, and rifles use bullets that go precisely into a single target. Marketers use these tactics as well. The shotgun marketer throws a ton of strategies, commercials, and messages to every customer in every market. The rifle marketer takes careful aim, and takes one single, pivotal shot at one single, pivotal customer. Neither tactic is better or worse in general, but they should be used in different situations.
The shotgun approach works well when you have a product that most people use. “Most people” could be included in a certain industry or demographic. For example, most people across all age groups and industries use some type of computer, with some type of browser and software. I’ve really enjoyed the last few campaigns by Microsoft to sell their different products and services to the market. Their “I’m a PC” campaign and “Make It Great” campaign showcase customers of all ages, from all walks of life, from business owners, to students, and everything in between. Their “Bing and Decide” campaign touches on all the different subjects and information people are searching for, and offers a variety of ways that their search engine, Bing, can help them make better decisions. Since most of the population can use at least one of Microsoft’s products, the shotgun approach makes sense. Their campaigns don’t focus on single features or single user characteristics, but rather the overall picture of a great product to meet everyone’s needs.
The rifle approach works well when you are in a very niche market. I’m currently working in the aviation industry, and the rifle approach is our best bet. We do have some subtle differences between customers, but our niche is pretty defined, with a certain type, size, value, and use of an aircraft. It makes no sense for us to put out a radio ad promoting our services, as a majority of radio listeners don’t need our services. Instead, we focus on industry trade shows that cater to our market, and industry magazines that cater to our demographic. Sure, some of these publications only have 10,000 readers, vs. mainstream publications with hundreds of thousands, or even millions of subscribers. But if the 10,000 readers are actually viable customers, we get more bang for the buck by targeting them with a specific message. We go to our customers, instead of making the customer come to us, or adding to the clutter and noise of the advertisements they see every day.
These are simplified examples, but the sentiment is the same: do you use the shotgun or the rifle? Once you pick the type of strategy, you can make your message much more effective.