From Broadcast to Narrowcast

As recently as ten years ago, the life of a marketing consultant, or business owner managing their own marketing spend, was much easier. Depending on your product or service, and how large a geographical area you wanted to market to, there were only a few choices. Newspaper or well placed magazine ads, radio, local television, and very few others.

You looked for the occasional PR opportunities, like sponsoring a local walk for a good cause or promoting a special event at the nearby high school. There were established protocols for reaching out to journalists and local celebrities, and everyone knew what they were.

We thought of marketing as “broadcast,” as in getting your message out there to as many people as possible and then responding to those who raised their hands.

Not any more…now marketing is “narrowcast.” Here’s what I mean.

The digital world allows us, no, it demands from us, that we target all the way down to individuals and tightly clustered communities of people with shared interests to find our consumers. While the traditional media outlets still exist, today there is a “new media” that operates with a different concept of time, speed, and audience.

Take internet forums as an example. If you type a subject into Bing and then add the word “forum” you are likely to get a variety of groups that have been formed specifically to share information on that particular subject. As an example, say you own a pet supply business and offer several lines of raw food for dogs. If you type “raw food diet for dogs forum” into your favorite search engine, you will get at least a half dozen forums that have been created by and for people who have an interest in this subject.

Just because you find this group does not mean you join and start promoting your business. You’ll be kicked out in a matter of days! The protocol for participating in forums is to provide good answers to questions asked by members, post valuable information for the group, and generally participate in the conversation. You can include a title or business name in your signature, and in many cases the URL for your business website; but blatant commercials are almost never allowed. This is “narrowcast” marketing—directing your attention to a subset of your customer base.

Another example: blogging and bloggers. Again, using your preferred search engine type in a subject followed by the word blog. Several blog sites on the subject will be listed. Your goal here is to again enter the conversation that is already going on, providing helpful comments and building a reputation as a person with insights that are beneficial to the group. Many bloggers will welcome guest columns and articles, which gives you a great opportunity to speak to their audience. Again, this is “narrowcast” marketing.

Not so long ago marketing was often throwing a lot of money into media buys and waiting for someone to respond. Today’s digital world allows us to very specifically define who we want to talk with, and then go find them.