Narrow your focus to more consistently hit your target
“Aim Small, Miss Small” is a popular and intuitively appealing method of instruction that is widely used in shooting sports (e.g. AccurateShooter.com, 2015). It was made even more popular by the movie “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson in 2000. When teaching Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger how to shoot a muzzle-loading rifle, the movie’s technical advisor Mark Baker gave them the advice to “Aim Small, Miss Small”, meaning that if they aim at the whole body of an enemy soldier (large target) and miss, the soldier is missed, whereas if they aim at a button on his uniform (small target) and miss, they still hit the soldier’s body. In the final cut of the movie, Mel Gibson actually gives that advice to his son in preparation for battle against the redcoats.
When I first started bowhunting for deer back in high school, my good friend and mentor essentially told me the same thing; he encouraged me to ‘pick a spot’ on the deer’s hide right behind the front leg.
When I started doing this consistently, I became a much better instinctive shot and have arrowed many deer since then.
This concept has proved to be equally valuable in business with respect to market segmentation. When I first came to Yakima, a California-based sport rack company, we were duking it out with Thule, our primary competitor based in Sweden. Our product line was generally targeted at outdoor enthusiasts who liked to bike, boat (canoe or kayak) or ski and drove a car, truck or SUV to their outdoor destination. This was a fairly broad ‘target’ and the company was struggling to increase market share against a very tough competitor.
The product and marketing teams conducted an extensive analysis of sport rack consumer data and identified a number of sub-segments of user groups (mountain bikers and road bikers, touring kayakers and recreational kayakers, snowboarders and skiers, etc). Within those sub- segments, additional demographic and psychographic segments were further defined (education and income levels, geographic location, conformers vs disruptors) as well as the type and brand of vehicle they own (car vs SUV, European vs Asian vs Domestic brand). This information was cross-referenced against actual Yakima customer data and some very interesting patterns emerged that more clearly defined which customer attributes defined a ‘Yakima’ customer versus a typical ‘Thule’ customer. It was fascinating.
Armed with this information, the product and marketing teams more clearly defined the brand platform and positioning, updated all of the brand messaging and marketing collateral, changed the packaging and retail displays to be more ‘on-brand’ and aligned the entire salesforce around this brand identity. All of the consumer-facing elements of the Yakima brand and product line were aimed at this very specific target. The results were impressive to say the least.
It’s interesting how a simple, yet powerful instructional concept used in a Hollywood movie can be so relevant in business. I encourage you to ask yourself if you are aiming small enough when it comes to defining your target market. In order to consistently hit the mark, you must have the discipline to take a data—based approach to clearly define your target market. That’s when you will consistently hit the bullseye each time you pull the trigger.
Vice President, Professional Services