Counterintuitive as it is, one of the smartest things you can do in marketing is target an extremely specific niche.

While it is tempting to cast a wide net, selling to everyone who might possibly use your solution dilutes your marketing efforts. When you speak to a large, diverse group, your language becomes more generic and it resonates less. And when you target a larger group, it costs more to get in front of them on a regular basis.

One of the marketing rules of thumb is that you need to size your target market to match your budget. The smaller your budget, the smaller your target should be.

When you target a tight niche, you can have a bigger presence — or even dominate the market — with a minimal budget. You can speak to the exact issues this group has, using specific language and buzzwords. Your prospects will feel like they are in the right place, that you understand them, and that they can trust you.

Committing to a niche can feel risky. To commit, you want to be absolutely certain you have chosen the right group.

How do you get that confidence? One way is to conduct small, inexpensive tests that allow you to explore a variety of potential targets and learn who is most interested in your solution.

In previous blog posts, we talked about how to structure a test matrix and how to craft your messages. Here, we are going to talk about how to define the buyer personas you want to test.

Essential Search Criteria

Since we are using LinkedIn to run these tests, we need to define the personas in ways that fit the LinkedIn search options. The variables we use most often are:

    • Title – LinkedIn allows you to search for specific titles such as CEO or CIO. You can also combine seniority (VP or director) with keywords (such as cyber, data, or cloud).
    • Industry – LinkedIn has 147 industries to choose from. Their industry definitions are a little quirky; they don’t match NAICS or SIC codes. For example: graphic design is an industry on LinkedIn, but manufacturing isn’t. Try typing a keyword and let LinkedIn suggest options. Or do some searches using the various choices and see which searches bring you the type of people you want.
    • Company Size – LinkedIn defines company size by number of employees, not revenue. Your choices are: 1-10, 11-50, 51-200, 201-500, 501-1,000, 1,001-5,000, 5,001-10,000, 10,000+.
    • Geography – You can choose regions, countries, states, metropolitan areas, and cities. Postal code is an option, but it does not work well.
    • Keyword – Use keywords the individuals might have used in job descriptions or elsewhere in their profiles.

Let’s look at a simple example. Say you have a new healthcare cybersecurity solution. You want to target hospitals, but you are not sure which title will be your best entry point. You might decide to test the following personas: hospital CIOs, CISOs, and CFOs. Here are the search criteria you might choose:

Persona 1: Hospital CIOs (LinkedIn count: 1,730)
Title: Chief Information Officer
Industry: Hospital & Health Care
Company Size: 501+
Geography: United States

Persona 2: Hospital CISOs (LinkedIn count: 217)
Title: Chief Information Security Officer
Industry: Hospital & Health Care
Company Size: 501+
Geography: United States

Persona 3: Hospital CFOs (LinkedIn count: 2,404)
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Industry: Hospital & Health Care
Company Size: 501+
Geography: United States

If those counts don’t look right to you, you might tweak the search criteria to expand or shrink your target. For example, you might add VPs of Technology to the CIO persona. Or you might decide that hospitals with 500 employees are too small, and target only those with 1,001+ employees.

Now you can follow the procedure outlined earlier to reach out to executives in each persona and test the different messages you developed.

I highly recommend using LinkedIn Sales Navigator for your searches — you get filters that are not available in the free version of LinkedIn, which allows you to target more tightly.

One thing to keep in mind on all LinkedIn searches: no one fact checks profiles to make sure they are complete and accurate. Someone who does marketing for an accounting software company might say their industry is Marketing & Advertising, Accounting, or Computer Software. Small businesses often say they have more employees than they actually do. Some people list their location as where they work; others choose where they live; some simply say “United States” either because they want greater privacy or are open to relocating.

In times like these, when many firms have less money to spend on marketing, it is more important than ever to target your marketing effectively. This strategy gives you an effective way to run small, private tests with different buyer personas and ensure that you are using a message that works well for each persona.

Want help defining your buyer personas? Come to our LinkedIn Office Hours every Friday at 1pm ET, and one of our coaches will brainstorm with you for free. Or we can handle the entire project for you. Learn more here: PivotPrecision.

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