Marketing Basics: Prospect & Target Market Ranking

It may look like the ‘lazy person’s mantra’, but there’s something to be said for the efficiency of getting the most output from the least input – and how you target your marketing effort is no different.

Whether you refer to them as the ‘low-hanging fruit’, your ‘hot prospects’ or best ‘networking contacts’ at the golf club bar (as they no-doubt appear on your expenses claims), your basic gut-feel plus your colleagues’ combined corporate view will give you a good steer on the business prospects, and the market sectors, most likely to be receptive to your marketing approaches. But, wouldn’t it be good to double-check before starting work?

There are a few different ways of adding a little science to this process and most have their inevitable acronyms. One of them is ‘WAR’, which stands for Weight, Accuracy and Reach. So, how does it work? This table is where you start:


Sphere of Influence















Make a basic six-column table – as above – and list these market sectors down the left-hand column, roughly in order of best perceived opportunities at the top, less likely at the bottom – but don’t worry about this ranking too much as this is the deliverable from the exercise.First, agree with your associates on your ‘Audience’ – a list of all the market sectors represented by your clients and those seemingly good prospects that you’ve had your eye on. If these businesses buy from you, so could others in their sector. At this stage, the longer the list, the more confusing it can seem! This is usually the crux of the challenge – so much potential for business, but where do you start?  

Next, column two is for ‘Sphere of Influence’, meaning: ‘who do players in this marketplace have influence over that will be useful to us.’ Example: In the case of you being a manufacturer of in-cab electronics to monitor and manage logistical operations, selling to truck manufacturers and vehicle technology retro-fitters, the answers to this might be ‘owner/driver transport businesses’, and/or ‘large-scale fleet operators/consultants’ and/or ‘bus and coach companies’. The greater their Sphere of Influence, the better.

Next, head the next three columns with ‘Weight’, ‘Accuracy’ and ‘Reach’. To help de-mystify the process – as it’s often going to be a joint exercise with colleagues in the interests of generating ‘ownership’ – I often add a basic reminder of what each means – ie:

Weight = ‘How important are they to us?’ – in terms of the amount they might spend during the full lifetime of your relationship and the kudos of having them as a customer. Would they be a good ‘win’?

Accuracy = ‘Are they a good ‘fit’? – how likely are they to be receptive to our marketing messages? Could this sector interpret, digest and positively respond to our offering? Will they realise we can help them or do they need ‘educating’ for 12 months? Would they want to do business / be ready to change suppliers / accept change? Are they in a position to buy?

Reach = ‘Can we get to them?’ – how easy is it for us to actually communicate with their decision-makers? Are there barriers to contacting / influencing them? In the wrong place? Can’t be reached by conventional, cost-effective means? Too hard to target amongst a wider audience, so would waste the marketing budget? Who can we talk to the easiest?

Next, score each market sector against each of these criteria on the basis of: 5 = very high; 4 = high; 3 = moderate; 2 = low; 1 = very low.

Then multiply the three scores for each and enter the resulting total in the ‘Rank’ column – eg. 3 x 2 x 4 gives a rank of 24. Finally – a bit fiddly, but worth the time it takes to achieve clarity of presentation – move the row order of the market sectors to show those with the highest ranked at the top, lowest at the bottom. Then, think of the number you first thought of... no, that’s it – stop now!

You now have, give or take, a list of the softest and most worthwhile targets to address with your marketing strategy first and some useful indicators of the possible overlap, or not, between sectors in terms of sphere of influence – and, maybe, some interesting observations that run contrary to earlier beliefs? (Sometimes sheer optimism won’t let you admit that, whereas it would be fantastic to be selling to a sector, there’s a reason why they will always go elsewhere first, or maybe you just can’t reach them? No room for ‘preciousness’ here – go by the ranked score for the more complete picture).

And, of course, you now also have the basis of many hours of healthy debate with your colleagues as to whether a crucial ‘4’ score for one contender would have ended very differently had this been a ‘3’. Nothing is cast in stone; perhaps you review the process in six months’ time as a test for variables / ongoing accuracy?

But, having – hopefully – arrived at momentary peace-of-mind with who your business should be targeting with its marketing activities, you can start to try to get under the skin of the target decision-makers, influencers and opinion-formers related to your targeted market sectors. Another fascinating quest – but one for another day...or blog article.

360 Brand & Digital is a Norfolk-based marketing consultancy that specialises in inbound marketing methods, covering most forms of digital marketing that make customers receptive to seeking you out, rather than you having to track them down.   

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