identifying real customersIdentifying, targeting and then being able to attract your ideal customers is where your marketing budget needs to be directed. Buyer personas are just the first step in determining who your ideal customers are but reaching those personas can be the tricky part.

Reverse Metrics at Work

Recently, we were asked to help a trade school fill seats for the new H.V.A.C. program they were starting. They also wanted to increase the overall enrollment in their other programs as well. It was imperative that the potential students were not only open to a trade school education but a good fit for the type of services that the school was looking to fill seats for. The school’s new curriculum featuring H.V.A.C. would be offered with several other mechanical trades such as welding and auto/diesel mechanics. These other programs were already in place and producing trained professionals, the school was looking to repeat this process for their new endeavor. Conventional direct marketing could help them reach their goal of student numbers but could not guarantee that those placed were the best possible fit. Again we needed to find not only prospective students who were able to afford and willing to attend a 24 month course but ones who would most likely graduate. There were accreditation issues that were at stake. The school had to maintain a certain percentage of graduating students to receive federal tax money and available grants. What we needed to do was find students that statistically profiled their best students, the ones who graduated.

Defining Their Ideal Student - Persona

The school had a particular idea of who was attending and what market those students should fall into. They did some interviews of the attending students and the results were similar to what the school had expected and what they thought was their typical student. The results of the interviews profiled their students as a male, 25 years old, single and living with their parents. This was however not their ideal student. This would become evident when we would run the optimizer or reverse metric on their ideal student. Remember their ideal student is not necessarily the man in the class on any given day but the student who completes the course, graduates and is working in that trade.

Their Student Data - Metrics 

The school supplied us with the names and addresses of their graduating students from the past 10 years. This was their ideal student, someone who had completed the school and would go on and into the job market not only as a trained professional but a promoter of the school as well. 861 graduating students were looked at and when the data was adjusted, since some had been out of school for up to ten years, the results were surprising.

Who to Look For

We now knew their ideal students were much older, in the range of 40 -55 years old. Surprisingly 40% were married with 1 or more children, and their dependents were 10 years old or younger. We knew their ethnic background, their median household income, the value of the house they lived in and we knew that their ideal student came from four specific zip codes. The information ascertained from the graduating technicians included 26 metrics. These 26 metrics could now be used to market directly to their ideal prospective student.
The attributes that showed the most significant matches for them were:


  • Region…..Zip Codes 151, 152, 153, 154 (95%)
  • Dwelling Type…..Single (88%)
  • Home Ownership…..Definite Owner (84%)
  • Gender….Male (65%)
  • Direct Mail Responder….Double/Multiple (64%)
  • Length of Residence…..15+ Years (63%)
  • Mail Responsive Buyer….Multiple Mail Buyer (60%)
  • Median Home Value…..50K – 100k (58%)
  • IPA Cluster Code….0- 24,000 (47%)
  • Credit Card…..Bank Card (45%) 


With this new information, it was directed that their ideal students were not in high school or recent grads but older men who had already taken a bite out of life but wanted more. Their ideal student, as it turned out, was one who was looking for a career change, not just a career.

Where to Find Them - The Results 

Below are several excerpts from their report. Note the penetration index – for each attribute, the relationship between the percentage of their students sharing the attribute and the percentage of those living in the designated geographic area sharing the same attribute. Indexes above 120 are highlighted and this is considered significant to their overall student profile. Once the names and addresses are profiled in the Optimizer, they are then destroyed and the list is purged and deleted in accordance to HIPPA regulations. No names or addresses are used in any other fashion but to generate an "Ideal Student profile."

market research

marketing research

Market to find student

Spend the Time

Trade Show TacticsTrade show marketing is a very in-depth, concise and strategic undertaking, and in most cases, a costly endeavor.  Your trade show appearance has to enlighten and dazzle the attendees with a message that directly relates to your business goals. If you have been planning for an upcoming show for several months, you are more than likely not ready and will not see a very positive "Return on Investment" (ROI). Typically, at least six months to a year of planning is needed to correctly justify the expense. Now that we have scared our “Wedding Planner Want-To-Be’s”, let’s look at some of the necessary evils of Event Marketing.

Is This Event Worth the Expense?

Once you have determined if this particular event is geographically and relevant with your type of business, it’s time to figure out if the cost will be worth it. Will the money that will be spent on the trade show increase your customer base and company revenue? This question is not an easy one to ascertain, since the results of the trade show can take months or even a year to bring your new contacts from just names to customers. That is why it is just as important to measure the metrics of a marketing event as it is to properly plan and execute the trade show itself. Run the numbers of sending your staff and the cost of the trade show and compare that to the possible increase in customers, revenue, and exposure and you get your ROI. Confused? You should be. Your business or more precisely, marketing your business, provides multiple challenges with different solutions that will work together or independently to reach your goals. If you think that a trade show is worth the ROI then let’s get started in the planning.

Setting Goals and Picking a Call-to-Action (CTA)

Trade shows are lead generating factories and should be treated as such. Not just leads but quality leads as well. Trade shows also offer opportunities to spread brand awareness and increase organic and direct web traffic. The goals of trade show marketing can include:

  • Increase in New Quality Leads and Sales

  • Increase in Organic and Direct web Traffic

  • Increase in Social Media and Blog Following

Once the goals of the trade show are set, you will have to figure how to get there. In trade shows, as in all other marketing campaigns, the call-to-action remains the key element connecting your marketing goal with the means of achieving it. Your CTA should be integrated into every aspect of your trade show marketing plan because it will be your key to reaching the goals you have previously set forth. As a reminder, a call-to-action is an image or text that will prompt a visitor to take action, such as subscribe to a newsletter, view a webinar, or request a product demo. Consider the CTA’s role in everything, including your signs, handouts, giveaways, landing page, booth, goals, and metrics.

If your CTA is directing your lead to a web page, create a custom landing page that is tightly connected to the overall campaign. This landing page could offer free material, such as an ebook or whitepaper, specifically related to the trade show and offers directed to the trade show visitor. Sending trade show attendees to your landing page on your website will also provide you with the opportunity to gather information about them as well. You want to be able to track who is interested in your company and how you can follow up with these leads in the future with the ultimate goal of turning them from a lead to customer. Remember, these attendees are talking with your competitors at the trade show as well, so what is done with the information in the coming months is as important as obtaining the lead itself.

So before you continue to planning your trade show marketing, you need to be fully aware of what your CTA is and what it’s prompting visitors to do.

Focus on an Inbound Approach

Create a memorable experience with a lasting impression on the attendees that stop at your booth. If you blend in with all of the other booths by design or with a similar handouts then you have conformed to normality and thus have become just another vendor. Start with the booth. If you look the same as the booths beside you then you will be initially perceived as such by the attendees. Creating a different look or something outside the norm can be expensive but the price is worth it. You are there to be noticed, so be noticed. The key to making your trade show marketing successful is to do something that makes you stand out.

Dress differently. The majority of people behind the booths will be in suits or casual business attire. Step out of the box with this one and incorporate your messaging with your wardrobe. Integrate your message not only with your wardrobe but with all of your signage as well. Carry you company message or theme consistently and boldly throughout your display and the employees working behind the booth.

Make your handouts timely and online friendly. It is probably a good bet your handouts will for the most part get lost amongst the barrage of paper flowing from the other booths, but have them ready just the same. Do not rely on them as a core strategy but someone will inevitably stop at your booth and request some form of company literature.

Encourage Internal Communication

Finally, it is important to ask others in your company for their input on the trade show. This is where you are more likely to develop a trade show marketing idea that will make your booth a memorable experience with a lasting impression on the attendees.