The myth is that target marketing is a straightforward science, but the reality is this: the most valuable target marketing starts with “fragments of disjointed and often contradictory information” and connects the dots from there. The quote is not from the pages of a marketing textbook, but from Shane Harris ’ review of the documentary Manhunt, the inside story of how Bin Laden was tracked down and killed.

Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan (May 21, 2004) - A...


I recently spoke with Amnon Mishor, who took what he learned as an Israeli intelligence officer and applied it to finding business-to-business prospects for  his company, Leadspace. It models an organization’s “ideal buyer profile and then find look-alikes across numerous sources, including social networks, contact databases, web sites and even [an organization’s] CRM.” Mishon describes it as a “super lead qualifier on steroids.”

Why Targeting Matters

With almost unlimited data, finding potential business leads is not a problem. It’s easy to put together a list of prospects. The problem, according to Mishor, is that “all the leads look the same.” Those looking for Bin Laden needed much more to go on than “a tall Arab male with a beard.”

Beyond that, sales and marketing are often looking for different things. Marketing may have a bias to giving sales people a large number of leads, while sales people seek potential customers they can engage with.

The answer is to move from big, unstructured data sets to “finding that guy” that really cares. This was Mishor’s ah-ha moment, realizing that army intelligence techniques could be applied to business.

Envision and Then Create

Mishor started by speaking with customers. He had nothing. No protocols. No working model. No funding. Step one was understanding potential customers’ hopes and barriers.

Then, he hired a bevy of bright young analysts and worked with them to utilize his army intelligence techniques to find prospects for his potential clients over the web. This relatively manual approach worked. He was able to find super-qualified leads for his potential clients. But, it was not scalable.

Armed with this knowledge, he raised money and built the “machine” that could scale what the analysts had done. Now bigger companies are using his systems.

Connecting What Others Don’t Think Can Be Connected

The two streams lead to the same insight. On the one hand, Mishor is creating value with a systemic, scalable way to connect seemingly unconnected data to identify the most valuable target customers. On the other hand, Mishor built his business by connecting seemingly unconnected hopes and needs of his prospects.

The essential questions of big data are generally the same: What? (This is about facts; a search for the truth), So What? (This gets at meaningful analysis and insights to help you make decisions) and Now What? (Turning your conclusion into actions). What’s different in this case is the focus on “So What?”

For example, LinkedIn has made it easy to find the majority of executives, diminishing the value of executive search firms’ search capabilities (what). Since there are only three interview questions, it’s not that hard anymore to interview like search firms interview (now what). The value created by search firms is in sifting through the sea of potential candidates to find the right matches of strengths, motivations and fit between candidate’s BRAVE preferences and an organization’s culture (so what).

Getting at “so what” is a strength requiring a talent to connect disjointed and contradictory information, knowledge of history and techniques to do so, and skills acquired through extensive practice of the art. If you’ve got that talent, invest in learning and practice. You’ll create a rare and valuable strength.

This is an example of the heart of The New Leader’s PlaybookBRAVE Leadership

We’re all new leaders all the time. So remember all the time that leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. With that in mind, BRAVE leaders pay attention to their Behaviors, Relationships, Attitude, Values, and Environment – all the time.