I play a lot of FPSers. For those of you that are non-gamers, FPS = first person shooter. Think Call of Duty, Halo, BioShock and Far Cry.

Even if you’ve never heard of these games, stick with me.

There’s a phenomenon that happens inside of these games that also happens in marketing and in both places, it’s a huge mistake (but one that oh so many people make.)

Spray and Pray

When you first start out with a first person shooter, you’re usually not very good at the game nor do you have the mechanics down (how you control your character, how you make them fire a weapon, etc.) and sometimes, it takes a bit of time to ramp up your skill set. During this time of “not-so-great” gameplay, a lot of players engage in something called, “spray and pray.”

It often looks like this:

You fire up Call of Duty: Ghosts, you pick the most common load out for that skill level (ahem, Honey Badger anyone?), you queue into a match and you ready yourself. When an enemy flies across your screen, you panic, aim your gun (sometimes), hold down the trigger and fire. Until your clip is empty. And then, you breathe.

The only thing you’ve thought about over those last six seconds is, “Did I hit anyone?” and if you are lucky enough to see a little score indicator pop onto your screen, you likely cheered, fist pumped or, at the very least, thought about the speech you’ll give when you win your first competitive tournament.

Trust me. We’ve all been there.

Post and Pray

In marketing, a lot of companies engage in something similar. In this space, however, it’s something that I like to call “post and pray.”

The idea is similar to what I’ve described above. The company readies their product or service, they hold their breath and when a customer moves across their space, they fire a message at them and cross their fingers that it works.

If the company is lucky enough to score a win, they look at themselves like marketing geniuses who are on the high flying path to success but if they don’t get that win, they get discouraged and sometimes, give up.

You see the “post and pray” phenomenon occur in many different areas: social media, e-mail marketing, choosing where to spend advertising dollars and targeting.

While “something is better than nothing” may get you a point or two on the scoreboard in Call of Duty, it doesn’t fair out as well when it comes to your marketing budget.

Set Your Sights: Precision is Key

To get better at a FPS, you need to get really, really good at setting your sights on a target and aiming with precision. Precision is the difference between good gameplay and terrible gameplay. The difference between a win or a loss.

In marketing, the same idea holds true.

In order to be successful at marketing, you need to set your sights on the right customers and focus your efforts there.

One of the best ways to hone in on your ideal customer is to leverage available data to determine exactly who they are, where they live and what they are interested in.

In an article published by MediaMath, they discussed a study that was conducted called, “The Global Review of Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising.” The study evaluates the responses of 3,000 data-driven marketers and advertisers in 17 countries and identifies key trends that resonate with marketers the world over.

In this report, they found that data-driven marketing budgets are on the rise: Globally, 63% of panelists reported that their spending on data-driven marketing and advertising grew over the last year—with another 10 % (73% in total) expecting that budgets will rise yet again over the next year.

The other key point in the report was that a majority of global panelists (53%) said that “a demand to deliver more relevant communications/be more ‘customer-centric’” is among the most important factors driving their investment in DDMA, outpacing all other relevant factors.

In short: precision is key.

Identify your audience, identify your message and use that as your vehicle to deliver an outstanding marketing campaign that is aimed in the right direction.

Time Invested = Higher ROI

To increase your precision in a FPS, you need to invest time into the game. You need to play match after match after match to learn the mechanics and fine tune your delivery. With this investment, precision increases, your knowledge around the arsenal selection grows and you are able to easily identify, at any given moment, where on a map your target will be waiting.

The same rings true for your marketing efforts. The more time you invest in understanding your demographic, the playing field and their behaviours, the higher your ROI.

So, instead of “posting and praying” or “spraying and praying”, work on your precision. That accuracy will not only net you a killer KDR but also some sweet, sweet victory.