When I was teaching Marketing to 60 executive MBA students I was presented with a problem when trying to explain the concept of a highly focused niche marketing strategy. Nearly all of the students worked for large public corporations. Few, if any, had had experience with this business method.
To support my discussion, I drew upon a military analogy.
“You folks need to read a book entitled Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson. Henderson profiles the enormous accomplishments made by one young Marine sharpshooter, Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, during the Vietnam War. Hathcock is often viewed as the finest marksman this country has ever produced. His task was to hunt down and eliminate the most important big game enemy targets. In terms of business jargon, this was niche marketing at its best!”
Two weeks after making this suggestion to the class, one of my students walked up to the podium and handed me a copy of Marine Sniper and said, “You don’t have this copy; look inside!” Sgt. Hathcock had signed the book to me with these words:
To: Dr. Tom Stanley. Thank you very much for your kind words. Semper Fi, Carlos Hathcock, II.
In an instant, the hairs on the back of my neck began to rise. I realized that the same hand that had penned this inscription had also pulled the trigger on a Winchester rifle that eliminated some of the most notorious villians in North Vietnam. Just the night before, I had reviewed the chapter on how Hathcock hunted down North Vietnam’s number one professional interrogator who was known to be a beast and a sadist. Hathcock’s mission was to prevent this man from torturing 2 American Air Force pilots who had been recently been shot down in North Vietnam. They both had much information that would be of great value to the enemy. Even though the interrogator was surrounded by an armed patrol, Hathcock never hesitated in carrying out his assignment.
In the book, the author attributes Hathcock’s superior marksmanship in part to his childhood experiences. Raised in rural Arkansas by his mother and grandmother, Hatchcock hunted for food. His first rifle was a J.C. Higgins Model 103.18 22 cal. single shot sold under the Sears Roebuck and Co. label. According to my research it was the least expensive rifle on the market at that time. He learned as a boy that, with the single shot, there was only one chance per target for success when hunting. And so he rarely missed.