Who the heck are you selling to? Part One

[Editor's Note: This blog series is taken from Richard’s seminar given at Creative Expo 2017.]

[Editor's Note: This blog series is taken from Richard’s seminar given at Creative Expo 2017.]

It's been an interesting 18 months or so on the world stage hasn't it? One in which politically we've seen a great disconnect. We've seen the Brexit vote, a snap general election; a non-politician in Donald Trump becoming leader of the USA and more recently a total new comer, Emmanuel Macron–without even having an official party back in April, becoming the youngest president of France.

A consistent thread has been the unpredictability of it all. And without over simplifying things, there's been a disconnect between established political parties and mainstream media (and I lump those two together purposely), and the people they serve–their target audience. Some call this the rise of populism–or the reality of what people actually want.

Some of the established political parties and mainstream media have not understood their target audience–which is why the various results were such a surprise.

I was at a Marketing Seminar back in November and a speaker, Tash Walker from The Mix, a Human Behaviour agency made this comment–specifically about last year’s referendum. She said: 

"In many ways I view the referendum as being not dissimilar to what happens a lot of time in marketing and communication. A bunch of people trying to pre-empt what a bunch of other people will do, without really understanding at all what the other people are thinking or in fact what it is like to be them."

Basically, they don't know 'who the heck they are selling too.'

Your Target Audience is NOT everybody

Over the last 20 years I’ve worked with a range of clients large, medium and small, but one thing that’s been fairly consistent with medium to small business owners, is the lack of knowledge of who they are actually selling too.

And I’m not just talking about start-ups. Businesses who’ve been around for years can have misunderstandings on their target audience too.

When our main focus was designing and developing websites, we used to have potential clients to fill out a project briefing sheet.This way we could get all the information we needed to assess the scope of the project.

Of course, one of the key questions we’d ask was ‘Who is your target audience?’ and for this question, the most overwhelming answer we received…you guessed it, was Everyone.

We updated our form with a guidance note to say… 

“Don’t say everyone. Be specific i.e. senior execs in technology companies, mothers with newborn babies, 60plus year-old active people. You can have multiple audiences but try to be specific about each one.”

Still many people put ‘everyone’.

So why is this? Why do people instinctively want ‘everyone’ to be their target audience? In truth, this is the worst answer you could possibly give. 

It’s not all about YOU!

I hate to break it to you, but it’s not all about YOU!

You see, as small businesses it’s all too easy to get so focused on our products, services and ideas, the thing we’ve worked so hard to produce; in our minds it may be the ‘next big thing’, a solution to everyones problem.

I get that. It’s your baby. Whether you’re an artist painting beautiful works of art, a craft maker making beautifully intricate jewellery, a tech entrepreneur developing the next generation of AI chat-bots, or a cleaning company looking to get established and stand out in your local area. It’s vital to take time to focus, not just on what you’re producing, but who you are producing it for.

Without knowing who your target audience is, you can end up spending a lot of your time and energy talking to the wrong people. And you know what that’s like?

Are you talking the WRONG language?

Imagine when you have been to a foreign country and you don’t know the language well. In Spain several years ago, I ended up paying a lot more for a taxi ride than I was lead to believe it would cost because I didn’t take enough time to know my audience i.e. in that case to have a better grasp of the language.

Let me paint you another picture…each of you reading this blog has something you are passionate about; something you love to talk about, you might know a lot about and have a very specific point of view on. It might even be that you’ve created a business out of it.

Now, remember a time when you’ve been having a conversation with someone about that subject. You’re putting your all into it. You know your stuff. Perhaps you’re getting quite animated with lots of gesticulations. But the person you’re talking to just doesn’t get it. Their response is very dead pan. They just don’t connect. Just like me back in Spain, it’s like you’re talking a different language.

Spending all your time focusing on the wrong people can be, not just frustrating, but a waste of time and for your business, a waste of your hard earned money.

Are you targeting your enemies?

Sometimes it is useful when thinking about your own businesses to not just think who would buy from you but to think about the reverse. Who wouldn’t buy from you?

Think for a moment about Amazon. They started off as an online bookseller almost 25 years ago. Now they sell everything from computers and tech products, vacuum cleaners to clothes, certain food items through Amazon Fresh, as well as their Amazon Go stores currently being trialed in the States, video and music streaming services, Web Services to corporates and much more besides. So are who’s their target? Is it everyone?

There are at least three types of people who wouldn’t buy from them:

  • Technophobes
    Amazons’ whole business is based around technology. So we could start with anyone who isn’t remotely interested in technology, doesn’t even use a computer, or even in a part of the world without stable internet connection. They are immediate non-starters.
  • Paranoid by Security
    You can add to that, people who have big issues with security who find the idea of entering a credit/debit card number into their computer tantamount to handing a stranger their card in the street along with a nice post-it note containing their security code and pin number.
  • Big Corporation-haters
    Then there are people who may well be very tech savvy but have an issue with big corporates. They would see buying from Amazon like selling their soul to the devil. I know people like this - and indeed was talking to one such person recently who explained how much she hated Amazon and companies like them. That may well be you. No judgements!

Now Amazon could target any of those audiences, but imagine the messages they would have to put out. It would be much more difficult for them to sell to these groups as they have so many more barriers to break down before the customer is anywhere near ready to make a purchase–if they ever will be.

Why not just focus on the people who are already sold (pun intended!) on the online shopping concept and just offer them more...It’s a much easier sell.

They love you. They hate you.

I want you to see that for your own businesses, there will be people who are drawn to it and some who quite frankly are repelled by it. And you know what? That’s OK. You just need to know the difference.

Next week, we’ll take a look at a few things you can do to find your audience.

Stay tuned...