You are over-stimulated. There’s too much information for you to process so your brain does you a not-so-favorable favor and simplifies your world for you. It recognizes connections and the familiar and accepts or rejects to help you live your life. If you processed every ordinance of information bombarding your brain daily you’d have an “episode” and vegatize. This isn’t really a favor because this kind of simplification paired with social pressure breeds stereotypes. It also leads you to believe that you can know more than you actually can truly substantiate.
You do this in your business. Let me give you an example. When someone asks about your “target customer” you give them a very defined answer: “Well, she’s 34-64, married with two children and she loves apples.” Apples, eh? What if someone walks in your store and they’re only 29 and have three kids? You might think I’m being antagonistic, and you’re partially correct, but there’s a truth under the surface that transcends demographics and target marketing. It’s true; there are commonalities in customer bases. You don’t have to narrow as myopically as I did to endorse this approach. Things get twisted though when we take some of these similarities and craft an idol from them and then apply that idol to all those we seek to be in relationship with.
I’m 31. I’m a man. I’m married. I have two children. Many of my friends have the same demographic profile. You can add income, education, religion and geographic location in there as well. On paper we look like a nice little target market. That would be a mistake. We listen to different music. We drive different cars. We wear different clothes and we eat at different restaurants. The moral here is that we spend our money differently and what motivates us to do so vary dramatically. While we may agree on the “big stuff” there is a wild departure on most everything else.
“So, what do we do, then? We have to focus our message and efforts on somebody.” I agree. I suggest we do that but reject the false notion that there’s a magical group of people out there clambering to spend their salary in your store if you hit the demographic metric lottery. Roy H. Williams reminds us that often “the wrong people become the right people when you’re saying the right things.” I suggest, on Roy’s admonition, that we cease to settle for demographic alchemy and begin speaking to our customers’ values, purpose and search for meaningful relationship and contribution. If we can see the individual and genuinely embrace their journey in our conversation then we’ll have a volatile cocktail poised to unleash a persuasive, resonant payload. If you’re able, use mass marketing venues but don’t market to the masses. Engage the individual. Make a conscious effort to see the people in the sea of people. They’ll appreciate your effort and you’ll appreciate the way they return the favor.