I’m always astonished to talk to business owners who really don’t know who they’re selling to. You know a business is off track when, in response to a question about who their customers are, they respond, “Pretty much everyone.” If you think your customer base is everyone, you’re unlikely to reach anyone in numbers that matter.
Likewise, if you sell a product with tons of features and benefits but don’t segment your audience into interest groups, your marketing will be off target. Let’s say you’re running an airline and you haven’t segmented your audience to the point where you can see that the bulk of your revenue comes from weekday business travelers (I don’t even have an airline and I know this much, and don’t call me Shirley).
If you proceed to spend lots of marketing efforts on promoting your great weekend fares, your main meal ticket is not going to be interested. They’ll look to someone else to fill their need who speaks their language and differentiates their offering based on something that matters to the business traveler.
I was in a meeting today with a vendor to a large company. They were trying to describe a project they’re bidding on for Large Company but it was clear that Large Company was entirely unclear as to who their target audience really is.
The deliverable is a set of documents for Large Company’s sales team. After listening and asking some questions, I said that for me to be able to help them, I needed to know a few things.
- Who is the intended audience?
- Who is the competitor for this product suite?
- What differentiates this product from the competitor?
I’m not saying that these questions are easy to answer. But they’re the point from which the discussion must begin. In this case, it turns out there are multiple audiences. You can’t pitch the benefits of a highly-technical feature to the C-Suite occupants that may be the right benefit to pitch to the person operating the system once it’s installed. You have to know who the audience is.
Since this product, like airline flights, is something that is not unique, there has to be something that differentiates it from competitors or else why would anyone care? It either has to differentiate on price or benefits; there is nothing else.
I remember asking a web design company owner who their company’s competition was. He answered, “Really, no one.” Think about this. Every time someone does a search for “web design companies,” there are nine other competitors on the search-results page before the searcher ever sees a logo or a page design.
If you don’t know who your competitors are, you probably don’t really know what you offer. And you simply can’t differentiate in a way that matters to your potential customers unless you know what the competition is offering.
All this to say that when it comes to writing about your business or creating messaging of any kind, the old aphorism applies: Know thyself.