Wouldn’t that be great if everyone wanted what you sold?
No, actually it would be a nightmare.
How could you keep everyone happy? How could you meet everyone’s needs? How could you offer it at a price that everyone could afford? Or fit with everyone’s world view? And everyone’s view of himself.
Not even Target or Wal-Mart thinks that everyone is its customer. Apple and Microsoft realize they have specific customers. Colleges know that while every applicant may want a college education, each student is looking for a specific college experience.
And so it goes with buying anything. We want to attract those who are a good fit for not just what we offer but the entire experience of working with us.
That is why marketing plans identify the target audience
If you wrote a marketing strategy for your business, you no doubt came to the Target Audience section. Here you describe your ideal customer. You know, the “30-45-year-old male, with a collie, drives a Prius” statement.
Identifying your audience is critical. This is the person you are creating the product or service for. Knowing these ideal customers helps you define your marketing. Knowing your audience makes it easier to decide to embrace or ignore Facebook. Knowing your audience means you can speak their language, use their metaphors and cultural references. It also means you can tell meaningful stories.
Knowing your audience is important. But do they really need to be a target?
This target idea stems from a marketing philosophy based on the book Art of War by Sun Tzu The war analogy became quite popular in the 80’s and 90’s from the Al Reis and Jack Trout Book Marketing Warfare, as well as from others who jumped on this bandwagon, or tank.
The idea was to look at the marketplace as a battlefield. Marketing was a zero sum game. A customer for you means one less customer for me. A dollar you earn is a dollar not available to me. I need to crush every competitor before he crushes me.
It was all about campaigns, tactics, market domination, guerrilla thinking.
Maybe this works if you are a soft drink manufacturer. Coke must always keep Pepsi in their sights. In 2014 alone, Coke had an ad budget of $3.5 Billion (yes, that is billion with a B). Maybe the marketing-as-war is needed here.
But, my small business clients tend to cringe at thinking of their customers as targets. Even if I can get them to do a deep analysis of their best customers, they don’t embrace the concept. Small biz owners think of customers as family, as friends, as people to serve. Targets is an off-putting concept.
So they reject the idea of targets but, as so often happens, the baby is out the window with the bathwater. In tossing out the terminology, they toss out the concept.
The result? When planning any marketing, rarely does the conversation start with, “Well my target audience is looking for . . .” Instead it jumps to the tactic of the day. “Hmm, what if I started using Snapchat?”
Say hello to your Meaningful Few.
This term comes from the Pareto principle (80% of the results comes from 20% of the work). Or 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers. The percentages are not important, but the concept of the “vital few and the trivial many” is a useful management tool.
Vital few is less target-focused but still misses the mark. It is still an us-vs-them mentality.
Those 20% are your Meaningful Few.
These are the people who need, want and will pay for what you offer. But they are also the people who love what you do.
I have found a much greater acceptance of the Meaningful Few concept. But this is far more significant than just a name switch. There is something far more powerful in play.
Identifying your meaningful few is no longer a one-way target. From me to you.
Meaningful Few opens up a two-way significance.
What happens when you think of your customers as meaningful? Moving away from thinking of your customers as transactions to be won is a huge step to providing greater value for them.
Marketing is so much about metrics. Conversion rates. Clicks, Follow. Likes. I am not suggesting you forget metrics. Not at all. But I am suggesting that seeing your customers as meaningful opens new ways to look at them.
Shining the light of meaningfulness will help you think of new ways you can be important to these specific people. New products or services? Repackaging what you offer to be more in line with how they need to consume what you offer? Offering new ways to deliver your services?
Maybe you decide people can’t make the big leap to your all-encompassing course. You may need to offer small bits to get them going.
If you offer a de-cluttering service is it all or nothing? Or do you have small-step decluttering service that encourages them push the buy button. This small service gives them a taste of success and encourages their repeat business. But only after you have proved yourself as meaningful to them.
You might even find that your competition is not a threat after all. They may serve a different Meaningful Few. You might learn to share leads or develop joint programs.
Does this sound too Pollyanna-ish for you?
Then perhaps by just differentiating who is in your meaningful tribe from who is in your competitor’s will enable you to create stronger marketing for your tribe. And accept that competition doesn’t equal a threat.
Realizing the value of these customers might help to focus your efforts on reaching out to them for more insights into ways you can bring them greater happiness.
And, of course, it is easier to tell stories to people who are meaningful to you than people who are targets!
This isn’t just a feel-good idea. Identifying your Meaningful Few means you are working with customers who are most profitable to your business.
No longer is it a zero sum game. It is a win win. You provide greater value to your customers and they provide you greater revenue. Pretty sweet, right?
When the magic happens
What metaphor do you use when everything is working together for the same goal? You can think of this as when the planets align. Or as piano strings vibrating in sympathy with the note played creating a richer sound. Use any metaphor you desire. But embracing the two-way nature of your meaningful few puts you in a relationship of giving as much to your customers as you are receiving. And that is magical.