The other day, Liz Strauss wrote a great post about building vibrant communities. In it she recounted how a speaker who was a VP at a big corporate brand offered the following to the audience:
I want to build a community in which peers are talking to peers openly.
Liz was bothered because SHE was one of the people who was being sought as part of that community and didn’t particularly love being labeled just another “peer.” You should read the rest of Liz’ post, its powerful.
Her post reminded me of the risk of labeling the people we want to buy from us.
About a dozen years ago, I was deep into the personal training world. I had gained some notoriety for seemingly coming out of nowhere and launching a 5,000 square foot high-end training facility was selling more sessions per month than our 25,000 gym competitors sold in a year. I did this by essentially looking at everything the big players in the industry were doing and doing the exact opposite.
In the fitness industry, there are a few communities that are considered Holy Grail markets. One are the folks who make up the Boomer generation. The other is what the industry called for years “the deconditioned” market. Somehow, I’d managed to easily attract both, so when I had the opportunity to share a bit of wisdom in one of the industry trades, I started with a simple point.
If you want to attract the deconditioned market…STOP CALLING THEM DECONDITIONED!
For crying out loud, with more than 75% of U.S. adults being woefully out of shape, we’re talking about your mother, your father, your sister, your colleagues, your boss, your preacher, your teacher, your lover, your brother and the vast majority of people you hang out with every day!
We’re very likely talking about YOU!
How many RSVPs do think you’d get to your Annual Deconditioned Market Picnic? Or, your Festival of Fun-loving Fatties?!
The label you choose for a market subconsciously informs the way you view the people who make up that market.
It impacts the way you treat them, the way you solve their problems and the way you communicate with them.
Terms like “deconditioned” depersonalize and dehumanize the very people you want desperately to understand and connect with. It throws a wall up between you and them. Rather than empathize, you remove yourself from their experience, and, in marketing, that is a really, really bad thing. Because everything begins, every assumption, every solution, every action and communication, with a deep understanding of who the people who make up your market are, what they’re suffering, how they want that suffering relieved and how they’d like to be not only spoken with but endeared and respected.
It’s the same for every business in every industry. There are no exceptions.
In fact, the more I think about it, even using the word “market” beyond the research stages does a disservice to your ability to understand the underlying psychology of a group of people with shared needs, experiences, problems and motivations for a solution.
Yes, it’s easy shorthand. It’s efficient. But, as James Autry wrote in The Servant Leader, efficient does not mean effective.
Shorthand often ends up the losing hand.
So, use the term market when researching the size of a group of people and commonalities in hunger, need, emotion and motivation. But, the moment you begin to communicate with the “individuals” in that market, do what I was taught to do as a copywriter.
Speak to a single person, not a label.
Create an avatar that represents, in great detail, the qualities of the people you’d like to serve, then speak to that avatar as if they were one person. Not a peer, not a market, but a person. And, if you want to label that individual, name him or her. Call them Madge or Bill or Carol. But, not Mr. or Ms. Deconditioned.
So, I’m wondering who is that group of individuals you’d like to buy from you? How have you labeled them?
And, is that label facilitating or limiting your ability to understand, then blow these kind folks away?
As always, just thinking out loud.
What do YOU think?
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