The Moment You Speak To The World, You Speak to No One

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Why would you target a microcosm, when the world is your market?

Oy, I’ve heard this so many times from small-business owners and bloggers. Folks who want to cast their nets as wide as humanly possible, so that they can reach the greatest number of people, solve their problems and turn them into readers, customers and evangelists.

Only problem with that is, its a recipe for disaster!

For you to succeed in business…

You’ve got to be be able to solve a very specific problem for a very specific person.

You may pile on more problems, more solutions and more types of people after the first one, but you never do it all at once.

And, you need to be able to communicate your solution in the most compelling possible way.

The best way to do that is to create an avatar, a detailed persona of the person who’s problem you can solve. What do they look like, where do they live, how old are they, what sex are they, are they having sex, what are their hopes, fears, desires, challenges, daily experiences, dramas, elations, yadda, yadda, yadda?

Start with their psyche, then build out their world.

Give that person a name. Reginald sounds good to me. Maybe even a telephone number and an address. Then, and only then, are you ready to begin trying to figure out how to communicate to Reginald how seriously you get his life. How much you know his struggles, his quirks, his hobbies and secret desires. How insanely better you can make his life.

And, when you create your message, you speak only to Reginald.

Because, in doing so, you can get so specific, go so deep into his specific mindset, life and emotions that you become monumentally more effective at making him your customer, client or reader. And maybe even turning him into one big, bad basket of evangelical goo!

But, and yes, here’s the big BUT…in making such a targeted bee-line into Reginald’s psyche, you’ve got to accept another fact.

You’re NOT going to be talking to a boatload of other people.

Folks who might be potential clients, but aren’t nearly as well qualified for your help or in nearly as much pain as Reginald is. Hell, to really hit a homerun, you’re going to have to get so specific with Reg that you may even end up alienating a whole lot of non-Reggies.

And, that freaks people out a bit.

Because we all want everyone to love us all the time. We want everyone to buy our stuff. We don’t want to lose a single potential customer, no matter how poorly qualified, tangentially interested or barely in-need that potential client might be.

So, instead of writing to Reginald, and ONLY Reginald, we attempt to speak to every conceivable person who might in some way be interested on even the remotest level. Every conceivable persona, world-view, pain-point and emotional trigger, no matter how weak the connection might be.

And, the problem with that is…

The moment you speak to the world, you speak to no one.

Because, when you try to make EVERYONE happy, you give up your laser focus on Reginald. You water down your rapport, your promises and your level of engagement with the one person who’s most in need. You build a sea of noise around the previously laser-targeted signal, then transmit the whole morass to the single most qualified, single most pained, single most in-need person…and expect your message to still resonate.

But, in doing so, you lose the person you’re most there to help…and most likely to sell.

So, when you’re looking to solve problems. When you’re looking to build a business around a remarkable solution. Don’t make the mistake of trying to speak to, engage, tantalize, solve for and sell to the world. Identify that one dream person. The one most in need. The one who’s already out there looking desperately for what you’ve created.

Go deep into that person’s world.

Understand the conversation that’s already going on in her head.

Then, enter that conversation.

Speak to that one exquisite seeker and nobody else.

Put on blinders.

But, before you do that, do one more thing…

Do not EVER launch or build a business UNTIL you’ve done the work needed to make sure there are enough Reginalds out there to keep you in business for years to come.

So, what about you?

Who’s the dream persona for your business?

Who are you writing to in your marketing, blogging and beyond?

The world…or them?

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55 responses

55 responses to “The Moment You Speak To The World, You Speak to No One”

  1. Judy Martin says:

    This post came from the “gods” this morning as I revamped my material over the weekend heading into the bardo of redesign-land. Thrilled for such an affirmation. Enjoyed your material at #SobCon.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Glad it resonated, yeah that one line resonated so much at SOBCon, had to turn it into a post and share it. Hey, curious, how was the video, trying to see if they recorded it, so I can watch, learn and improve

  2. April says:

    Another great post Jonathan. I started thinking about my “ideal customer” when I read Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch. I thought I already knew who my ideal market was and how to target them, but when I wrote the specifics of my ideal customer it became clearer.

    I filled two notebook pages describing this ideal customer and I revisit it at least once a week to make sure I’m still using that information to my advantage. I answered most of the questions {aside from the “are they having sex?”} you listed above when I wrote that description, and it definitely helps me to write better blog posts and product descriptions. I really suggest taking the time to do this!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Cool, it’s a really tough exercise, but if you’re looking to spend thousands of hours and years building a business, the investment has a tremendous payoff.

      Another great thing to do is a “day in the life” of your avatar.

  3. Hi Jonathan!

    Great post! I remember Frank Kern talking about this in Core Influence, it really hit a cord with me. I’m still not there, but I can take a hint;)

    I guess the message gets clearer, and we end up helping not only Reginald, but a whole bunch of other people who are attracted to our message and our business.


    All the best,

    Josip Barbaric

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Yup, Frank, Eben, Jeff and even people like Brain and Sonia from Copyblogger, all the really effective direct marketers, new and old school do this religiously

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, Judy Martin, Elizabeth Weinstein and others. Elizabeth Weinstein said: yes. I write every blog post to one person. RT @jonathanfields The Moment You Speak To The World, You Speak to No One – […]

  5. Hi Jonathan,

    Even world-changing types had a targeted audience.

    I’ve made the mistake of trying to shout out my opportunity without realizing who I’m shouting to. The scattershot marketing approach doesn’t work. As you noted the moment you speak to the world you speak to no one.

    Thanks for sharing your keen insight.


  6. Leisa LaDell says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Jonathan. I am honing in on my ‘persona.’ I like the way you laid it out to focus on one person one problem, with the freedom to expand later. That makes the task much more doable.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      That’s actually been a tough lesson for me, because I have so many ideas for so many solutions, it’s hard to roll with just one at a time, lol.

      Entrepreneurial ADD bigtime!

  7. Very well said. Thanks Jonathan!

  8. Dan Perez says:

    This is truly a mistake many small businesses make and then they find themselves investing time in prospects that are not a good fit for the product/service. First things first is a clear understanding of your product/service and how much you want to charge for said product/service. Obviously, your “net” will not be as wide if you’re selling a $50,000 product compared to a $20. Understanding the product’s benefits (AND shortcomings) will make that conversation with Reginald a lot smoother.

    As for blogging, I’ll beg to differ slightly. I don’t think you have to be so precise with your writing as you may find a new audience when you venture off the usual path. I’ve read right here on your site, blog postings that cover a number of subjects. And considering that most of us don’t blog for a living, I think casting a wide net can be effective as long as the content is strong.


    • Jonathan Fields says:

      I think there is more leeway in blogging, BUT the blogs I know that have grown the fastest AND created strong “attention assets” in anticipation of selling solutions into that web of attention have all been very tightly focused. Depends on what you’re looking to get out of blogging.

      I go broad on this blog, but I do it very deliberately AND I know that it actually hurts me from a revenue generation standpoint in certain ways. But it was a conscious choice.

  9. Natalie says:

    With our tech startup we had a really well defined target market with a clear pain that our software solved. Trouble is we had 3 of them and could never decide which one to fully go after. When we finally picked one – and a subset of that it got easier for sure.

    When I started WomanzWorld I really did want to help all the women entrepreneurs in the world- yes bold and silly I know. I’m constantly defining my ideal audience now and it’s shaping my work.

    That said the only thing I disagree on above Jonathan is never launching a business or product until you know this.some of the most valuable insights have come from asking the wrong target market, the testing and research has quite often unfolded a solution to a defined target market problem we never would have seen had we not failed the first time.

    I just think that you’d never see some of the amazing businesses or products built if they’d waited until they knew their exact audience.


    • Kelly Ke says:

      This is a great discussion topic, a challenge that is a lot harder than what meets the eye. Planning/analysis can provide a general direction, yet it alone will never enough to get you where you need to be. You have to go out there and do it, make mistakes and learn from them, and adjust very quickly. It is a continuous learning process.

      Ditto on Natalie’s comments above. When we started our elearning company, we wanted all the topics on the world and sell to everyone. Then we realized 80% of our revenue came from 20% of the topics and only certain target segments bought. Some of the segments looked very promising in our paper analysis made few purchases. Guess what, our focus now is no that ‘20%’ while realizing the ‘20%’ will continue to evolve.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      it’s a good point. Truth is, you never know for sure whether you’ve hit the mark with your avatar until you launch and see what the response is. It’s much easier to respond to actual data than to hypothetical.

      Still I think this exercise is something that’s extremely beneficial to do both in the feasibility testing stage, as well as the fix and fly stage.

  10. Chris Horner says:

    EXACTLY Jonathan. I always think a perfect example of a company that does this is Ferrari. They know their core customer to the core, and they cater exclusively to that customer. There’s no question about what they do and who they build cars for even if you’re not in their target market.

    I’ve seen far too many businesses take the shotgun approach and then wonder why they can’t make headway or connect with a core audience. What they don’t realize is that if they did find their true ‘niche’ the relationships they build with their clientele will go deeper and create more loyalty, which in turn leads to repeat business and more highly qualified referrals.

    It’s perhaps not the easiest thing to do, but this skill is critical to any business that wants to grow and thrive.

  11. Jonathan,
    What a great message. This is one of the single hardest things for small biz owners to do. We just don’t want to feel like we’re leaving someone out!

    BTW, I write to Fiona – I hope you and Reginald understand. 😉

  12. Rich D. says:

    I found myself speaking to two audiences and creating a mess on my blog. My core market are engaged couples planning their wedding.

    I then began performing business and creative consulting services for wedding photographers. I soon had to spin off a blog targeted to my new market.

    The focus has definitely made my messages much more clear to brides and grooms. The challenge has been promoting my new blog to wedding photographers.

  13. Anne Wayman says:

    I laughed out loud when I saw the headline in my email from you! What a great way to state what I’m always (well, almost always) reminding writers – that their book or article isn’t for everyone and they’ve got to define, intimately, their ideal reader.

    I’ll send folks here to prove I’m right. Thanks so much, again.

    Anne Wayman

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Yep, this is so important for writers, too, who aren’t so much looking to sell a product beyond the writing, but to engage and compel with words.

  14. Absolutely stellar! Without realizing it, I’ve been steadily moving my business into that realm – the people that are most like me. I’ve stopped designing to “please everyone” and design to please myself…and my sales went up. A little, not much yet, but enough to make me smile. I’ve finally embraced having a pretty eclectic niche place on the market and I like it. I cater to the more bold, the ones that definitely hear a whole different band, and the ones that aren’t afraid to wear their individual flair as a dash of panache in a places more bland. Thank you for the little reminder boost this morning – it was a wonderful pick-me-up!

  15. I’ve heard this sentiment repeated a million times and it’s still as valid each time. And I think it’s a hard skill to master.

  16. […] Jonathan Fields who does a wonderful blog on life, work, play, and how they all fit together, used this headline: The Moment You Speak To The World, You Speak to No One. […]

  17. I started my coaching blog a few months ago with what I thought was a niche audience, but quickly learned it was too broad…and have been spending a lot of time thinking and researching my new “ideal specific person” the past few weeks. Thanks for this reinforcing post!

  18. Thanks Jonathan – I love your perspective and insights about this. It’s so refreshing to read about what can go wrong… the importance of focus and respect in our efforts to nurture community (as opposed to ‘steps to success’).

    I have since been pondering this goodness and ways to share… which all comes down to genuine relationships, simplicity and focus 🙂

  19. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, was that you knocking my head with a hammer this morning? I have been in a tizzy over this subject lately, because I pretty much write soup to nuts (and sometimes for nuts) in my copywriting services, running the gamut from software documentation to radio ads and the full spectrum of marketing collateral. One big problem is that I enjoy the variety, and don’t want to limit myself, say, to case studies or brochures or website content writing.

    Plus, a part of what I do (and sell) is journalistic writing, essays and by golly, fiction too, and my site and blog reflect this melange. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a month now and haven’t come up with a good resolution.

    Maybe I’ll just direct all my writing to you (we can work net 30, right?)…

    • Tom, the hitch you’re hitting is the difference between marketing yourself and marketing others, since much of your writing is on behalf of other folks.

      When you’re marketing for others, you’ve got to have their Reg (or in my case, Eileen) firmly in mind. It’s when you’re marketing yourself that you have to have your ONE ideal client in mind.

      Guess what that means? *You have to focus on one segment of your writing.*

      Contrary to the thoughts you just had when reading that sentence, this is not the same as drowning most of your children in order to love one enough.

      Every sparkle-brain’s biggest struggle with this concept is “but I have so many good ideas; I can’t focus on just ONE!”

      Well, you’d better.

      This does not mean you don’t *do* the other kinds of writing. But you cannot (CAN NOT) ‘focus’ on two things at once. Not possible.

      List all your types of writing. Cross off all but the ones which give you a frisson of delight to contemplate. Of those left, circle those which have, in your experience, some hope of remuneration.

      Now, close your eyes and stab the pen into the paper. Whichever one you’re closest to is your focus. FOR THE NEXT 6 MONTHS or until it’s making so much money you can leave it on auto-pilot.

      Since I know you won’t do this without further nudging, I’m gonna call and harass you into doing this. Your writing’s too good to be left in your hands.

  20. Evan says:

    Well, to be a little contrarian:
    Oy, I’ve heard this a million times from marketers. Don’t try to talk to everyone.

    Here’s the problem: I can easily write for the people I know. What I’m waiting to hear is how I find out if the market is big enough. The answer of ‘test and test again’ means there is no way to know. Not comforting.

    • There are marketing companies which specialise in identifying, locating, and sizing a target demographic. In short, if you can describe who you’re writing for in terms of empirical data, demographic research will give you a leg up. You’ll still be doing a certain amount of experimenting. It just won’t be blind guessing.

  21. Gina says:

    Thanks Jonathan! I so needed to hear this as I have been hanging out with a lot of bloggers who are very broad in their message and I have a specific group I am trying to reach. I was beginning to feel I was off by writing for such a specific audience (eating disorders).
    Being that’s who I deal with in real time I have stuck with it, there’s hope for me yet! 🙂

  22. CathyP says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    This is so true and something I find soooo much harder in writing. And then it becomes so tempting to NOT put stuff out there because I think I haven’t got it right ?!!

    Just do the best I can in the time available – sound OK for now??


  23. Drew Hawkins says:

    I help run the social strategy for our company. In developing a plan for its socially responsible sub-organization, I asked him who we were targeting (since the business model is obscure enough). I got the response “whoever will buy from us.” I’ve backed off the social for that group since then. I feel finding an identity using something like Twitter is like trying to organize files in a wind tunnel. A lot of work with little results

  24. Damn well put my friend. Only trouble with the avatar is, having the discipline to put it into practice. As my viola teacher used to say to me in high school with a funny east european accent… “Satya: you must practice! PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!”

  25. Diana Maus says:

    I was going to ask you if this works for all small businesses (like mine, for instance) and then I saw Anne Wayman’s comment:

    “…I’m always (well, almost always) reminding writers – that their book or article isn’t for everyone and they’ve got to define, intimately, their ideal reader.”

    I am an artist, not a writer, yet it seems to apply to me as well. Do you think this idea — of having an ideal audience — applies to artists as well? That singers, a dancers, and artists should all think about who they want to appeal to? Because I’m still not sure…

    • Diana Maus says:

      Please forgive so many typos. I really do write better than that, or at least edit it!

    • Artists need an ideal client perhaps more than those involved in more, shall we say, pedestrian efforts.

      Imagine Dylan or Picasso or Tharp or Le Corbusier ‘appealing to the masses’—I can’t see it. There are artists who woo popular opinion and they’re usually here today, gone tomorrow.

      Shakespeare somehow managed to have broad appeal, writing for nearly everyone, and staying relevant for 4 centuries. I think he was a fluke, but it’s late and I’m tired and maybe tomorrow I’ll think otherwise.

  26. […] feet of green alien could do your brand a world of good. Jonathan Fields spoke this weekend about creating an avatar for your ideal customer. Read that post, because if you missed SOBCon, he’s dropping some mad […]

  27. Jonathan, loved this concept so much from your talk at SOBCon and was writing a post this morning on “being unpopular.” A Google search led me to this when I searched for “Jonathan Fields avatar.” Thanks for sharing. I’ve linked to it in my post today.

    Great seeing you here in Denver and thanks for always brightening the room when you drop knowledge.

  28. Cortney says:

    It’s good to hear this reiterated. Our target market is very specific and being somewhat broadly defined individuals ourselves, it is hard knowing that what you are selling is not likely a good match for a large group of the people you know in business. Creating an “avatar” of the ideal client is brilliant. Featuring you and your idea on our blog today for the “Hump Day Holla” with a link back here. Hope you don’t mind!

  29. Nicki, Dismayed Healthcare Worker says:

    Funny that you mentioned the avatar. You know, fashion designers (the highly paid ones, at least) call her a muse. They tend to be disturbingly specific about their muse, but it work$.

    Thanks for the post!

  30. Suzanne Vara says:


    I am thrilled to have found this article via @ducttape in his twitter stream.

    I completely and utterly agree with targeting ONE person and not the masses. I get very vocal when people are all over the numbers. Social media is not a mathematics game or power of me with my gazillion numbers.

    When the masses started jumping on the SM train they were apparently finding success in the numbers. Not sure how but ok. Their voice was louder than the ones who were advocating the true marketing strategies of one. In traditional adv we promote 1 product to the target market which was clearly defined (or should have been) so why should SM be different?

    Talking to a person and with a person are different. Identifying your Reg as you have said so well may have you lose some potential customers/lurkers but in the end would they be real customers, and even more, loyal, repeat, brand evangelists? More than likely no. Will the Reg’s – you betcha.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write and publish this article. It is fantastic!


  31. Great post! I was sent over here by @SuzanneVara.

    You do a great job of forming your post around the subject matter. You start broadly, then get more and more narrow as you encourage people to do the same with their targeting. Very smart, very true.

    Good stuff 🙂

  32. […] @jonathanfields wrote a great post about how to target your marketing efforts. “If you talk to the world, you’re talking to no one.” Recommended by […]

  33. […] The Moment You Speak To The World, You Speak to No One – You

  34. Great read.

    Discovered this through #30Thursday.

  35. Can someone PLEASE point me in the right direction for some more information on my question…

    I hear the above idea come up SO much in all of online blogs I read about new and innovative business practices… But, how do these ideas apply to a brick and mortar business (in my case, a small artisan bakery/gathering place in a small town)… Also, can anyone recommend any “smart” business blogs that use such cutting edge ideas but focus on brick and mortar businesses?


    • Sarah, I’d love to have a long long conversation with you about this offline. I’ve sent my contact info via the form at your site. You can also click my name above and get my contact info.

      The short version is that whether you’re a blogger or a brick-and-mortar retailer, you still must speak to your ideal client. I teach an hour-long class on it, which I’d love to share with you (don’t worry, I’m not gonna try to sell you anything; this isn’t the place for that.)

      Just as a teaser, I’ll tell you that this process is based on your ability to listen to a conversation at a cocktail party; it’s part of how our brain is designed which is, obviously, the way your clientele’s brain is designed.

  36. Hi Jonathan, fantastic article.

    I have a cpl of ideas that may help ppl keep their “ideal client” in mind.

    create mousemats that have the info on about the target audience.

    create lifesize cardboard cut-outs of the ideal client and stand them in your office. (these are actually quite cheap to get done these days – a search on google will throw up lots of places to create these)

    i do have one question though. if someone is running a small business that doesn’t have deep pockets what steps would you recommend in identifying, locating, and sizing a target demographic? if they wanted to do this themselves rather than employ an outside agency?

    • As far as identifying, start by seeing a niche rather than a target demographic. The difference is that while a target demo shares characteristics, a niche shares *a common problem*

      What problem do you solve better than anyone in the world? Who has that problem?

      Rather than locating our niche, we’ve let them find us. My wife and I frequent the forums, associations, Meetups, etc. of the folks we work with. We add value to the conversation. We share what we know generously. We talk loud and clear to our ideal client, and she comes to us. Much easier to have a couple dozen people find us than the other way ’round.

      The first step in sizing is knowing how big *you* need the group to be. Twelve? Twelve million? Once we narrowed our definition of our ideal client to the tightest description we could, it was still obvious that there were plenty of them out there to make it a viable group to work with.

  37. Honey Jaks says:

    Your article was referred by my friend Jerry Kennedy, The Blog Whisperer, and Jerry was correct sending me here.
    Creating the one character to have an ongoing conversation with is perfect.
    Now it’s time to go out and meet them and for me … that’s the fun part!
    Thanks Jonathan for your insights.

  38. […] But its not always conducive to speaking to the ‘rest of the world’ about our mission. Some of the comments I don’t approve are people at a different place on their animal welfare journey, who are still regurgitating rather than thinking (“all the pets given us xmas gifts who end up in rescue, it’s just terrible…”) while others are too far committed to their current emotional state, to be able to open their minds to new information (“rescue are simply doing the irresponsible public’s dirty work”). I encourage these people to go and search and find – but they’re not my audience, so I don’t feel obligated to work for them. “The moment you speak to the world, you speak to no one. Because, when you try to make EVERYONE happy, you give up your focus…” ~ Jonathan Fields […]

  39. […] the biggest secret for successful marketing is about not trying to please everyone. Jonathan Fields recently gave his version, he said ”The moment you speak to the world, you speak to no […]

  40. […] Develop an ideal client avatar {or two or three if that’s more appropriate for your biz model}. Be as curious about this […]