Generalizations are false… including this one


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The headline of this article was on the sign of an auto repair shop on St. Mary’s Road for several months. I chuckled to myself every time I drove past it. When I considered how this concept applies to businesses, especially marketers, it seemed to be an important point to assess for your advertising.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/10/2019 (1149 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The headline of this article was on the sign of an auto repair shop on St. Mary’s Road for several months. I chuckled to myself every time I drove past it. When I considered how this concept applies to businesses, especially marketers, it seemed to be an important point to assess for your advertising.

Marketers have always looked for the most effective way to target their customers. In the early days of the profession, customer groupings were used for the sake of efficiency. The standard approach for so many years in print, radio and television advertising was to target specific age demographics, known as demos, that were usually coupled with some broad categories of household income. In particular, the 25-to-54 age range was always the most coveted. This is because this age range was deemed to be the most affluent, usually over $100,000 in annual household income, and with the highest purchasing power of any age range. Messaging was created to appeal to this category. When the baby boomers, born post-Second World War up to the early 1960s, began to age out of this demo and move to over 54 years of age, marketers had another issue to deal with. The affluent 25- to 54-year-olds were aging and taking their purchasing power with them. Now there were two major demos to target, which really isn’t targeting when “everyone” is who you are trying to reach.

In the search for other options to deal with this major challenge, the concept of psychographic traits was introduced. Psychographics looked for social, economic and lifestyle factors that would represent subgroups of customers. This began to deliver better value for companies because a wider range of factors provided a broader and seemingly more complete view of a person’s life. And yet, there were still gaps in the confidence of the data when using psychographics because they are broad categories. Creating valuable messages often missed the mark because of the wide range of people within the profile categories.

For example, companies looked at postal code groupings and applied psychographic and other factors to create profiles of the residents. While this now provided a broader view, the postal codes represent a wide swath of territory where the application of these general factors often failed to hold true. Look around your neighbourhood. On our street, we have people who are empty nesters, those with children in their late teens or early 20s, and also families with younger children. We are a racially diverse group as well. We all have nice homes and autos. All this in a sample of 25 homes.

In our situation, there are very few factors that would bring us into the same customer demographic or psychographic profile, other than living on the same street. You can see from this assessment that the job of a marketer is more complex even though there are more data points to help describe customers. How best to craft an effective ad message and an overall customer experience that people will appreciate?

Instead of using generalizations to guide your thinking, the solution is to craft messaging and experiences for your product or service that resonates with the actual users. You need to know your regular customers deeply first. Find out what attracted them to you and why they keep coming back. Then create a profile that addresses their real-life use of your product or service. Other people that could use your product or service in the same way will take notice of your well-crafted message, and ideally, they will be drawn to you.

If you consider why someone buys from you and how you have added some level of confidence and trust with your product or service, you can create an emotional attachment with your customers. When you connect emotionally, the brain follows and justifies, logically, that you made the correct purchase decision. If your ad campaign was designed around the users of the product, and not just a particular age demo, you can create emotional stories applicable to people in those life situations that actually use your product or service. In this way, you are not relying or hoping that you will find your customer within a generalized age demographic or psychographic profile. Like the sign says, if you are general, what you are uncovering may be false and lead you in the wrong marketing direction.

Tim’s bits: When analyzing your customers, build a deep understanding of how your product or service gets into, and is used in, their life. Start with a laser focus based on usage and interest, and then overlay demographic or psychographic data to deepen your overall customer profile. In addition to guiding the creation of your advertising, you can develop an entire customer experience that will resonate with current customers and fulfil what future customers expect.

Tim Kist, CMC, a certified management consultant by law, works with organizations to improve their overall performance by being truly customer-focused.

Tim Kist

Tim Kist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.

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