Do you like ironies, paradox, and contradictions? I do. And I like this one a lot. And, better yet, it helps me work through some of the marketing angles for my business.
You can’t define yourself by what others think
“To thine own self be true” was Polonius’ last piece of advice to his son in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Everybody gets this in theory. It’s hard in practice. Defining yourself by what others think is a bad idea. You know why. Everybody knows why. Right?
You aren’t what other people think of you.
But what others think defines your business.
Sure, you try to define your business with mantra, mission, your marketing messaging, almost everything you do with your marketing. But what really defines it is what others think. Your marketing goal is to influence what they think. And, beyond marketing, it’s the goal of your business offering, your sense of quality, your pricing, your logo, your website, your signage, everything. With business, however, it’s just the opposite: Your customers, your former customers, your champions and your detractors define your business for the world. You don’t. Understanding this is important to managing your marketing, your brand, your image, and your sales.
Strategy step one was understanding identity. Step two is market focus, but always with the realization that you think these two through together, not one by one. Your identity is about uniqueness, strengths, and weaknesses. That influences your choice of target market. And your market influences your identity. They mix together.
Most of us make the mistake of aiming too broadly. Think of this quote: “the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.” If we were a restaurant, we’d be trying to offer the best food at the lowest prices with the best service and a drive-through as well. Which is disastrous. Most successful restaurants focus narrowly. They want the foodies who pay high prices, or the quickies who want fast and cheap; but never both.
Really strategic target marketing is like sculpture. You start with the big block and then knock the pieces off of it. Be able to define who isn’t your target market.
Try to imagine in detail your absolute ideal buyer. Experts call this working with a persona. Give her age, family, education, job, commuting habits. Know what kind of car he drives, what websites he likes, and what he watches on TV. Know her politics. Know what he reads. The more you know the one idea, the better to manage your market message and media.
Make sure you understand this person’s underlying buying decision. Understand the real needs. With restaurants, for example, the needs and wants involved in an expensive low-lighting romantic meal for two are very different from those involved in a quick cheap drive-through hamburger happy meal. Free yourself of features, and think of benefits. Tell yourself the story of you this person finds your business, what he is looking for, and why that matters to her.
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