BBQ or Sushi?

By Ron Rosenberg

One of the most common - and problematic - mistakes businesses can make in their marketing is the well-intentioned effort to be "all things to all people."

For example, take a look at this restaurant I passed during a recent program I presented in Las Vegas. In case you can't make it out from the photo, the sign says:

24 HR BBQ or SUSHI - All You Can Eat

 The problem here is that barbeque (Korean or otherwise) is very different from sushi. As a rule, I tend to stay away from all-you-can-eat restaurants, but when the kitchen is continuously churning out two completely different types of food, well that pretty much rules out the place for me.

And in our world of marketing, it's more important to focus on the message-to-market match than it is to try and target the broad spectrum of "any market."

"The Shimmer Effect"

To see an extreme example of this in action, watch the video below - it's a classic Saturday Night Live commercial parody from their very first season...

The premise, of course, is absurd: that the same product could be used as a floor wax and a dessert topping.

And yet, we see too many marketing efforts that might as well be doing the same thing.

What Markets Do You Serve?

During my live programs that I present at, we'll be approaching the module on niche marketing, and I'll ask some attendees who their customers are. With surprising frequency, I'll get an answer like, "Well...everyone!"

And while this could possibly be true in some rare cases, it's not likely that a product or service is so completely universal that it will appeal to everyone. But even if it did, the way in which you market to these distinct groups is going to have to be different if you are going to be effective.

I'll ask different audiences to list all of the many market segments they serve and then record their responses on a flip chart. Sometimes we get up to 15 or even 20 unique customer groups! But when I ask them how many different marketing campaigns and advertising programs they have, the answer is almost always the same: just one.

All Things to All People...

As an example, one segment we work with ourselves quite frequently consists of community-based organizations of various "shapes and sizes." Frequently, these organizations will have two very unique groups they're serving: the corporate and community organizations that support, guide, and fund their programs, and, on the other hand, the groups and individuals who benefit from their services, resources, and connections.

And yet, even though these represent two very different groups, with equally different motivations, many of these organizations insist on creating a single brochure or website that attempts to address the needs of both groups, and succeeds in connecting with neither one - as in the expression,"jack of all trades...master of none."

Make It Personal

It's a basic rule of marketing that the more it looks like you're speaking directly to your prospects, the more likely they'll be to respond to your information. This can take many forms including your style of writing, the use of appropriate testimonials, and the specific media you use to reach them.

In a perfect world, you'd have a separate campaign for each individual person you're trying to reach. In the "real world," though, this isn't really practical, so you need to do everything you possibly can to make it seem as if this is the case.

How to Truly Connect with Your Market

Fortunately, there's a fairly straightforward approach you can use to identify your market segments, identify their needs, and match your offerings to create truly memorable - and effective - marketing campaigns. And all you'll need is a sheet of paper with three columns!

  1. Who Are Your Customers? Start by making a list of every group, segment, or market that you serve. You can organize these by many different characteristics like age, geography, income, industry, or others too numerous to even list. Be as specific as you can - you can always combine them as you move ahead if it's appropriate.
  2. What Do They Need? For each group of customers, clients, or members you identified in Step 1, identify what their specific needs are with respect to your products or services.
  3. What Do You Provide? Finally, for each need you identified, describe which aspects of your products or services will help them meet that need, accomplish the goal, or solve the problem that's keeping them awake nights.

Once you have this information, you'll be in the enviable position of being able to create individual marketing and advertising campaigns that speak directly to each group you're targeting.

And then you'll start to see results you can take to the bank!