I always get so enthused going to the Natural Products Expo shows. The passionate entrepreneurs, tens of thousands of like-minded people trying to mininmize our impact on the earth’s resources while still trying to provide delicious good-for-us foods and health-care products, and lots and lots of new natural, organic and sustainable products vying for my attention on the trade-show floors.
Then I arrive back in my office and start looking through the sales material and business cards that I’ve collected and realize that there is tremendous dissonance between the innovation and passion that I’ve seen at the shows, and marketing these offerings to the right audience.
My definition of marketing is connecting products and services with people who want or need them. Simple right? But I find that many enthusiastic entrepreneurs and marketers forget to identify a strategy that reaches a target audience that is receptive to the passionate overture of “the next big thing.” Instead these marketers assume:
1. People just like us will buy our products
My second day at what would become the larges organic brand in the world started with the CEO sitting down in my office and asking me who I thought the target audience was for the brand. When I came back to him with some evidence that hinted at who the customer really was, the CEO laughed and said: “No, I know who the customer is, because the customer is just like me.” It wasn’t. The true customer was diametrically opposed to our CEO’s behavior, demographics and lifestyle. How could he be so far off? Early adopters were just like him, but the market had shifted away from the typical natural-products consumer. We needed to readjust our thinking and marketing plans to our actual brand advocates.
2. “Everyone” is in the target audience
There are only a few products in the world that “everyone” buys. Even soap, toothpaste, and “average” food product are not ubiquitous. By assuming that products will appeal to everyone who hears your communication, you will craft such broad, vague messages that they will appeal to no one. Put your stake in the ground and be specific. Remember your speech teacher reminding you to single out one member of the audience and talk to that person when you’re behind the podium? This trick works because it personalizes a message. Try it with your marketing messages, too. It helps you think more clearly about a target audience as a real person, and all the nuances involved in connecting your message with that individual.
3. Implementing tactics that resonate with the company, not the audience
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Your marketing toolbox is large. Those skills have been honed over time. You think that the same tactics that worked before will work again. Or your resources are so constrained that you need one, explosive, attention-grabbing tactic that will knock the socks off your potential customer. I’ve attended so many trade shows where companies hired demonstrators who just came back from a cigarette break to hand out macrobiotic health food–hands smelling of smoke. One of my companies in health care insisted on talking about sickness and disease-states at events. When I flipped the messaging to wellness and healthy aging we saw an exponential rise in event attendance. At Expo West, Bridget Brennan gave an example of a company asking what her communications team thought of a product. After she gave her opinion, one of the engineers said “you’re thinking like our customer, not like us!”
Being passionate about a product, mission, core values, the lifestyle the product engenders–has built successful brands. To go a step further, when passion is matched to the strategy of audience segmentation, then implemented with the appropriate tactics, profitability rises, and you really have captured lightning in a bottle.