17 Dec

‘Everyone’ is not an audience

A quick glance at this page will tell you that I’m slightly obsessed with cats.
So, it should come as no surprise that I was reading this (rather long-winded) post about cat behaviour – why they do the weird things they do.

The reason I mention it, is because of a particular comment which talks about how cats communicate differently (with humans) to dogs, and how ‘cat haters’ don’t get this. In turn, we communicate differently with cats than we do with dogs (and vice versa), because they don’t react to things in the same way, or rather – they react to completely different things.
For example, if you whistle at a dog, it’ll likely turn round and come running towards you, all excited. Do the same to a cat, and you’ll be met with indifference – maybe a slightly turned ear and a slow blink.
We’re dealing with a different animal, so we have to communicate with them differently … or they just won’t respond.
Similarly, cats and dogs have worked us humans out. A dog knows that if it keeps bringing a stick back to us (or a ball), we’ll keep throwing it so that our canine friend can fetch it. A cat knows that if it keeps rubbing against our legs, and meowing, we’ll feed it.

To put it another way: we know that we have to communicate with one audience (dog) in a completely different way to the other (cat), or we won’t get the desired response.
In turn, cats and dogs have learnt how to communicate with us, in their own unique way, to get what they want.

Or… to put it in a marketing context: you cannot just speak to every audience in the same way and expect to get a response from them. What works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another.
You cannot expect to speak to 60-year-old gardening enthusiasts in the same way you’d speak to 25-year-old thrash metal fans, and hope to get the same response in both cases.
Not all audiences speak the same language. In this instance, you’d get blanked by the gardening enthusiasts, because you haven’t bothered to tailor your message/tone to them, so you’ve just wasted your marketing spend (or part of it).

And you do, as a business, have to pick an audience. You cannot just hope to reach ‘everyone’, and speak in a neutral tone. If I get a letter and it doesn’t seem to be written directly to me, I have no interest in it.
Your ‘me’ could be 30,000 people, but it’s not ‘everyone’, otherwise (in terms of the UK) you’re aiming at 66 million people; from babies to pensioners, from working class to aristocracy, from socialists to fascists. Does your product/service relate to all of those people?

‘Everyone’ or ‘all people’ is not an audience (in fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s a bit of a cop-out), but the number of times I’ve heard this when I’ve asked who a client is aiming at…
Likewise, something as broad as ‘shop owners’ is not an audience. If a client says something like this, I ask them to narrow it down. I can’t write to ‘shop owners’, because a gift card shop owner has a completely different mindset to a tanning salon owner, who, in turn, thinks differently to a hardware store owner. I’d ask that client to pick an audience within ‘shop owners’ – there must be a sector my client is geared towards.
I ask this because I cannot communicate with ‘shop owners’, as one, in the same way, and still get as good a result for my client. Without narrowing down the type of shop owner I’m speaking to, it’d be like trying to communicate with a dog, a cat, and a giraffe in exactly the same way, and expecting them all to respond.

So, learn from dogs, learn from cats – learn any which way you like… but know that, for your marketing to be effective, you have to pick a specific audience and communicate in a way that resonates with them. You need to speak to a ‘you’, not ‘everyone’.

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