Influencing Target Audiences – Work From the Inside Out

There are four ways that people learn about our products and services:

1. Through their own experiences with us.
2. From their friends, family and colleagues – word of mouth.
3. Through the media – news reports, articles, etc.
4. Directly from us through our own advertising, web sites, social media, etc.

I always list these four sources of information in this order, because it’s the order of impact I believe. We are most influenced by our own experiences, next by word-of-mouth recommendations from those we trust, then by what third-party sources (e.g. “the media”) say about organizations and finally by what organizations say about themselves.

Yet, despite the fact that what we say about ourselves has the least impact on others, it is the area that marketers tend to focus on the most. Never mind that the organization we’re marketing for has a bad reputation, poor service, low quality products, etc. We mistakenly believe that if we can just “create some buzz” through a creative marketing campaign or generate thousands of Facebook fans, we’ll be successful. That is, I believe, backwards thinking.

To effectively influence your target audience, you must work from the inside out. Before you start telling the masses how great you are, you need to make sure you are really great. Are you delivering quality and value as your market defines quality and value? Is your service exceptional–and consistent? Are your customers’ interactions with you so positive that they are eager to tell others great things about you? If you can say “yes,” to all of these questions, then you’ve successfully impacted the top two ways that people learn about you.

If, on the other hand, you answered “no,” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, you risk just the opposite occurring. You risk generating negative word-of-mouth which, despite any efforts on your part to advertise how great your products and services are, will have far more impact on your target audiences.

Part of the problem is, I believe, that we have a tough time seeing ourselves the way others see us. That’s true on a personal level and it’s also true from a business standpoint. Our perceptions are inherently flawed because we aren’t them. That means we need to do two very important things on an ongoing basis:

  1. We need to listen and learn from our target audiences through as many channels as possible–market research, customer interactions, social media, etc.
  2. We need to pay attention to what we’re hearing and not make excuses or dismiss negative feedback. When it comes to your target audience, their perceptions, however flawed you may believe them to be are your reality. Ignore these perceptions at your peril.

So, if your marketing communication efforts aren’t yielding the results you had hoped for, it might be a good idea to take a look at the customer experience you’re actually delivering. If it’s not meeting the needs of your target audience, you can hire the most brilliant marketing minds in the world to create the most exceptional campaigns and still not achieve results.

Work from the inside out.


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