As marketing people we have been duped. We have come to believe in a lie that distorts all of our messages and causes us to miss the mark with the very people we want to connect with. Marketing programs at major universities and well-established principles of advertising have participated in our undoing. Frequency, recency, reach: this is the language of marketing and it is ineffective.

We believe our job is to communicate a message, to persuade, to target an audience. Nameless, faceless, amorphous stick figures that we aggregate in huge lists: this has been the guiding principle of marketing for the last 100 years. But no more.

Social media and content marketing have forever changed the game. We no longer appeal to the masses. Are you ready to connect with an audience of one?

Key Take-Away:

If you approach social networks on the assumption that they are target audiences, you will miss the opportunity to connect with people.

Sales people and school children already know this

Now I’m not making a comparison between sales people and school children. Let me be clear on this point. But I do think that we can learn, as marketers, from these two groups. Maybe better said, I think we can unlearn what marketing has taught us so we can be much more effective in our roles.

Sales people really don’t want to connect with massive lists of people. They want to connect with the one person who is a decision-maker. They want this person to have:

  • Appropriate budget.
  • A reason to take action.
  • A need for which their products and services are a good fit.
  • A desire to learn more about products and services. 
  • A willingness to engage in serious dialogue.
  • A timeline to get a decision made, either by their signature or a team.

Sales people know that if they can build a relationship with this person, they will realize a favorable outcome. To build that relationship, the best sales people know they can’t rely on a pitch about their company and why it’s great. They have to bring some ideas, some insights, some strategies to the table that will help the prospective client achieve their goals. The best sales people know that they need to be ready to communicate on a one-to-one level with honest-to-goodness human beings.

School children know this too. If you watch kids on a playground you’ll see this most fascinating thing happen. Children can approach nearly any game and just start playing with whoever is there. But pretty soon, they’ll start to buddy up with one or two kids. They’ll become pals, and one of the first things they’ll do is ask this question: what’s your name?

Out of the dozens of children that might be on the playground, they’ll want to play with their pals, the one’s they know. They’ll call out their name at the top of their lungs in complete and utter glee. It’s just human nature. We want to play with those we know and like.


How marketing gets it wrong

An audience is not a person. An audience does not have a name. When we first get into marketing, we are forced to unlearn all of those lessons that have guided our relationships for years, even the joy of yelling out our pal’s name on the playground.

We are told to think of audiences, not people. People have names, histories, families, biases, opinions, goals and dreams. Audiences have characteristics, demographics and psychographics. Audiences do not buy products and services. People do.

The conventional wisdom that has guided marketing for the last 100 years, the social scientific principle of sameness, has failed us. It goes against the very fabric of what we know to be true about relationship building. People want to connect with people.


Social media has changed the game

People now connect with people through social media networks. It is highly inappropriate to think of these as target audiences. That is imposing an old-school paradigm on a technological innovation that is driven by the deeply human desire to connect.

Like children on the playground discovering new friends because they love the same game, people in social networks connect because they share a fascination, a passion even, for something they hold in common.

If you approach these networks on the assumption that they are target audiences, you will never connect with people. You’ll miss the opportunity. Yes. People within that network will have budget and may even need your products and services. But if you don’t connect with them person-to-person, one-on-one, you’ll miss the mark.


A flip in perspective

This requires marketers to take a completely different perspective. We have been taught to think of ourselves first: our company, our goals, our sales quotas, our careers. This will no longer work.

In the age of a content marketing glut, the pitch is dead. If your orientation to an “audience” is to tell them why you’re great and why they should do business with you, don’t expect deep connections. Don’t expect to become a trusted advisor that other people within that network admire and even quote.

Now we must think of the one first – the one person we really want to connect with. Create a picture in your mind of that one person who you really want to serve. And ask yourself this all important question: what do they care about?

This is the starting point for building rock-solid relationships. This is what social media, and LinkedIn in particular, now allows for.


Goals, opportunities and challenges

I recommend that you think back over the last 10 years or so about the clients you’ve served. Who, among them was ideal for you and your firm? What made them ideal? What kind of impact did you have on them? How did the relationship feel? What was it like to serve them? What was the client’s name?

Use this to build your vision for an audience of one.

Now take the next step. Ask yourself what goals they were trying to achieve? What opportunities excited their imagination? What challenges frustrated them? Make a list of these and you have the starting point for a great lead nurturing program that can help you and your team members connect with the right people.


Next steps

To help you do this, I’ve developed a short webinar called Nurture Leads To Fill Your Sales Funnel: How Professional Service Firms Can Realize Consistent, Predictable Growth. This 22 minute on-demand webinar outlines the seven key steps you need to take to connect with your audience of one.