When a sculptor starts work on a new masterpiece, he or she begins with a much larger piece of material, and slowly removes the bits that aren’t needed.
It’s a great technique that we, as marketers, could learn from.
Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who our ideal customer is. It’s like staring at a blank page.
But thinking like a sculptor can often help.
It’s a simple technique worth trying.
Let’s say we’re about to launch a natural analgesic/anti-inflammatory product, something derived from turmeric or ginger or both.
Our untouched ‘block of stone’ would represent our broadest customer base – anyone with pain or inflammation.
But I’m told turmeric takes time to work its magic, so it’s probably no good for everyday pain like headaches (assuming it would even work in that condition).
That probably also rules out immediate relief for acute pain such as an injury or strain you’ve just sustained.
Customers who have been taking heavy duty pain killers containing codeine probably won’t get the sort of relief they’re searching for either, although at least they’d get rid of side effects.
Then there are the sceptics who don’t believe in natural or complementary medicines, so we can take them out of consideration too.
Sadly, turmeric supplements aren’t cheap, especially the ones with high bioavailability. So that means people watching the pennies are probably out of the equation. Unfortunately, that will take out some of our senior citizens with chronic inflammation (eg arthritis/osteoarthritis), which is a pity, because they’d probably benefit more than many others.
Having whittled away at our ‘stone’, we’re now in a better position to describe our ideal customer. So much easier than staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration.
In this case, it might be people with ‘nagging’ mild to moderate chronic pain, looking for a natural way to relieve pain and inflammation, and who have a reasonable income.
But you can keep chipping away. Are they younger than the typical pain sufferer? Are they more active? Is there a specific type of pain problem that the product is especially good at solving – in this particular target group?
Why is it so important to know who your customer isn’t?
That was the easy bit. Now all you have to do is convince your boss or management team that you’re not going to try and target everybody on the planet.
We’ve probably all seen the Rogers Adoption Bell Curve, with Innovators and Early Adopters at one end, the Laggards at the other, and a big bump in the middle where the majority sit.
Sadly, it’s human nature to be tempted by the size of that big bump in the middle. I once saw it described as ‘The Temptation of Mass’ (apologies for the lack of credit, I searched extensively but couldn’t find the original author). Please don’t be tempted. We all have to start somewhere with customers, and successful brands invariably start at the left of the curve with innovators and early adopters and move to the right. You’ll need a LOT of money and a highly differentiated value proposition if you’re going to target the big bump in the middle. And many simply won’t be ready to accept your offering until the momentum of social norms sweeps them up.
Diluting the power of your message by trying to appeal to the many different needs of many different people will fail to build engagement and loyalty with the people who really matter, because they don’t think you’re talking specifically to them.
If you try and be all things to all people, you’ll end up being meaningless to most, instead of meaningful to those that matter.
Customers need to believe that you’re talking specifically to them. You understand them. A true insight happens when someone says to themselves: “I thought I was the only one who felt that way.”
Start honing your customer now.
What would you rather look at, a lump of stone or a meticulously sculpted marketing masterpiece?
I know which is worth more.
Doug is a marketing strategy and creative communications consultant with over three decades of experience on both the client and agency side of the business. He is also a well established copywriter.