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“Appealing To Everyone Means You Appeal To No One!”

by David Brock on June 16th, 2022

This morning I had a fascinating conversation with a CMO for a very large technology company. We were talking about a huge challenge they faced in driving growth.

They have a very large customer base, built of decades with truly innovative products. Within those traditional markets, they had a dominant share. But those markets wouldn’t support their growth ambitions. They had to start reaching out engaging and acquiring new customers in very different markets.

The CMO was struggling with the strategy for doing this. He was getting a lot of pressure from sales, from the CEO and others to broaden his messaging. He needed a message that would resonate with their traditional clients, as well as attract interest in these new target markets.

We discussed how that strategy would fail, in my inimitable way, I quoted the famous “If you to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to know one.”

The challenge was, the current messaging was tuned to fit their current markets. They understood those markets and customers deeply, they had refined what they communicated, how they communicated, and how they engaged those customers in ways that were very successful.

But the target customers in the new markets were very different, not only were the markets different, but the operating styles were very different. While they had similar problems, driving my client to demonstrate how they could solve their problems, how they described those, the methods they had traditionally used were very different.

To be successful in reaching and engaging these new customers, the messaging had to be completely changed. The channels through which they communicated those messages were substantively different. The language and style of how they presented themselves would have to be very different.

To illustrate the point, you might think of their traditional customers as the “adults” in the room. Their new customers were the “kids” with different ambitions, different ways of working, different ways of engaging.

To adapt their messaging to bridge the two markets would have been a complete failure. Not only would it not capture the attention of their new target audience, but it would not respond to the needs of the current markets and customers.

We agreed that we needed to continue to message and engage their current customers through the methods that had been refined over the years and were very effective.

And we decided we needed to create a different persona for the company, what and how they communicated, in a way that would capture the attention and resonate with the new audience. In some sense we were creating a “TraditionalCO” and “NewCo” at the website and in all their communications. We could architect the website, leverage SEO, etc to direct traditional customers to what they wanted to see and learn. We could direct the new customers to the parts of the site they wanted to see. So when each searched, they would land on the part of the site that would be most relevant to them.

We went on to look at their outbound, we developed two different strategies to reach out and engage those different customer sets.

We talked about industry conferences, those their traditional customers went to those their new customers attended, and how to deal with conferences where both showed up.

Then we moved on to the sales engagement process and how to maintain the right messaging and engagement strategies that would resonate with each segment.

It was a fascinating discussion and we started outlining the key elements of what and how they moved forward.

This challenge isn’t unique to this company. At some point, as companies seek to grow and expand, we have to rethink our engagement strategies to be engaging for those new segments.

Even within our traditional markets, we inflict the same stuff and methods on very different people and organizations. We send the same content to CFOs, CIOs, Procurement, and Users, even though we know they have varying concerns, different priorities, different objectives. We take everyone on the same journey, without understanding and aligning their differences.

It’s no wonder why so many of our engagement strategies fail!

Trying a “one size fits all approach” will never fit anyone. Yet sadly, too often, that’s the default strategy in trying to engage current markets, new markets, current personas, new personas.

The good news is that we have the technology and tools to connect in very deep, personalized, and unique ways with all these different segments. We just need to do the work, rather than what’s easy.

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