If marketing had 10 commandments, one of them would be "thou shalt know thy customer".

It's not difficult to get a general idea of why this is important. For example, you have to know your customer to know what kind of sales pitch will appeal to them. If your product has two benefits, and most customers want benefit A, but you dwell on benefit B, you'll lose them.

Also, you have to know the kind of language they use to avoid sounding like an outsider. An example I've heard several times is that golfers talk about "bunkers", not "sand traps". Say "sand trap" in your copy, and you won't sound credible.

In a past article, I've pointed out that even seemingly irrelevant details can be useful. For example, if you know your customers are predominantly Republicans, you can advertise cost-effectively on Republican websites...even if your product has nothing to do with politics.

I came across another reason today while reading a blog that had nothing to do with marketing. Patricia Birren-Wilsey wrote:

When making introductions between a child and an adult, do we properly present the child to the adult ("Dad, this is little Johnny, who lives across the street"), or do we improperly present the elder to the child ("Johnny, this is Joe, my dad")?

Do you see my point? No? Okay, I'll explain (bear with me!)

I've never been able to remember the rule for who's supposed to be introduced to whom first. Are you supposed to acknowledge the greater status of the adult by talking about them first? Or are you supposed to acknowledge their status giving them information first?

Either way could be correct -- they both make perfect sense. And you could, in all sincerity and with every intention of showing respect, do either.

Reader Comment:
W said:
It's certainly true you need to know your customers. It's made much more difficult online though where in theory anyone could be looking at your sales pitch. I know I've had some trouble with that on my blog - trying to classify just who it is I'm ...
(join the conversation below)

But get it wrong, and you'll offend some people deeply. "How dare you insult me by presenting me to a child, as if it were their place to pass judgement on me!" I can imagine a king sitting on his throne thinking that. And in fact, when it comes to such people, that's the only way that makes sense. After all, everybody knows who they are.

In fact, it might be considered insulting to introduce them at all. "You don't think they already know who I am!"

But on the other hand, I can imagine a self-important CEO today being insulted by the opposite. "Who cares who that peon is. I'm the big cheese. Talk about me!" Someday, the rules may reverse, and the proper thing to do may be to introduce the child or "inferior" first, and let the adult or "superior" decide whether they even want to know who the other person is.

The point is that if you don't know that rules that your customers expect you to follow, you may offend or otherwise turn them off, destroying any chance you have of making a sale by doing something you honestly believe will enchant them!

What do your customers value? If they're tree huggers, you'd better not share the story of how you made your first million clear cutting old growth forests. Or if you do, you'd better follow it with the story of how you saw the light and spent your first million planting triple the acres of new trees.

Are they capitalist pig dogs? Don't talk about how well you sleep at night, knowing that your expensive green business practices save the earth. Or if you do, you'd better follow up with the hard numbers showing that you're more profitable because all the granolas pay more to shop with you.

Anyway, you get my point. Not everybody thinks the same way. And your target market may not think the same way as you. Be sure your marketing materials speak to them.

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