I was speaking with a couple of salespeople I know a few months ago and one of them used the word “idiot” to describe a C-level executive at a company he was hoping to close as a client.

I have a lot of thoughts about this particular situation. The C-level executive is someone I know and like and I strongly dislike use of the term “idiot.” I shared my thoughts at the time, but I’ve had trouble letting go of the experience.

I’ve been thinking about the bigger picture implications of disparaging your prospects. Does it negatively impact your ability to convert them into customers?

I believe it does.

As a consultant I’m constantly immersing in new target audiences for clients. Each one is unique and special in their own way. So here are a few tips for learning to love, or at least like, your target audience.

1. One-on-One Communication

When I was on the brand side I organized advisory boards comprised of customers; we would  meet as a group a few times a year and I would call individual members to bounce ideas off them in between. The questions would be marketing, product or industry related; in addition to providing me valuable information their feedback gave me something to cite to support my initiatives.

As a consultant I usually ask if there are customers I can speak with. I will often also look through my personal Rolodex to see if I know anyone in the target audience. It’s amazing how often I do. These meetings have generated background information as well as quotes that ended up in the final copy; if you aren’t actively talking to members of your target audience I highly recommend it.

2. Online Research

It’s nice to review formal customer testimonials — but it’s even better to see what customers are saying about the brand online, when they aren’t coached. Social media is a good avenue to pursue. Look at your own ‘official’ social media presence as well as pages launched by your competitors, fans and (yes) your detractors.

Understand that much of the commentary may be negative; but you’re not reading it for emotion, you’re reading it to understand opportunities and threats. And to get inside the head of the target audience you’re trying to market to.

3. Role Play

Try to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Think about where they’ll be and what they’ll be doing when they read your email or other marketing material. How will the message you’re trying to convey fit into their world — and how can you make it a welcome respite from their day instead of an unwelcome interruption.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

Jeanne

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