The kiss of death… it’s meaning is an action or relationship that is ultimately ruinous. While the “kiss of death” may set in motion a series of events that lead to ruin, in itself – the kiss of death is a singular moment – like when Judas kissed Jesus when he betrayed Him to the Roman soldiers.
When it comes to your small business – there is a similar singularity which signals the beginning of the end. Frequently, the kiss of death is the answer to a question – a very specific question –
Who is your customer?
When the answer is – “everyone” – consider that the kiss of death. If that’s your answer – and your business is struggling – that’s the reason why!
It’s tough to think outside yourself and focus exclusively on your customer. I wrote recently about my own stumbles in this arena in Small Business Marketing Strategies. Because I am NOT a part of my target audience in my most recent product launch – I am having a horrible time staying on track and focused on my customer’s GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems).
Books are a product and publishers are in the business of selling books for a profit. Part of publishing is picking the right author and the right book. Some books – books that are written for a specific audience – make more money than those that don’t. Smart publishing houses recognize this face and Denny Hatch gives a behind the scene look at the process in How to launch a book. He writes:
Before a book is accepted, the author is invited to a meeting to sell the editorial and marketing people on the project. The author must be:
- A crusader
- On a mission
- Revealing something new
- Impressive to the people sitting around the table
The first question: “Who will this book be for? Who will buy it?”
It is the kiss of death when an author replies, “This book is for everybody.”
“No book is for everyone,” Marji Ross will snap. It is imperative to know precisely whom the book is for, because that affects every facet of the product: cover, chapter headings, the type and the voice, as well as where and how to publicize it.
The same is true of your business – your customer is not EVERYONE and it definitely shouldn’t be ANYONE. It’s the most important work I do with clients and the one place where the battles are the fiercest. I dedicated an entire chapter in my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results to the subject of why you must target everyone and anyone as your customer.
Several weeks ago I finally succumbed to my doctor’s requests and had what turned out to be very necessary sinus surgery. During my recovery, I watched a lot of television – and as I was watching I realize why my clients fight so hard to defend the “targeting everyone” mode of thinking. As I watched national television, I saw dozens of commercials which on the surface did indeed “appear” to be targeting “everyone”.
During my recovery, I only remember seeing two commercials that announced the target audience they were seeking to reach – one of which was an insurance commercial which began, “If you were born between 19XX and 19XXX – stay tuned – we have an important announcement for you.” Other wise, to someone who had never worked inside the hallowed halls of an advertising agency – it would appear that the commercials airing on national television are indeed targeting everyone and anyone. Nothing – and I mean NOTHING could be further from the truth.
Successful Businesses Tightly Target Their Marketing Messages
What you don’t see is the behind the scenes planning that goes on in simply scripting the commercial. Before a single word is written – the target audience is determined. Their GDP are carefully scrutinized and the commercial is scripted with that analysis in mind. Once the commercial is carefully scripted – then it’s time to choose the actors who will appear in the commercial. Again, the race, sex and age of the actors are carefully scrutinized – and the role is cast with the target audience in mind.
Finally, once production is completed – the commercial is scheduled to air. There is no “spray and pray” involved in this phase of the campaign either. Television shows have a tightly targeted audience – and any television advertising rep worth his/her salt can tell you which shows reach a specific demographic.
During my convalescence, I realized that I was not the “typical” viewer of a particular crime drama because of the commercials I was seeing. (My bedroom TV does not have a DVR – but if I ever have surgery again that’s the first thing I’ll do to prepare for it!) However, if you aren’t programmed to think in that manner – it can appear that the commercials you’re seeing aren’t tightly targeting a specific audience and instead are “spraying and praying” – hoping to catch everyone and anyone’s attention.
Your customer is not everyone and it should never be defined as anyone. Knowing your customer is the first and most essential element in creating an effective marketing campaign. If you are not in your target market – and you can’t crawl inside your target customer’s head – find someone who can. Not being able to answer the question, “Who is your customer?” is truly the kiss of death for any small business.