In 6th grade, I moved to a new school district. I had previously been at a magnet school in the inner city of Pittsburgh, and my Mom and I had moved to the outer suburbs during that year. So I was suddenly the new girl in a higher echelon of income and a different world of people.
Being a naive 6th grader, I had just assumed that my vernacular from the inner city would be universal, and I would fit right into the new school system. I was smart, a “gifted/scholar” student, and that was something that had given me an advantage in my previous classes.
So when I met the popular girls at the new school, I just assumed that I would fit right into their circle, being gifted and proud of it, though with a more…uh…urban language.
When it came time for my birthday I decided to have a big birthday celebration. I invited all of the popular girls and dragged my Mom around stores picking out decorations.
My Mom, who maybe had a little more sense than I did, tried to tell me that maybe we should wait until people actually RSVPd to the party before we bought all of these things. I didn’t listen, I just assumed that these girls were my friends and we had all meshed together so well.
So of course, all of the popular girls RSVPd “no” with different reasons. I was crushed, and came to the harsh reality that everything I had thought was incorrect.
So why am I telling you this coming-of-age tale?
Because it’s a coming-of-marketing tale, too.
So often we’re all blinded by who we think our target market is that we just assume they want our product or service. They NEED it and we can just waltz over to them, even if we’re from completely opposite worlds, and just assume our values are the same. And this is doomed to fail.
What I should have done was to listen to the way the popular girls talked, to what they wore, and what they liked. From there I could either 1) assimilate or 2) decide they weren’t worth the effort and instead look for friends that were more like me.
Target marketing for your ideal customer involves research, time, and in some regards, assimilation to their lifestyle. If you want to market to a more upscale crowd, you should be reading the same periodicals they are. If you can shop at the same stores, you should shop at them (or if not, at least familiarize yourself with the stores.)
And for the record, once I found my target friends, my time at school became a lot better. And once I figured out my target market everything seemed so much easier.