Monday Morning Memo: Customer Profiles


By Roy H. Williams (go to to listen to this memo.)

I’ve never seen a business fail due to reaching the wrong people. But if you listen to advertising sales reps, “reaching the right people” will solve all your problems.

And guess who has exactly the right people for you?

The conversation usually goes something like this: the sales rep says, “Tell me, who is your customer?”
“Blah, blah, blah.”
“Really? That’s exactly who we reach! What a fit! It’s like a hand in glove, a marriage made in heaven! We reach your exact customer profile!”

Here’s an idea. Call every advertising sales office in your city and tell them you want to advertise with them. Let’s see how many of them say, “Sorry, your customer isn’t who we reach.”

The myth of “the right people” is a myth every business owner wants to believe because it keeps them from having to make uncomfortable changes. “Our selection isn’t off-target, we’re just reaching the wrong people.” “Our prices aren’t too high, we’re just reaching the wrong people.” Traffic isn’t down because our ads are flaccid, we’re just reaching the wrong people.”

In truth, “the right people” are easy to find.
They’re everywhere.
And they know each other.
And they talk.

The right message works regardless of which media delivers it.
The wrong message disappoints you and your customer alike.

When I travel and speak publicly, business owners often grab my arm to tell me the demographic profiles of their customers. They say things like, “My customer is an upper-middle income female between 35 and 54.”

This is useful information for an ad writer. But what these business owners hope I’ll be able to tell them is which media will work best for their business. “Is it cable TV? Network TV? Newspaper? Billboards? Huh? What do you think about PR? Is it the internet? Is internet the key? What about radio? Does anyone listen to the radio anymore? Which media should I buy?”

My answer never changes.  “They call it mass media for a reason; it reaches the masses. The successful use of mass media requires a message that matters to a large percentage of the public. Tell me your message and I’ll tell you which media is best suited to deliver it for you.”

Is there such a thing as targeted media? Of course there is. If you sell a specialized product like dental supplies, I never suggest mass media. There are a variety of ways you can target dentists:

1. Letters and catalogs mailed to dentists.
2. Dental industry trade magazines.
3. Salespeople calling dentists on the phone.
4. Participation in trade shows and other events to which dentists are invited.
5. Banner ads on dental websites.
6. Keyword purchases of jargon relevant only to dentists.
7. Search engine optimization of your dental supplies website.
8. Free samples of your product shipped to dentists.
9. Logo-emblazoned gifts that might be used by the staff each day in the typical dental office.

But if your product is less highly specialized than dental supplies, airplane parts or industrial glue, you’ll do well to craft a message for the masses and deliver it through mass media.

Media salespeople are mistaken however, when they use such terms as “our reader,” “our viewer” and “our listener” since these terms make it seem as though that reader, listener or viewer can be reached through them and them alone. In truth, every reader, listener or viewer is available to you through any of several different media outlets. None of us are reached through only a single media outlet.

As I write this, one of my media buyers is wrapping up a 52-week, citywide radio schedule in a medium-sized city. This year he purchased a significantly different list of stations than the group we purchased last year and saved $59,000 in the process. But we’re reaching as many people as we did last year and with just as much repetition.

Why not go ahead and spend the additional $59,000 you ask? Because there is no radio station that can offer us a significant number of listeners we aren’t already reaching. The expenditure of additional dollars would only increase the repetition of our message among listeners we’re already reaching on other stations. And we already have enough repetition.

Can you think of something you might be able to do with an extra $59k?

Come to Wizard Academy.

Roy H. Williams

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *