Know Your Audience, And/Or Your Customer

Yesterday I gave an internal presentation to about 20 Oracle employees on "messaging," not messaging technology, but embarking on the process of building messages. One of the elements I covered was the importance of really knowing and understanding your audience. As a humorous reference I included two side-by-side photos of Oakland A's fans and Oakland Raiders fans. The Oakland A's fans looked like happy-go-lucky drunk types. The Oakland Raiders fans looked like angry extras from a low budget horror flick.

I then asked my presentation attendees what these two groups had in common. Here's what I heard.
--They're human (at least I THINK they're human).
--They're from Oakland.
--They're sports fans.

After that, it was anyone's guess.

A few days earlier we were putting the finishing touches on a sales presentation for one of our product lines. We had included an upfront "lead in" addressing how the economy is improving, yet that doesn't mean sales executives will have any more resources to add to their teams, invest in technology, etc. This "lead in" included miscellaneous news article headlines and statistics validating the slowly improving economy. When we subjected this presentation to internal review two days ago, this upfront section in particular was scrutinized. "Is the economy really getting better? I (exclamation point) don't think it's really getting better. Haven't you seen the headlines coming out of Greece and Europe?"

Then the question TO ME became, "Who will actually be in the audience that sees and hears this presentation? Will s/he be someone like me? Or will s/he be someone like the critic who didn't like our lead-in?" We took the safe route and removed that lead in. After all, why start a "pitch" with a component that is arguably subjective? What if many of our audience members are individuals at organizations still facing a strong headwind? For reasons I won't go into here, it was the right decision to make.

The moral of the story: Make sure you really know your audience. Harness the wisdom of the information your organization's CRM systems collect to get that fully informed "customer view." Conduct formal research. Conduct INFORMAL research. Ask lots of questions. Study industries and scenarios that have nothing to do with yours to see "how they do it." Stop strangers in coffee shops and on the street...seriously. Last week I caught up with an old friend from high school who recently retired from a 25 year career with the USMC. He said, "I can learn something from every single person I come into contact with." What a great way of approaching the world.

Then, think about and write down what YOU like and dislike as a customer. But also remember that when it comes to your company's products, you are most likely NOT the customer, so don't go overboard in superimposing your own world view.

Approaching the study of customers this way adds rhyme, reason and CONTEXT to lengthy blog posts like this one. Know your audience.

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