I Will Not Market To Runners

A few months ago, I decided to train for and run in a 5k. I’ve always wanted to be able to run for miles and figured now is as good a time as any, and there’s really no reason I couldn’t or shouldn’t run.

Plus, the race I entered was the Get Your Rear in Gear 5k to promote awareness of colon cancer. Watching one family member battle that disease and also honoring the memories of two others was additional motivation to enter. It seemed like a perfect combination – support a worthy cause, give myself a goal and do something healthy in the process.

The race was last Saturday. My husband went with me because he’s sweet. He felt that someone should be there to support me during my first race and neither of my kids would go (aren’t teenagers just the awesomest?). It was a very nice gesture because a foot race is just not his kind of thing at all.

As it turned out, it wasn’t really my kind of thing, either. It was just generally uncomfortable. I didn’t quite fit in.

It’s hard to describe that vague, slightly out of place feeling. Since then, I’ve been thinking about it and realized that it’s closely related to finding perfect customers.

The idea that there are other people out in the world who share your interests and ideals is not new, but it is appealing, and there are volumes of information about it available. A Google search for “finding your tribe” brings back over 1 million results.

If you are lucky enough that the majority of your co-workers and clients are part of your “tribe,” as I am, it is jarring to find yourself smack in the middle of a different tribe. You feel a bit alien. It also reminds you that there is a whole world of other groups – not just individuals – of people out there.

When business owners think about marketing, there are two common mistakes: targeting your marketing efforts at too narrow a group or targeting your marketing efforts at too large a group.

At one time, I did some marketing for a farmer who ran a CSA. He was very concerned about the competition. He often talked about how his farm had the best CSA program in his town, growing the best produce and making sure members got more of it.

The thing that he forgot is that CSAs only account for about 1% of grocery-buyers. Why worry about your competition when you could be marketing to the other 99%?

At the other end of the spectrum, one of my clients wanted help with his email marketing efforts. He had a big list of addresses. When I questioned him about where he got all of those email addresses, he said “from trade associations that I’m a member of.” No one on his list had ever actually asked to receive his email! He had just pulled addresses from all of his memberships.

Not surprisingly, his open rate hovered between 15 – 20%.  When we talked about offering his audience the chance to opt-in or about cutting out any addresses that had never opened anything he sent, he was extremely resistant. It seemed far more important to him that people see his company name, even as they were deleting the email, than to ask their permission to send stuff.

He took the approach of marketing to everybody in the hopes that one or two who might be interested would see his stuff – almost the opposite of the farmer who was ignoring a huge, untapped audience.

Taking some time to think about who you want to do business with will help you figure out who you should be talking to when you are marketing your business.  Re-visiting the topic regularly will help you stay on track and expand your efforts – or reign them in. I will definitely not be marketing to any runners’ clubs in the near future!

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