You may be the trendiest person on earth. You wear the latest fashions, eat in fabulous restaurants that nobody’s heard of you (but are about to become wildly popular) and know which movies and music are cutting edge.
But none of that makes you effective at communicating with your target audience–unless everyone in your audience is just like you. And that’s highly unlikely, unless your job is running a website specifically for hipsters.
If, however, you’re responsible for communicating to a diverse audience of prospects, customers or employees, you can’t make the assumption that everyone is just as cool as you are.
To illustrate, I’d like to spend a few minutes thinking about engineers. When I say “engineers,” you may immediately form a mental picture. On the positive side, what may come to mind is that an engineer is smart and organized. If you’re a little prejudiced, you may picture a geeky guy with glasses. Perhaps in your mind’s eye he’s wearing a short-sleeved collared shirt and sporting a pocket protector. He might drive a Subaru.
But if you need to communicate with engineers, you’d better get past your superficial assumptions and actually get to know who engineers are and what they prefer.
For example, did you know that there are nearly 4 million electrical engineers in the United States? And their average wage is $105,264 (so they can, at least, afford a really nice Subaru)? And their average age is 46?
More importantly, you may not know that, when it comes to communication, engineers really like email newsletters. In fact, according to a new study, one-third of engineers use email newsletters in their work, and over half turn to these channels when making purchasing decisions.
Since you’re so trendy, you may think email newsletters are a bit outdated. You may also not be that interested in such mundane communication channels as search engines, online catalogs and printed catalogs.
Yet all of these channels are heavily relied on by engineers to make purchasing decisions. So if you communicate using only methods you like, you’d be making a serious mistake if you want to sell something.
What I’m talking about is hardly a new concept; after all, “know your audience” is one of the oldest tenets of communication. The idea, of course, is that the better you understand the demographics and preferences of the people you’re trying to reach, the better you can design communication that will actually get through to them.
But despite the fact that we know this intellectually, sometimes we let our own perspectives and assumptions get in the way of what our audience needs. In order to break through today’s noise and nonsense, you have to get close enough to not only know your audience–you’ve got to appreciate them for who they really are.