Any good marketer will tell you this basic rule:

You are not your target audience.

Believing that our individual opinions apply to everyone is human nature. But it also hinders our ability to make educated decisions, causes us to overlook important facts, and encourages us to dismiss ideas prematurely.

My exceptionally frugal father, who ran a pool cleaning service, was nervous about raising his fees by two dollars per month to help cover increasing gas prices. Because he was already undercutting his competition by about 40%, I suggested he raise rates by $10 a month. Still a bargain, in his clients’ eyes.

He balked.

“Nobody will pay that,” he replied. “They’ll cancel!”

“No,” I told him. “You won’t pay that.  But you would never pay to have someone clean your pool. Or mow your lawn. Or clean your house. Or change your oil. You are not your target audience.”

Not Just A Marketing Rule

The lesson is the same in the world of communication.

If we don’t consider a person’s individual characteristics and communication preferences when we interact with them, we’re limiting the potential results of our interaction. And, in some cases, perhaps even shooting ourselves in the foot.

For example, if you are a forward-looking, achievement-oriented manager who places a high value on time, and you approach a logic-oriented, analytical team member who functions best by routine, your expectations for that person to drop everything and brainstorm with you right this minute….well, let’s just say that things might not turn out the way you hoped. Even if you are the boss.

What You Can Expect

Most likely, he’ll appear to comply with your request, but his contribution to the effort won’t be particularly impressive. He likes to set his own pace, and when others try to rush him – with a high-urgency request like the one you just made – he feels threatened. His response to your brainstorming request is not purposefully sparse, nor is it the result of a bad attitude. It’s just his natural propensity to slow things down kicking in.

From your perspective, battling around ideas spontaneously is fun. To him, it’s a painful effort that requires he withdraw from his current task, shift focus on a moment’s notice, and spit out ideas that he hasn’t yet researched or evaluated yet.

An alternate approach – such as giving him a heads up regarding your request ahead of time, or asking him to investigate the issue independently before he’s expected to share in a group – could generate better results.

What do you think?

Or actually, what would your target audience think?

 Image courtesy of Melissa Gray.