WHEN OUR SON was three years old, his older sister strapped him in the bike cart and took him for a ride up and down our deserted lane. It was something they did all the time, and he loved it. But on one occasion, with him screaming, “Faster! Faster!” they crashed, and though they were both fine, after that he was terrified of bicycles. We tried to teach him to ride a bike every summer after that, but he refused. Then, one day when he was 11 years old, without saying a word to us first, he took a bike out of the garage, got on it, wobbled for about 50 feet, then rode down the street to his friend’s house. If we hadn’t been working on our front lawn, we would have missed it.
What changed? Suddenly, the need to ride a bike was relevant to him. He was being given more freedom, but he couldn’t keep up with his friends.
When it comes to opening up to new ideas and information, relevance is everything. Our senses and brains are assaulted with vast quantities of new information all the time, so we filter out the inconsequential data to protect our circuits from being overwhelmed. What manages to penetrate our awareness is the information that we recognize as being most relevant to us (and not even all of that).
You will often hear marketing professionals speak about the importance of relevance, but do you really know what that means? Let’s break it down a bit, because it’s a simple concept with a lot of depth.
Marketing relevance starts with knowing to whom you are speaking.
The first, most important aspect of successful marketing is understanding that you don’t need all the customers – you just need the right customers. Who are the right customers? Well, they’re the ones who are most interested in what you have to offer. Ideally, they’re also customers that are not being thoughtfully attended to by any of your competitors.
Years ago, I had a friend who urgently wanted to get married and have children, but she kept dating men who were uninterested in settling down. What she was telegraphing was utterly irrelevant to them. Targeting the wrong customer gets you nowhere.
Only 20 years ago, an independent retail jeweler could count on one hand the number of direct competitors for their customers’ attention, and the target customer could be broadly defined as community member. Today, your competition is everywhere and numbers in the hundreds – even thousands. The key to relevance is stepping back and defining your ideal customer, with an eye toward building a distinguishable niche. Yes, you still want to be attractive to a broad range of customer types and serve them when they come to your store, but saying something specific to someone is more effective than saying something generic to everyone. Generic messages are a waste of marketing dollars.
Once you are clear about who your target customer is, the next step to being more relevant is to examine what you are saying to them.
If your primary customer is a woman in her late 40s and early 50s, but most of your messaging is about engagement rings, then the message will be sloughed off before it is ever registered. On the other hand, if your target customer is an independent, professional woman of means in her late 50s and early 60s, messages about offering upscale niche designers – ideally women similar to them – are likely to be highly interesting.
The guy who always needs a high-end gift at the last minute … the woman who buys jewelry for her children and grandchildren to commemorate milestones … the young professional woman whose friends are all starting to get married … the romantic and devoted husband … the fashionable woman who can afford style and substance … these are all types of people who are representative of groups of customers. It is tempting to fear that if your messaging consistently targets one of these types, you won’t attract the others. And there is some truth to that. But the greater risk is that if you don’t target a specific customer with a specific message, then nobody will care about your marketing.
So get clear about who your primary customer is. Think about the type of person who is most enthusiastic about your store and your merchandise and focus on them. Be the answer for somebody, not just an answer for everybody. Your marketing will be more effective, and you’ll be able to carve out a competitive presence that’s hard to chip away at.