Trying to Please Everybody Is Pleasing Nobody

Trying to Please Everybody Is Pleasing Nobody

Gee RanasinhaMarketing

There’s a gut feeling within many business leaders to be all things to all people.

That the wider the marketing message of the business offering, the wider your prospective client catchment area. Cast the net as wide as possible and you’ll catch more fish. In other words, if you’re pleasing as many people as possible with your business value message, then your chances of making a sale are increased. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Actually, no it doesn’t.

The problem is that, today, business marketing (especially for a startup or small business) is usually the other way around. By aiming to please everyone, we end up pleasing no-one.

More and more, we as consumers are seeking out the specialists rather than the generalists. Sure, there are exceptions, but those exceptions exist at the purchase periphery – with products or services that we see as commodities and are, as a result, unremarkable.

Niche Doesn’t Have to Mean Small

Here’s a personal example: The fact is that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to high-end audio. I love – and own – what most people would regard as esoteric hi-fi products made by companies such as Linn Products, Naim Audio, and Wilson Audio. These brands aren’t found in your usual high street electrical retailers, sitting next to mainstream products from companies such as Sony, Denon, Panasonic and so on. And that’s fine, because these brands aren’t marketing for the mainstream.

At the other end of the scale, I don’t really care which supermarket gets my business. Along that same vein I don’t care which brand of detergent / socks / furniture polish I buy, as long as the products meet my (extremely low) criteria for fit-for-purpose.

Trying to compete with the commodity players is not only fraught with danger. It’s also extremely unlikely that you will win. Attempting to please everybody – in this case, the mainstream buyer – is never going to work.

Supposing you created a new kind of toothpaste. Maybe it uses organic ingredients, and is allergy-tested. You decided that the competition for your new funky toothpaste was the likes of Colgate, Aquafresh, Crest, and the rest of them. Do you really think that you’d have a chance against Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor & Gamble, and the other gazillion-dollar multinationals?

The race to win the mainstream buyer vote has been won. The opportunity now lies at the periphery. So while your toothpaste is never going to be a serious competitor to Crest in terms of overall sales, you may have a chance competing against RADIUS, for example. Rather than trying to please everybody, you’re looking to attract buyers who already understand why you’re making toothpaste that’s different. You don’t have to explain for the hundredth time why, for example, your toothpaste costs more than the mainstream brands because your audience gets it.

To be honest, the periphery is a much nicer place to be anyway.

Have A Position. Any Position.

As consumers we prefer to associate with – and buy from – brands whose marketing and positioning message we perceive as being based upon similar ideals, likes, and even philosophies to our own. As a consequence, by showing a preference for Product/Service A we are inferring a dislike for Product/Service B.

It’s the same with your business branding, value proposition and, ultimately, its marketing. Be bold, have an opinion. Have a position. Take a stand.

Because by doing that you’re creating the parameters that allow your customers to define your business – and hopefully align with you. Does that mean there’s a chance you’re going to alienate a section of your potential audience? Yes, it does. Should you be concerned about that? No, you shouldn’t.

You can’t – and shouldn’t – try to please all of the people all of the time.

Trying To Please Everybody Risks Being Ignored

So if your website tries to target every possible permutation of customer that, in theory, could be buying your product or service then your website is overly-complicated to navigate and contains far too much information. If your blog, email marketing or advertising tries to please everybody, then the content is so dilute as to please no-one.

One size rarely fits all. And that’s exactly how it should be.