On engaging with a mindset, not a demographic
If I asked you to define your clients, what kind of words would spring to mind? I bet you'd start to think of them in terms of demographics: age, gender, where they live, income, perhaps. And of course you would: that's how we're all trained to define people.
The trouble is, demographics assume sameness.
They assume that as a 31 year old female in Kent on X salary, I'm going to love precisely the same things as another 31 year old female in Kent whose income matches mine. Well. Hardly seems likely, does it? Apart from the fact that I, or you, or anyone else for that matter can't possibly be compared to someone else of the same age and background, we don't want to be. Sure, these very dry demographics might form a helpful starting point, but to truly capture the hearts and minds of your customers you simply have to go deeper.
When we rebranded Ditto, we spent an awful lot of time talking about our who our clients are. We got ourselves in a complete muddle, because traditional demographics couldn't pin them down. We work with men and women, of all sorts of ages, from all over the world, who work in every industry imaginable. Our people cannot, I quickly realised, be categorised by age, or by gender, or by what kind of business they run. Heck, they can't even be pinned down by their turnover, or the number of people they employ. So there go some more demographics, flying right out of the window. Defining our people was far more complex than that.
What we realised was that the thing that our clients have in common is a burning desire to do things differently. They're passionate, entrepreneurial and they're driven by a greater purpose than simply to make money. They care a great deal about what they do and they're ready to stand out (though they might need a bit of a nudge in the right direction to get there). They care about substance and style; they love things that look beautiful but more importantly, there like to be a meaning and story behind things. They're ever so slightly rebellious (for you colour psychology fans, we work with a LOT of Autumnal people) and prefer to do things their own way rather than fit in to society ideals or industry expectations. They're the campaigners and traiblazers, doing things differently to make their own mark. What they all share is a mindset.
This realisation was mega. Partly because it was one of those lightbulb moments that forever changed my ideas about how businesses should promote themselves, and partly for the effect it had on how we do things here. Because in that moment, we finally realised: we're all just people. People want to do business with other people who make them feel something. Maybe we want to feel safe, or excited, or part of something bigger than us. But mainly, we want to feel like we belong. When we interact with anyone, be it another person or a business, we want to think - 'Yes. These people get me.'
To get you started...
Think of your five best customers. The ones who love what you do, who value your work and happily recommend your business. How would you describe their personalities? What inspires them? What do they love about working with you? What other sorts of businesses do they love? Where do they hang out - and what does that tell you about them? You should quickly see a theme start to emerge. Keep an open mind; this little process might take you off down an unexpected path, but that's fine.
The way to capture the heart of anyone at all is to give them a reason to care. You need to be pretty bold about what makes you different, and you need to tell that story, again and again in as many ways possible so as to leave no doubt at all about what it is that makes you tick. Use your words, use design, use photography, use the experience that people have when they work with you to influence how they feel.
For example, our website doesn't look like that of your average agency. Where most have trendy shots of their studio (if I see another branding agency attempt to sell themselves with photos of multi coloured post it notes stuck to the wall, or a jazzy team shot of them playing table tennis I might cry), our brand photography is rooted in nature. Our studio is actually really beautiful inside, but it's being outside that gets us excited and it immediately conveys the notion of substance, earthiness and something a little unexpected. We use real, honest language rather than bamboozling anyone with industry lingo, and we speak from the heart. There'll be some people who are completely turned off by that, and that's fine - they're not a good fit for us. But those who matter can instantly tell that we're different, and they want to be a part of it. And there we have it: we've engaged with a mindset.
I really, really hope this helps you to engage your people more successfully, with confidence and conviction. The key is to be bold. It takes guts but it is so, so worth it...