Mass Marketing Is Suicide

Do you know anyone who can’t name a single song by one of the most-successful show-business acts of all time, The Rolling Stones? What about a song Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber?

If these performers don’t appeal to everybody – or even a majority – it’s not because they don’t market to everybody, it’s because no one appeals to everybody. Your Frank Sinatra fan is generally not your Elvis fan who is not generally your Led Zeppelin fan. Take a moment and imagine any of the above performers marketing themselves to the masses instead of a niche (young English blues fans from the ’60’s, gay male Manhattanites or pre- and early-teen girls, respectively). To the extent that these entities appeal to the masses is not because they were marketed to the masses but because they marketed themselves to a very small group of people who were pre-disposed and who couldn’t help themselves from spreading news of the object of their fanaticism.

Service providers like to tell you about their successes, giving the (deliberate) impression that that’s all they know: success. I hope this doesn’t shock you, but service providers are just like everyone else – they experience failure on average as much as everybody else (even more often, if they’re working hard). Once I received an email from one of my agents informing me that an upcoming two-week contract was being cancelled because of my performance for the same “international” demographic was not particularly well received. You and I know that “international audiences” really means two things: non-English speaking and lowest-common denominator appeal. Was I upset? You bet – if only because I was counting on the income. Did I (and, by extension, my agent) panic? Of course not: we learned something more valuable than the lost income: that my audience is Anglo. If you learned that your audiences was freckled, might you use this information and focus more marketing in Ireland?

Concluding from this experience that I’m probably not the best choice for international audiences is only half the lesson. In fact, it’s less than half the lesson. The main point is who DO I appeal to : the English-speaking world. Call me crazy, but somehow I think this is a sufficient fraction of the world’s population off whom one can earn a living. Indeed, more successful entrepreneurs have done very well marketing to a tiny fraction of that world. The next time a “mostly-Latin” or “international audience” or an “America’s Got Talent!” demographic (pre-teen girls) is in play I – and others – know that I’m not your guy. But that’s like knowing the earth is “mostly flat” – when the earth is, in fact, mostly round. When opportunities arise for an “entirely-English speaking” audience arises (one can whittle it down much, much narrower), who do you think they’ll go with: me or a unicyclist?

This is no put-down of “international performers” or anyone else who resonates with markets other than my own. That there are two sides of the coin is precisely the point. All things being equal, I would prefer to appeal more to the English-speaking world than the non-English speaking world, just as I would rather appeal to internet users than non-internet users; to loudmouths rather than to wallflowers; to early-adopters rather than the mass of wait-and-sees.

It’s tempting and perfectly understandable to market to the masses, but it is a waste of time and money. You’ll get a far better return on your investment going after those who are already receptive to what you have to offer.


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