• Jon

Appearances are Deceptive


Appearance isn’t a reliable predictor of behaviour. We don’t assume someone will be our friend just because they look like, or have the same size shoes as, someone we already know but it’s amazing how often this is ignored when doing business.

I was reminded of this when a client of mine asked me to review a demand generation campaign that had delivered disappointing results. At first glance, it was hard to find the issue. They’d used an excellent agency who’d run a well-structured campaign. The creative piece was engaging and included an insightful challenge that should have generated plenty of responses. And yet…

I knew the campaign had been executed by a proven team and the same messaging had worked elsewhere, so I decided to look at how it had been targeted.

The agency had produced a “propensity model”, filled with lots of data points and plausible mathematics, measuring the correlation between various firmographic dimensions and customer characteristics. All very impressive. The customer characteristics had been chosen using attributes from my client’s installed base.


That was the flaw.


The model produced a list of prospective customers, prioritised by how much they resembled an idealised existing customer, not whether they had a current need for what my client was selling. Whilst having a clear profile of who should buy your product or service is undeniably useful, I’ve never yet done business with a company just because they happen to have a similar number of employees, or were started in the same year as one of my other customers.

Profiling helps focus your thinking and makes it easier to create compelling content that hooks your audience - but to get real results, focus it on people who have a reason to buy. Instead of the lookie-likie approach, concentrate on indicators that give you an insight into a potential customer’s motivation to act. If you use these insights to design your profiling models, you’re more likely to target your campaign at people who aren’t happy with the status quo, who will be more receptive when you show you understand their pain and have a solution for them. And you’ll still pick up opportunistic engagements with people who have a hidden reason to act.

Put simply, stop wasting your resources and your prospect’s time by campaigning to people who have no reason to buy, even if they look exactly like your dream customer.


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