The Hidden Flaw That’s Killing Your Marketing

While we do a lot of work helping organizations define their brand, many others come to us with a professional look already in place. Thoughtful messaging that’s been carefully crafted. Impressive programming.

And another problem entirely: their marketing just doesn’t produce the results they want.

Could your conferences be better attended? Your services more widely utilized? Your donors more generous? Is your organization’s membership like a revolving door—people are in and out, but not as many stay as they should?

If you can relate to any of these challenges, you might have the same problem we see stealthily undermining so many organizations’ marketing efforts.

Before we tell you what it is, you have to promise us to keep an open mind. Because nearly every time we’ve helped a client or taught a workshop on this problem, everyone’s skeptical at the outset.

“We’ve already got a handle on this,” they tell us.

But as we actually lead people through the exercises that help them start solving the problem, they become believers. And it changes their entire perspective, paving the way for new insights and better results.

That’s just what happened over the summer when we presented a workshop for network affiliates of NeighborWorks America, an organization that helps build the capacity of independent nonprofits working in affordable housing and community development.

The topic of the day? Knowing your audience.

Like many before them, the workshop participants told me at the beginning of the session that they already knew their audience. But I’m not easily deterred. And based on past experience, I suspected they were wrong.

So to help them uncover their true, most profitable, most potential-laden audience, I guided them through an exercise in creating a detailed “persona” for their perfect person. The person they’ll think of when they write their messaging. The person they’ll think of when they choose their communication channels. The person they’ll think of when designing programs.

And that’s when my class discovered that all along they’ve been talking to “Millenials” when they should have been talking to 29-year-old Ashley. Millenials are a broad, generic group at best, a limiting stereotype at the worst. Ashley, on the other hand, is worried about paying student debt and a mortgage, values career networking opportunities, spends weekends hiking with her fiance and loves science fiction novels.

If this sounds crazy, let me tell you, the ideas that participants generate in a 15-minute marketing exercise after they create their perfect person always blow me away. And people leave excited by the new energy this changed perspective brings to the way they think about their communication strategy.

Because the thing is, once you know who your ideal audience member really is, you know exactly how to talk to her and what you need to offer— just like you know the best way to present something to your boss to win buy-in, to your teenager to entice cooperation or to your friend to convince her to check out that new movie you wanted to see.

Is your marketing falling flat—even though you feel like your doing everything right?

Maybe this same hidden flaw is plaguing your marketing strategy.

Maybe it’s time you discovered your Ashley.

From a workshop at your conference, an exercise for your team or through consulting, we can help you meet her (or him!). Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or email us at to talk about how it works.