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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Look for the Lefty in Every Market
By Jerry McLaughlin

What do a hospital operating room, a Top Chef kitchen, and a base camp at Mt. Everest have in common? Each workplace is filled with highly specialized tools that are designed to do one thing, and do it well.

Of course, most people have no need of most tools. Take ice axes, for example. I'm sure a well-made mountaineering ice axe is easy to carry, comfortable to hold, and indispensable on an icefall. But I've never found myself in a circumstance that could be improved by my deft employment of such a product.

So I don't need an ice-axe-manufacturer's offering, and most people don't need yours. The lesson here is simple: It is not productive to educate someone about your tool if that person is unlikely to find herself in a situation where your offering could be of greater benefit to her than any available alternatives. Such misdirected efforts waste your time and hers. You can't afford such distraction if you are serious about building your profits.

Instead, honestly ask yourself: "Who is the person and what is the circumstance in which my offering will solve the problem better than any alternative?" To win sales and profits, given any particular consumer need, your offering must provide the singular, superior solution to that need.

If you sell scissors, for example, you have a lot of competition. But if you distill your offering to just lefty scissors, all of a sudden you have a lot less competition-and your product is a lot more appealing to a certain set of people.

Focusing like this shrinks the available market. Only about 1 in every 10 people is left-handed. But the smaller market for lefty scissors is easier to identify, easier to market to, easier to win, and more profitable.

And yet, it's a peculiarity of human nature that businesspeople cannot bring themselves to focus only on the lefties. We are wired to avoid loss more strongly than we are to pursue gain. And so we resist letting go of the vast potential market we can see in order to capture the smaller market we could dominate. But a better approach is to figure out who can benefit more from your offering than they can from any available alternative, and to narrow your offering to make it compelling to a clearly defined market subset.

As for the rest of the people-those with more attractive alternatives? As Cee Lo would say, forget you! Spurn them. Have fun with it. Make a grand show of it. You weren't getting their business anyway. Demonstrate your loyalty to your natural customers-your lefties-by publicly disowning the others. It costs you nothing, and makes a dramatic point about what your offering does and for whom.

None of this is to say that your company can't serve both the righties and the lefties of your market. But the way to succeed is with different offerings under different brands. Think of the Estée Lauder Companies (ELC), a leader in the luxury cosmetics business, which owns more than 25 well-known brands, including M۰A۰C, Clinique, and Jo Malone. Each brand has its own distinctive character and well-defined consumer base. On the floor of most department stores, ELC is competing with itself.

Giving each customer segment a tailored offering, and promoting that offering under a focused brand, is the heart of modern brand building.

Find the underserved lefties-and give them a brand of their own.

About the Author:
Jerry McLaughlin is the co-founder and CEO of Branders.com, the world's largest and lowest-priced promotional products distributor. Branders puts more logos on more stuff than anyone else on the planet. Not because we love t-shirts, mugs, and silly straws-although we do; but because we love helping our customers build their brands, whether they're from Fortune 100 firms or Main Street mom-and-pop operations. Jerry has more than 20 years of marketing and operations experience in the financial, technology, and advertising industries. I'm also a former Marine. Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania; JD from Temple Law School.


 

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