Most marketers forget to ask this critical question.
When I was pitching for investors in Yoyodyne (1994/1995) I met with many of the biggest VCs on the East Coast. Same company, same pitch, very different results.
In retrospect, the reason was simple, and it didn’t have a lot to do with the way I presented our company. Firms that had funded Federal Express and insurance companies and patented chemical formulations weren’t ready to hear about an Internet company in 1994. It didn’t matter what I said, they had decided before I showed up. Fred Wilson and Jerry Colonna, on the other hand, had a different worldview. They were choosing to pay attention.
A few years before that, I had published a book about a political issue. An activist’s handbook. I had 20,000 copies in my garage when I found out about a large march in Washington. I bought an outdoor booth and trucked the books down to DC. I stood on the Mall in my little booth and watched more than 250,000 people walk by in less than two hours. Every single one an activist. Every single one a demographically perfect match for my handbook. After 100,000 people had walked by and we’d sold only one book, I lowered the price from around $10 to $1 just to prove my point–that it wasn’t the book and it wasn’t the price, it was the ability of the audience to listen that mattered. This group, in this moment, was there to march, not to shop.
Most people, most of the time, steadfastly refuse to pay attention.
The tragic mistake of demographics and media planning is that they overlook the single most important issue: is the person you’re talking to ready to listen?