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“Target audience”? You’re not shooting at them. You’re inviting them.

‘Target audience’ is one of those marketing phrases which gets used without a great deal of thought. Yes, you could also say ‘ideal audience’ or ‘client avatar’ or some other official sounding phrase, but as with all marketing terminology I prefer to question everything. 

Target. Why target? Where does that come from? 

A target is something you shoot at. A bow and arrow, a target with a red circle in the middle. You eye the target…you draw back…you take a deep breath…you release…BAM! Got it! Sharp arrow piercing the target right in the middle! Nailed it! 

When I think about how I and our business communicate with the type of clients, the type of PEOPLE we want to work with, this visual does not work. 

I don’t want to shoot at them. I don’t want to eye them and squint to see how I can stab them with an arrow. Actually it’s not about me doing all the work anyway: it’s about being present and available and holding to our values and expressing who we truly are, and welcoming them to come be a part of it. 

It’s an invitation. 

An invitation is much different. It’s beautiful. Maybe handwritten, certainly crafted to be welcoming and appealing. You get one and think “ooooh, this looks nice!” (Or you get one and think “I’m not going to that event no matter what”, but that’s also okay.)

The point is with an invitation, the invited client gets to decide. Do they want to work with you? Is it possible you could help them? Are you their kind of people? It’s all very pleasant and welcoming and patient. They can take their time: whether that’s one day to make up their mind, or a month, or six months, or three years. They can keep coming, and coming back, taking in your content and watching your videos and connecting with you as a human until they believe you are someone who can help them with the problem weighing on them. 

Content marketing is such a beautiful way to invite people to consider working with you. Writing blogs and articles, sharing photos and videos on social, holding live events, giving insights into what you know and how it can help them. Sharing expertise. It takes time because all good relationships take time. The right way is the long way. 

At PF, we’ve slowly begun moving away from using the term ‘target audience’ (even internally, as we talk about who we want to work with), and more towards words like perfect client. Ideal client. Accountants we love. We’ve even been using the word “people” instead of “clients”. What kind of PERSON (who happens to be an accountant) do we love to work with? What can we share with that human person which will answer their questions and address their fears and doubts and help them make a decision which is best for them? 

Changing your terminology could seem like it doesn’t matter too much. Who cares if you say “target audience” or “perfect client”? Who cares if you have a “buyer avatar” or a “client characteristics” list? 

The words you use reflect the way you think about things. And people. In a past Note, I shared why and how I began to remove the word “should” from my vocabulary, and what that has done for me personally as well as my business. 

Words matter. The way you approach marketing, and clients, and people, matters. If your marketing is feeling a bit harsh, or official, or even boring, it might be you’ve stopped thinking about future clients as human people. People with questions and concerns and families and trips they’d like to take and food they love to eat and problems in their business they don’t know how to solve. They aren’t targets. The next person who fills in a form on your website is not a target. They’re real, and they’re worth getting to know, so you both can decide whether this is the relationship to put time and money and care into. 

What kind of words do you use for the clients you love to work with? 

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