Your Success Depends on Relating to Your Market

small business marketing 101
I know the title of this post might seem like an exaggeration at first—but let me assure you, it is not. The success of your website, your blog, and even your entire small business hinges on how well you are able to communicate your concepts to your audience.

Let’s pretend that you have an incredible product (not that much of a stretch, eh?). Something that will provide your market with huge benefits. It could be a blog, a book, a seminar, anything really. Let’s also say that your small business has all of the product design finished and the fulfillment systems ready to go. Now, what is the only thing in your path to selling millions?

You have to convey those benefits to your target market. You can’t tell them in your words why the product is great. You have to tell them in their words. They have to know that your product is great.

If you make them understand why you’re product is great, they’ll buy dozens. But, if you can’t relate that to them in their language, then your idea or product is likely to be misunderstood, forgotten, and generally lost in the shuffle. Keep reading for more.

The first step in relating to your customer, is to know exactly who your customer is. Once you know who your customer is, it’s time to learn how to relate to them. Here are several tips that will help you speak in their language, evoke their emotions, and move them to buy your product.

  1. Be simple and to the point

    Your customers are very busy, so don’t waste their time. Stay focused on what’s important so that your customers will stay interested in what you have to say. If you don’t cut out needless information, chances are they’ll be distracted and walk away.
  2. Break complicated information into chunks

    “Chunking” information is a scientifically proven method of helping people digest more information with less effort. It also helps people absorb ideas more quickly, which is crucial in today’s world of information overload. Why do you think lists are so popular?
  3. Avoid industry lingo

    Your customers are coming to you because you know more about some topic than they do. You need to be very careful not to use industry terminology—they probably aren’t a colleague, and they probably don’t know as much about the topic. If you talk over their heads, you’ll end up with a confused and uninterested audience. (read this article for more on the topic).
  4. Focus on them, not you

    People generally care about themselves more than other people. You have to keep this in mind when you’re speaking to your target market. Talk about them, and they will listen (it’s interesting, after all). Talk about yourself, and they’ll probably walk away. This may seem a bit grim, but it holds true 95% of the time.
  5. Appeal to their situation

    Use stories and concepts that are common to the group you are targeting. By referring to a common joke, idea, or frustration you can become a part of their group. They will understand you more. Laugh with you more. They’ll get excited to talk to you. If you utilize this concept well, your audience will quickly turn into loyal patrons of your blog, store, or company. My favorite example of this is a theme they have at Engadget (a technology blog). They have a running joke about ‘robots taking over the world’ (see here). To you this might seem silly, but to tech nerds it is a great joke that helps build a community.
  6. Use stories, imagery, metaphors, and clichés to reinforce your message

    Using many different types of media can help get your point across more effectively. Stories and metaphors are great ways to explain difficult concepts in a way most people will understand. Clichés are, by definition, rooted in cultural knowledge. You can use them to your advantage in explaining more advanced concepts. The more you consistently reinforce your core message, the more people will remember. If your message is inconsistent, or only delivered through a single channel, it’s not likely to be remembered.
  7. Use “other people’s words”

    Your readers and customers are inherently skeptical. You can get around this distrust by using words and quotes from other people, people your target market might trust. An easy way to do this is by quoting a book or famous expert. You can also have testimonials from other customers, etc… This technique is far to powerful and extensive to cover in one bullet point, so stay tuned for more tips specifically about this. (subscribe to be sure you won’t miss it)

Some free tools to help you

I know that a lot of these points can be difficult to accomplish, so I’ve compiled a short list of tools and ideas to help. Anyone who is trying to speak in their customer’s language should find these useful.


- Search keyword tools, like Overture and Google keywords, can help you see what your customers are searching for. They can give you a unique glimpse into the words and phrases your target market uses.
- The thesaurus (I like Thesaurus.com and Visual Thesaurus) is incredibly useful. If you’re looking for a more simple or more powerful word to use, but can’t quite think of one, a thesaurus can help drastically.
- Bulleted lists can be wonderful to help you break down and simplify a concept. They are specifically helpful if you aren’t quite sure what you want to say yourself. (for the record, I love bulleted lists and outlines)
- Your imagination is one of the best free tools I can tell you about. Spend an hour imagining yourself in your audiences’ shoes and you will forever be more effective at relating to them.
- Rereading, proofreading, and practice, will help you clean out needless wording and will improve your message delivery leaps and bounds. I can promise that.

Learning to speak in the language of your audience is one of the most fruitful endeavors I can think of. When you become really good at relating with your target market, you’ll find that people turn into customers much more easily. People will remember you and your small business. You’ll also see that when you really relate to your audience they will become much more passionate about you and your topic. All of your marketing will become more effective.

Small businesses (and blogs, websites, or anyone else for that matter) that don’t relate with their customers will find that marketing looses its effect. Their new idea will be misunderstood and forgotten.

I don’t know how to be more blunt than this—you need to learn how to relate with your market. Your success depends on it.

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Reader Comments

Aug. 2. 2007 3:24 PM
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I love the list - I never thought about using Google to find specific keywords that my audience may be searching for; I’ll have to give that a try! You mentioned “rereading, proofreading, and practice” as one of the mini-points - I actually believe it should be up there with the main points. If people would seriously reread and proofread what they write, their writing quality would skyrocket compared to what it is now. :P


Aug. 2. 2007 8:41 PM
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Thanks for this post… I found you through ProBlogger where my post on blogging tips
made it to the list :)


Aug. 3. 2007 6:33 AM
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Matt - I agree entirely about the importance of rereading and proofreading. I think I might devote an entire post to that sometime in the future. Thanks for the kind words : )

Emad - I’ll have to look at your article, and good luck with the rest of the ProBlogger series.


Aug. 24. 2007 2:32 PM
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THIS WEB SITE IS COSTING ME MONEY
The articles are so good I have had to purchase a second computer so I can read your articles while I’m trying to post my own. At this rate I’ll never get my own site finished and that will mean a whole lot of business owners will miss out on the ideas I want to show them. Please stop continually posting such great stuff ;)


Aug. 27. 2007 4:57 PM
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Lindsay, and here I thought I wasn’t posting frequently enough. I’ll be sure to think twice before posting any more good articles. lol


May. 26. 2011 5:49 AM
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Here is one more free online thesaurus. It will be also helpful for keyword searching!


Jun. 17. 2011 6:33 AM
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I use this synonyms dictionary. As for me it’s the best tool. Maybe you’ll like it too!


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Mar. 17. 2014 1:50 PM
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truly what i learn here. i do that for 1 month and all is good


Mar. 25. 2014 11:57 AM
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having a small business can be very rewarding, but nowadays it’s pretty difficult to stay on the market since the competition is pretty fierce and most small businesses are threatened by corporations. The advantage of a small business is the fact that they treat their customers on a much more personal level and they approach them in a more natural way


Mar. 26. 2014 10:03 AM
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Very useful tips! You can rapidly see an improvement if you take them into consideration.


Mar. 31. 2014 8:30 AM
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It’s very important to relate with your mases of clients because in this way you will find what is your position.


Mar. 31. 2014 11:11 AM
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From what I’ve seen, the most common mistakes are talking back to your customers in a way that’s demeaning or insulting, or not putting enough effort when creating advertising campaigns, which leads to your product’s top functionality not being advertised, for example


Apr. 1. 2014 10:51 AM
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appeal to their situation. Very good point. It’s important to be emphatic.


Apr. 1. 2014 11:43 AM
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really great tips!  Short story is, you have to be a good person and show your customers that they mean everything to you - because after all they’re the ones that are keeping your business up


Apr. 2. 2014 11:17 AM
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Be simple and to the point! Best advice you can get. We always try to over complicate things and we end up confusing people and driving them away.


Apr. 2. 2014 3:49 PM
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Speaking the same language as your customers doesn’t necessarily mean that you should use the words they do, but if your customers aren;t calling your product by its name, maybe you should think about changing the term because it either might be too specific or difficult, or it could simply not be interesting enough


Aug. 4. 2014 7:55 AM
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Permanently improving your relationship witht he customers and finding new ways to relate to them is a key element in succeeding in any business I can think of, whether you’re selling flowe arrangements or hammers. This shows you’re really passionate about what you do, and you most likely do it well.


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