Making assumptions about your audience is foolish

You probably know by now that I’m overseas on a big long-awaited family holiday. It’s been equally wonderful and exhausting – and we’re only half way through.  Travelling with young children is not easy and tempers have been frayed at times, but we’re all still speaking and noone has been sent home alone…yet…  So whilst I have a spare moment, I want to share some thoughts about the assumptions we make of our people.

We’ve been in the US, camping and meeting bears, renewing our wedding vows in Vegas, chatting with heroes in Disneyland and all along it’s struck me how often we make up stories about places and people before we’ve even met them or experienced them.  Aussies definitely have preconceived ideas about Americans, and the reverse is also true.  As travellers we  make assumptions about how we should be treated and as adults we make assumptions about how our children should behave in certain situations.

I’ll never forget a year 8 Maths teacher I had who said to us consistently (with a whistle on the ‘s’ mind you, which made for much merriment): “never assssssume anything.”  He of course was referring to the mechanics of mathematics, but he was right in a broader sense as well.  He used to occasionally include the adage: “to assume makes an ass out of u and me.” Which as 14 year olds we thought was hilarious, but again, in his nerdy, lisping wisdom, he was spot on. I’ve never forgotten that and I try to ensure I don’t make assumptions about people or situations, but it’s not always easy to stay true to his words.

The majority of humans have preconceived notions about how things will be, how people will react and how we personally will respond to certain situations.  The assumptions give us comfort, provide predictability and create preparedness.  Most of the time however, I am surprised to find that the exact opposite actually occurs. And whilst it can be jolting and unnerving, you know what? Nine times out of ten it’s absolutely the best way for the situation to play out.

You know why?

Because assumptions are usually based on OTHER people’s views – our parents, the news readers, the magazine editors’, our mentor’s, our partner’s or the travellers before us – and have no bearing on how WE will react to a particular person or siutation. 

The same goes in the marketing of your business. Never assume that all people will respond to your message in the same way, or in the way that you envisage they will.  Never assume that you have to make up words to sound clever or more professional or more in tune with whatever the latest entrepreneurial vibe is, because you think your own aren’t good enough.  Never pretend to be vulnerable or broken because you think people will respond well to that and feel sorry for you and want to heal you. Equally, never pretend to be strong and in control when you’re actually falling aparrt because you believe people will be attracted to that.

Making assumptions of your audience is a fool’s game.  You’ll be sorely disappointed and you’ll end up going round and round in circles trying to pinpoint exactly how to extract the best response from them.

That said, YES, you need to know a lot about your audience so you can talk their language and show them how you can assist. And YES, you need to know their drivers and triggers and pain points so you can offer advice and tools to help them change.  And YES, to a degree, you have to hope that because they have a certain problem and you have a wonderful solution that some of them will make the match in their head and come hang out with you.  But NO, you can not assume that this will be everyone’s natural response to your message.  And so you shouldn’t try to manufacture that response.

Just be you.  Every day.  However you are.  Show up and do what you have to to get your business and life moving.  Sometimes you have to suck up the bad gear and get on with it.  Sometimes you are allowed to be showy about how awesome you are.

Mix it up, but just be you. Use your words. Use your energy. And never make assumptions about how your audience will respond. Keep trying new angles, new ways, new things. But don’t get lazy and assume they will come in droves if you just write this one thing….

I assumed travelling with a 5 and 8 year old would be a cinch and that they would be gushingly grateful for the opportunity…Ha Ha HA!

Love and kisses from poolside LA.

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