I Could Be Your Customer, But I'm Not Necessarily Your Audience

I snore. Or so I've been told. And just to be sure I know to take that seriously, healthcare professionals and marketers of health-related products continue to reach out to me with warnings that snoring is a sign of a whole host of serious medical conditions. But, frankly, it's mostly lost on me. After all, I sleep pretty soundly. I'm no more tired during the day than any other hard-working professional my age (at least I have myself convinced of that). And I have no symptoms of any co-morbidity that could compromise my health (that's my self-diagnosis).

As a marketing professional, I understand why healthcare marketers would reach out to me. After all, I'm the one who is theoretically at risk and the one to whom any related product would be sold to. But, since my snoring doesn't seem to be slowing me down any, I know full well they won't make any real progress in convincing me to take action.

So who should the healthcare marketers be talking to? I suggest they consider turning to the real sufferer. In my case, that's my wife. Wives are likely the case with many men. You see, while I'm convinced I'm getting a sound night's sleep, my wife is the one who is up all night as a result of my (alleged) snoring and (alleged) gasping. And she's the one who is tired all day because she wasn't able to get any sleep the night before.



The truth is, men tend to ignore symptoms and are generally physician-averse. "It's just the way they're socialized," says Lorraine Fitzpatrick, a medical doctor and associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (as quoted in The Complete Book of Men's Health by the editors of Men's Health books, 1999, Octopus Publishing Group). "A woman is much more likely to come in just because she's just not feeling right." So it's no surprise that women are responsible for approximately 80% of all decisions about a family's health (U.S. Department of Labor, General Facts on Women and Job Based Health).

We, as marketers, must identify the most influential targets, and also recognize when that target isn't just the most obvious one. Here are a few things to consider:

The Afflicted vs The Affected?

When considering a target audience for a healthcare-related product or service, challenge yourself to identify not just the afflicted but also the affected. Those who are impacted by a spouse or child with a condition may just be the one with the greatest motivation to find a solution.

Who's Driving?

While it is important for sufferers to have greater conditional and risk awareness, consider who is actually driving decisions and action. Contributing to efforts aimed at driving more men to get prostate cancer screenings (most are reluctant to do so on their own), Lauren P. Wallner, lead author and graduate research associate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2008) said, "In terms of motivating people to get screened, there may be a benefit in targeting wives and significant others as well as men." Look for the audience that makes things happen.

Help or Hindrance?

When considering your true target audiences, think about those who help and those who may be hindering your efforts or blocking progress. While the U.S. Army's efforts were successful in converting candidates into believers, the organization recognized that one of the barriers to their recruitment efforts wasn't the prospect they traditionally targeted; it was his or her parents. Armed with that knowledge, the Army modified its "Army Strong" campaign and slogan to include messaging aimed squarely at parents: "You made them strong. We'll make them Army strong."

I recently told my wife she should see a doctor about my snoring. And she did, without hesitation.

1 comment about "I Could Be Your Customer, But I'm Not Necessarily Your Audience ".
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  1. Eric Trow from Brunner, April 19, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.

    I couldn't agree more Craig. And terrific examples. The more we recognize that rational people do not necessarily act rationally, the better able we will be in effectively engaging them and, hopefully, motivating them toward optimum choices. Especially when it comes to health. In the instance of sleep apnea--or any healthcare issues that affect men for that matter--I agree there is usually an underlying emotional and irrational resistance to seeking out solutions. And, to your point, there is little to be gained in that situation by touting credentials and capabilities of caregivers or the revolutionary features of products. Until that individual has been successfully engaged on an emotional level (which is often through an influencer)--or has experienced a near catastrophic event as a result of his non-action (i.e.: falling asleep at the wheel, being fired for nodding off in a meeting, or being kicked out of the bedroom)--he is not likely interested enough nor emotially invested enough to listen let alone be motivated to action. We all have emotional triggers that can be infinitely more powerful than a solid logical argument. It is our challenge as marketing professionals to find and expose the nerves which can be stimulated to drive healthy action and choices. ET

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