Gasp! You mean you’ve never heard of the tokoloshe? Those scary critters that
cause nightmares and cause many a South African’s bed to be placed on brick
under the bedposts?
Here’s something you should know: I didn’t grow up in South
Africa. Nor have I ever been there. But the fact that I know what the tokoloshe
are, and I know about the Drakensberg and that Johannesburg is called Jo’burg by
the locals, gives me a leg up over someone else when I speak to a South
Why is this? Well, because people like to do business with
people just like themselves. When politicians mail letters or postcards to
potential voters, they will always try to use the most advanced technology
possible to appear to mirror, or seem as similar to, the recipient as
When I lived in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn,
Michael Bloomberg was running for mayor of New York City. With a vast
personal fortune at his disposal, his team tried as best they could to get the
many Yiddish-speaking families in the area get Yiddish-language postcards
telling them to vote for him in the upcoming election. (But technology isn’t
perfect; some computer has my first name, Issamar, as being that of a Spanish
speaker, which probably made me the only person on the block to get a
Spanish-language card instead of a Yiddish or English one.)
If your last name is
Smith, you might be disturbed to learn that companies whom are trying to get
your attention might use someone with another last name beginning with an S.; or
if your name is Rodriguez, you might have someone with a different Spanish last
name signing the letter.
The more you see a reflection of yourself in a
piece of marketing communication, the more likely you are to feel rapport with
the sender, and therefore the more likely you are to interact and accept
whatever it is you are being offered.
In the world and business of
mailing lists there are what are called overlays. This means that you might
spend a significant sum of money before you send out a single mailing. The
reason for the added expense is to get a high-quality list of contacts from,
say, The Wall Street Journal
subscribers. Then you pay even more to “overlay,”
or match, that list against a list of people who subscribe to Parenting
By using such an overlay, you are able to focus on attracting affluent
(Wall Street Journal
readers) parents (since they subscribe to Parenting
Once you have such a clearly focused list, you can afford to
mail fewer pieces. On the one hand, you’ll have a smaller budget because of the
cost of the overlay. But on the other hand, your response rate and sales will be
higher. Why? Because the overlay allowed you to reach an audience that is much
more likely to respond to your message.
You can craft a more focused and
targeted message now because you know exactly who your audience since you used a
laser-focused list. Because your message is more personal and reflects the
values of your audience, you make it harder for them to resist. If you had just
sent a generic message to your marketing list, you wouldn’t identify or mirror
very many of them, and they’d be less likely to respond to you since you
couldn’t effectively identify with them.
Take the following headline, for
example: “How will recent changes in trust law affect your children’s
inheritance?” This headline has to be on target to the group you are mailing to
if you want a response. In other words, your audience must have enough money to
leave an inheritance large enough to be affected by changes in Trust Law. If
your audience has no savings and nothing to leave their children, they’re not
likely to read much further than the headline. Then you’ve wasted your money.
You can be this specific if you’ve done your overlay because you know the
recipients of your mailing have children and they have enough wealth that they
would worry about it being eaten by probate.
Even if you send only 100
test letters like this to begin with, the chance of the letter being opened by
someone who can afford you and would be interested in using your services
increases tremendously. Even a simple test sample will tell you quickly whether
your headline and message hit the mark.
Take the information you
currently know about your clients and start segmenting or grouping them
accordingly. Separate them into two to five major groups. Depending on your
particular niche, perhaps your groups would be something like retirees, married
with children, single or very affluent.
Then create a slightly different
marketing message for each group. You can use almost the same marketing piece;
just target each group with the headline, the first bullet point and your call
to action. Make all those points something relevant to that group specifically,
if just tangentially. And if you change the picture on the mailing as well to
match, that’s extra credit for you.
As many advertisers know, where a
lead comes from can also make a difference in how you respond. If someone
responds from a high-class business publication (say The Economist
), the info
package might be sent with overnight mail. If a response to an ad that looks
exactly the same comes from a second-level publication, the advertiser might
send it via regular mail or not include the fancy tchotchke
Which brings me back to my original point. If you deal with South
Africans, know about the tokoloshe, or how to pronounce “Witwatersrand.” If you
do telemarketing, have someone with an accent similar to the country you are
calling make the calls. Every group of people or professionals has a certain
“in” lingo that you want to know and use when you deal with that
Tea and crumpets, anyone? That’s me when talking to the British.
It might seem like a lot of work to be a chameleon, or at least appear to be a
chameleon, but once you get the knack of it, it can be fun. Not only that, as
you learn more and more about each demographic and their culture, language and
needs, you can also discover new markets for your services. It’s in your best
personal and financial interest to start broadening your own
Issamar Ginzberg is a rabbi, businessman,
public speaker and marketer.