Who is Your Audience?

Before moving to Virginia in 2001, I worked for a large software company in southern California. I was attached to the marketing department and wore two hats: copywriter most of the time, event planner on an as-needed basis.

One of my projects was to organize and manage President’s Club, a glitzy annual incentive event for those who made product sales of $1 million or more. In addition to the management duties required, I was also tasked with creating marketing materials that would push the sales team into selling more software. The company’s CFO wanted these people to make their first-quarter numbers. My job — this time as copywriter — was to tempt them with the prospect of a four-day, all-expenses-paid visit to Grand Cayman Island in the sun-drenched Caribbean.

I began my marketing efforts with a great flash-email campaign that began in late January and went to each salesperson’s inbox. I thought the weekly campaign was effective because I was getting some positive feedback. But by the first week in March, it was clear that the expected quotas had not yet been reached. The CFO was getting nervous. His consternation quickly spilled downhill to me and I had to come up with another plan. One crazy question kept popping up in my mind: Was I reaching the right audience?

Knowing that ninety percent of the sales folks were road warriors who might not be paying close enough attention to my flash program, I began casting around for a way to nudge them. And who better to provide effective nudges than the spouses of said road warriors!

New audience, new effort. I created a lively little direct mail piece, complete with come-hither glimpses of sandy beaches and sparkling azure water. I sent it not to the salespeople, but to their spouses. Worked like a charm. I could just hear the gist of the resulting conversations: “Hey, honey, have you made your numbers yet? What do you mean, no? Get with it so we can go to President’s Club in the Caymans!!”

We had over 400 people at President’s Club that summer, thanks to the spouses who made up an audience I hadn’t thought to address until it was almost too late. Everyone had a great time in the Caymans, the CFO’s attitude improved dramatically and I ended up looking like a genius.

It was a good lesson learned; things aren’t always what they seem. So just think about it a moment: As a writer, is your only audience the one that’s right smack in front of you?

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