Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Some say that marketing is like sex, everyone is good at it. If only that were true! Reality, however, is often quite different.

To be good at marketing, or sex, you need to truly connect with your target. This isn’t new. Therefore, I was somewhat surprised by the amount of feedback I received about my last column.

I wrote previously about geographic echo chambers, and how important it is to acknowledge them to effectively engage your audiences. They can be extremely dangerous if you don’t recognize them, particularly if you are interested in marketing outside of your own geographic vicinity.

What I heard from you all was very interesting. Many people contacted me to thank me for identifying this phenomenon. However, what most startled me was the number of people who were quick to identify other geographic, organizational, business or even individual echo chambers that they’ve observed. Most wanted to share how “wrong” others are about their opinions, and how they perceive this to be negatively impacting successful communication as a whole.  Maybe it’s the time we live in, but the purpose of the column was to generate self reflection – not to point the finger at others.

Okay, so let’s assume that we now know what we are talking about with echo chambers. How can you ensure that you aren’t trapped in your own little bubble, eagerly identifying others that seem to have it wrong. First, let’s remove politics. What’s significant is identifying what is important to your key audiences, and making sure that you aren’t communicating in a way that misses the mark with them.

The opportunities facing communicators today are endless. We are living in an extremely exciting time. It can also be frustrating as new technologies and ways of reaching identified audiences change every day. It is now possible to segment audiences down to a very granular level.  We can reach them where they work, live and play. That is why it’s so important to shed any echo chamber baggage you may be carrying.  Preconceived notions damage your messaging.  It’s only when you truly “get” others that you begin to engage them.  Engagement increases the more that you can accurately connect with your audiences on their level – not yours.

Segmentation is the process of dividing potential markets or consumers into specific groups. Market research analysis using segmentation is a basic component of any marketing or communication effort. To be an effective target, a market segment should be:  identifiable, sizable, stable or growing,  accessible (reachable), and congruent with the marketer’s objectives and resources.

So, do your research. Data exists on almost anything we wish to learn. If you don’t have the capacity to do this type of research, enlist those who do. Read and observe more. See what people are saying about your type of business or organization. Learn what your competition is doing, both locally and in other geographic areas. Then refine and evaluate.

Make sure that you know your current customers and clients and why they work with you. What do they value? What makes them come back? What would it take for them to recommend you?

Think about your prospects. Do they share the same wants, needs and desires? How do they receive their information? What are they behaviors? What similarities do they possess? What messaging will connect with them to engage them in your activities?

Answering these questions, and many more, requires a fresh perspective. Assumptions are the enemy. Observations and feedback are your friends.

Remember, success requires practice and feedback – with marketing, and other activities.

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