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Everyone is no one’s customer

hikers of Mt Fuji
Creative Commons License photo credit: diloz

Several times a week, someone pastes a spammy little message into the contact box here on the blog.

It starts off something like this:


I hope you are the right person to discuss about the B2B Lists. We are a leading player in the list vending industry catering to all list requirements from various industry sectors.

If you really are “a leading player” in your market, you don’t “hope” I’m the right person at my business. You KNOW because you did your homework.

What’s bad about this is that a lot of the marketing efforts resemble it. They attempt to target everyone at the cost of doing a less-than-ideal job of attracting anyone. And they don’t even address you by name.

Unless you sell food or toilet paper, your market isn’t everyone.


Except, when you pay close attention to buying habits, even those seemingly “for everyone” markets are finely segmented and “everyone” is not anyone’s customer.

These list brokers advertise like this:

We are primarily a B2B Database company & have in excess of 30 Million+ records with emails across all geographies, industry verticals etc.


American Businesses    20 Million+ Executives    Sales & Marketing Executives    500,000+ Executives


Industries : Healthcare, Insurance, Finance/Banking, Electronics, Telecom, Retail, Consulting, Information Technology, Electronics, Food and Beverage, Construction, Engineering, Computer Software/Hardware, Transportation, Education, HR, SMB/SME, Business Services, Oil and Gas, Energy and Utilities, Media, Manufacturing, Automotive, Marketing/Advertising etc.

Notice something? They’re selling everyone to everyone.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having something for everyone – they really sell lists of names, and that data comes in all flavors. Focus further and you’ll learn that they sell information that helps me find people who might be interested in what I have to offer. Eventually, some subset of what they sell becomes a person interested in my solutions. A lead.

It’s easier to sell a lead than it is to sell 20,000,000 leads.

Generic fails

The problem is that the sales pitch comes off completely generic. Generic because there’s no attempt to ask me what I want/need, to ask me who my customers are demographically, much less industry-wise. The only reason this can be effective is that the delivery cost of spam approaches $0.00 per delivery attempt.

Where this becomes an issue is when the person who receives this generic message might actually be the one who would get something out of it…unless they can’t see through the clutter placed in front of them.

Buried deep inside that 900+ word email is one niche that is always a good market segment for me. Buried inside that generic message, that niche could be missed by the reader. While there’s no way that I’m going to buy from a spam email like that, there are parallels to the advertising many businesses do – specifically selling to everyone.

Filtering, old school

I have an acquaintance in the newspaper advertising business. His business sells the ability to fine tune newspaper inserts by subscriber, like the two inches of stuff the papers bragged about on Thanksgiving Day. His business saves paper and postage and thus makes newspapers more profitable by lowering insertion related costs.

This slimmer, trimmer advertising is less likely to be discarded en mass by people who don’t want to sort through it.

Why? People who don’t use products like “Product A” rarely see inserts for that type of product. Why? Because the ads for things they *might* be interested in actually might be visible when they aren’t buried in two inches of insert fliers for things they have no interest in.

That is what this email’s problem ultimately becomes. It’s not for me, it’s for everyone. If I don’t see what I need, I hit delete. Now sure, when it’s a spam (and is visibly obvious as such), I’m likely to hit delete anyway – and the same thing happens to your ads.

Someone is important

After a speaking gig earlier this year, one of the executives in the group remarked “No one ever spoke directly to us like you did.”

Before the gig, I interviewed a player in their business, Google’d their industry and looked at their business websites. Then I fine tuned my speech to the people who would be in the room – and NO ONE ELSE.

When you’re speaking to someone, they’ll listen. When you’re speaking to everyone, no one listens.

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