The Story Economy Blog

Double Agent Style Marketing: Does It Work?

Sometimes I think I’m living a double life. I mean, I’m not nearly cool enough to be a double agent. Or a superhero with a secret identity.

But I do have a daily duality: two fairly different types of clients that have very little to do with each other. (And a third that’s somewhere in the middle.)

That I have different types of clients was a big hurdle in my rebranding process last year. Let me rephrase: I made it into a big hurdle. Even after I ruled out a bunch of types of clients I didn’t want, I was still left with more than one clear picture of who I did want.

But these people cared about different things. How could I talk to all of them? I couldn’t, obviously. So I kept a certain kind of client in mind (small businesses), as I developed my brand, and let the rest just be sort of self-sustaining. Practically-speaking, that meant creating “quick links” on the home page for the people who came to my site and just wanted to see a certain type of work (like editors who wanted to see clips). It basically says: hey, small business people, I’m talking to you! But editors and agency people, you might like it too. No worries if you’re just looking for clips: here is the path for you to find what you came for.

I’m fairly satisfied with this solution, but I’m going to be making some site changes this fall. So this idea of serving multiple markets was already on my mind the other day when I bumped into a woman I’ve known for a while who owns a pretty successful retail-oriented business in my little town. We got to talking about her business. She’s thinking of making some changes to her brand position, because she’s struggling with the fact that she really serves two separate markets (kids and adults). She loves them both (and both are important for revenue), but the way you market for kids and the way you market for adults just aren’t the same.

Hmm. A conundrum, right?

¬†It’s Only a Problem if it’s a Problem

This conversation is actually part of a series of conversations I’ve had with different people this summer. Like last week, I had coffee with a colleague who does internet marketing and is working on refining his brand. And one of the things on his mind? He serves three different types of clients. All are important to his revenue stream, and he likes them all. They all want one thing: more traffic. But they don’t all speak the same language about it.

About a month ago, I was on a conference call with a client (a somewhat household name in the world of health and nutrition), and we talked a lot about how the voice of the site needed to do double-duty: appeal strongly to the primary target (which they’ve identified very clearly), without losing the secondary target (which is very separate from the first).

I work with people on getting clarity around their ideal client. I want them to be hyper-focused. Laser-like, even. You can’t talk to everyone at once, I tell them. Butyou don’t need everyone. You just need yourpeople.

So, is it a problem when your people fall into different buckets? Well, since I’m entertaining dualities, I have two answers: no and yes.

It’s not a problem if it’s not a problem. By that, I mean: if your business is growing the way you want it to grow, and you’re not in a bad mood all of the time, and you tend to enjoy toggling, then it’s not a problem. Don’t make it into one (like I did for months). Make it clear in your brand/site navigation that you do different kinds of work for different kinds of people. And just be. Create. Do business. Serve your people. Don’t worry about something that doesn’t fit neatly inside of a marketing model, but very clearly isn’t broken.

Now, here’s the bad news. I believe it IS a problem (1) when your people buckets are built around desperation (somebody—anybody—please hire my company!), (2) when the conundrum hurts the integrity of the business (like a company dedicated to taking businesses paperless, with a thriving paper sales division), (3) when you can’t talk to these different markets with any kind of unified voice, or (4) when the Your Big Why (the “why” behind what you do) somehow breaks down.

For example, my internet marketing colleague is driven by empowering people and giving them the same tools as the big guys. His different buckets of people can all resonate with that, and he can connect with the idea of empowering all of them, because they all need that for different reasons.

But, if he suddenly decided he wanted to target Wall Street giants, a brand built around empowerment is off the mark. They are the big guys. It’s hollow to talk about empowering them. The “why” breaks down. (He’s not doing this, don’t worry!)

The most clever copy in the world can’t cover up this kind of disconnect. (I’ve seen people try, believe me.)

It’s not the end of the world, though. So settle down. There are answers. And you probably know them.

It might just be that you need clarity. It might be that you already have clarity, you just need the balls to make the choice you know you have to make. Or it might mean you need to create a sub-brand, or undertake some similar kind of strategic move.

Or maybe you just need a secret identity. My 4-year-old would be happy to have a consult with you about that.

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