I had a quick conversation the other day via Twitter (I said it was quick) regarding the idea of target markets. There seems to be some kind of a movement against the concept of being labeled a consumer - or god forbid being lumped into a target market. While I think there is validity to the "we're whos not whats" mantra, this sentiment is a little off target.
Ya see, in business there is what I call the front and back of the house. The front of the house deals with current products, current customers, and current problems. The back of the house deals with things that don't yet exist - new ideas, new products, new services, etc.
The Facebook group is correct in asserting that in the front of the house there is no such thing as target market, demographic, or consumer. There can only be one-to-one relationships - Joe in sales helping Sue the customer with her specific needs. Blanket policies and strict customer service guidelines undermine the front of a house's ability to deal with customers as people. Companies are learning that people demand to be treated as, uh, individuals. Zappos is a great example of a company that has shifted a TON of leverage to their customer service folks. Those front of the house decisions directly affect real customers - and those people are the ones you need to over-deliver to time and time again.
With the back of of the house this idea that people are not target markets gets a little muddy, and here's why: you cannot build something for everyone. Butchers have much different needs than, say, taxi drivers. Butchers need (!generalizaton warning!) sharp knives, a knowledge of how to cut meat, and safety. Taxi drivers need fuel efficient vehicles, a knowledge of their local area, and, well they need safety too...
So while bringing a product to market without grouping people and solving for specific mass requirements sounds like the perfect way to silence the drum pounding masses, when product development is holding its head plenty high at its new "Ginsu Knife 2.0" - Joe in sales is going to have a hell of a time explaining to Sue the taxi driver how to deliver a businessman to mid-town Manhatten while riding on the razor sharp edge of a boning knife.
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