Since 2020

Speak to a human, not a target market

Greetings my fellow flesh bag with exponential conversion potential,

Here’s a weird term:


There is perhaps no phrase more basic, common, accepted, and universal in the modern marketing lexicon as “target market” — it’s everywhere.

It’s in all the textbooks.

Every marketing course.

On the tip of every marketer’s tongue.

“It’s the Law around these parts,” Sheriff.

I run a marketing firm with more than 20 staff and have been using it internally as well as with my clients for years.

But the more I think about it, the crazier it sounds.

Say whaaat? That sounds a lot like heresy. Are you quite mad?

Why yes … I suppose I am.

Questioning the accepted big agency marketing practices and being a digital heretic is how I make money for my clients.

So I’ll pose the question this way: 

How reassuring is it when you think of me thinking of you as a target market?

Just let that sink in for a moment.

How do you feel about being part of a market?

Do you want me to target you some more?

How well do you identify as a prospect?

As a consumer?

A potential buyer?

A lead?

Warm lead? Cold lead? Hot lead?

Are you in the market for some bait?

Can I grab your attention?

And move through the marketing funnel?

Where can I maximise our rapport?

Turn you into a sales qualified lead (SQL)?

Overcome your buying objections?

To close the sale?

Then follow you up?

Drive greater brand loyalty?

Improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS)?

And grow your Customer Life-time Value (LTV)?

So I can raise the top of mind brand awareness — of my personal brand?

Can you feel the love?

Or do you feel a bit like eyes are watching you from the shadows?

The marketing space is filled with language like this.

What do we say when business is going great? 


“Killing what?”

You’d be forgiven for thinking you were operating in a military division or stalking prey …

When did “doing a service for others” become “hooking a line with bait”?

When did “soothing pain” and “solving a problem” become “converting a click”?

When did “folks who could benefit” become “buyer personas” and “demographic & psychographic data”?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not interested in policing anyone’s language and I still use a lot of wanky sounding corporate terms myself. 

At some level, a shared language can be very useful.

But language can also shape the way we think about our fellow fleshy meat bags.

Or “humans,” if you prefer.

It affects every business interaction. 

Or “transaction,” if you prefer.  

(But seriously, why would you prefer “transaction”?)

Given that most of us wouldn’t dare speak to our friends and family members — our “loved ones” — the way we do to our coworkers, bosses, managers, and customers, doesn’t it mean there’s a constant communication undercurrent of “I don’t love you” in business?

How would you feel, as a highly valued sales prospect, if I said to you, “I don’t really love or care or trust you enough to speak to you the way I do with people outside of work — but, also and by the way, could you please enter into a trusting business relationship with me”?

There’s a real difference between an interaction where we “close the deal” as opposed to “help a fellow human.”

I wanted to share a great quote from Katherine Barchetti, Founder of Barchetti Shops.

“Make a customer, not a sale.”

I would add to this thought, “Speak to a human, not a target market.”

Stay human!  (kill less targets),

Broden Johnson

Founder, Yakk Digital