You can always identify someone as an amateur broadcaster. I was in broadcasting for 15 years but I can tell you how to spot one too. All you have to do is listen for, “you guys”, “Hello everyone”, or “You all out there”. The best broadcasters are the ones who make you feel like you are the only one they are talking to.

Stephen King writes all of his novels to one person, his wife. He calls her his ‘ideal reader’, and encourages every writer to have one of their own. King is well aware that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people will read his latest book, but he also knows he can’t think about impressing all of them at the same time, so instead he focuses exclusively on his ideal reader. He knows her well, knows her tastes, her preferences, he adores her and ceaselessly wants to impress her with his writing prowess. It is very sweet, even romantic, but it is also a wicked smart recipe for powerful writing.

Seems that human beings can truly empathize with only one person at a time.

NPR’s Shankar Vedantam writes about Paul Slovic, a researcher for the University of Oregon, and his recent findings;

In one study, Slovic told volunteers about a young girl suffering from starvation and then measured how much the volunteers were willing to donate to help her. He presented another group of volunteers with the same story of the starving little girl — but this time, also told them about the millions of others suffering from starvation. 

On a rational level, the volunteers in this second group should be just as likely to help the little girl, or even more likely, because the statistics clearly established the seriousness of the problem. 

“What we found was just the opposite,” Slovic says. “People who were shown the statistics along with the information about the little girl gave about half as much money as those who just saw the little girl.” 

Slovic initially thought it was just the difference between heart and head. A story about an individual victim affects us emotionally. But a million people in need speaks to our head, not our heart. “As the numbers grow,” he explains, “we sort of lose the emotional connection to the people who are in need.”

This is why broad appeal messages targeted at general ‘audience segments’ yield such sub par results, or why staring at research decks and spreadsheets of data alone cannot bring a marketer the deeper emotional understanding needed to truly touch a nerve in the hearts of customers.

The most powerful marketing hones in and focuses on an audience of one.

This is also why personas, coupled with Buyer Legends, are explosive in the hands of a good marketer. Personas and Buyer Legends give companies the tools to focus on the needs, wants, preferences, and motivations of ONE single person(a) at a time, and then tell the story of how they are currently experiencing and should be experiencing your brand. This allows marketers to design the ultimate customer experience.

Are you using Personas?

If you don’t have personas, our new book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide walks you through creating some Ad hoc personas as well as writing your first Buyer Legend in about 90 minutes.

If you are already have personas, but aren’t so impressed with them, you might like to read Bryan Eisenberg’s post – The Stepford Personas: What Lies Beneath 

Please let me know how things turn out.