Focus Or Fail

David Armano - The Paradox of Please The ever-thought provoking David Armano wrote earlier this month about the “paradox of please,”  where he clearly and simply made the case that businesses need to focus to be successful.

While Armano’s post primarily focused on focusing product and service design, the same principle applies to communications.

Few parts of a communications plan are more important than your initial analysis of the stakeholders involved and, later, the audiences you choose to target.

When I worked for the Ontario government, we had to constantly remember that although the government serves all of Ontario’s residents, every initiative had its own, more specific target. We couldn’t communicate to everyone all the time. Sometimes it was easy to define that audience, other times it was more difficult. Regardless, communications plans that set “the public” as their audience would get heavily edited and sent back.

Working agency-side, I’ve found this is one of the most important questions to ask your new clients early on. I’ve been blessed with some clients who know exactly who they’re after and even have detailed personas fleshed-out for those targets. I’ve also worked on others where that wasn’t as clear. I’ll give you one guess as to which ones were easier to work on.

If you cast your net too wide, you end up pleasing no-one – your messages will be too diluted by your desire to cover everyone. You’ll end up with bloated, ineffective babble that fails to hit any of the triggers for the people who make up your real audience.

Focus too narrowly and you miss the opportunity to communicate with important audiences – your messages will be highly effective for the narrow segment you’ve targeted, but ineffective for any others.

It’s easy to forget to focus. How do you keep yourself on track?

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  • This is pretty intuitive, but easy to forget.

    I tend to think very spatially, and visually. So subset diagrams and other illustrations make a lot of sense to me.

    When I studied engineering in my first two years of university I was always good at drawing the free-body diagrams in physics problems.

    Just like a mechanics problem, taking the time to lay out all the acting forces helps to keep me focused and understanding the important issues.

  • Agreed, inuitive message but amazing how often it is forgotten. Applies to all aspects of a business. Who is your main customer impacts how you market, sell, communicate, design product, price, etc, etc. It is easy to fall in the trap of chasing whatever dollars you can see instead of focussing ALL of your efforts on absultely ‘delighting’ your target customers.

    Thanks for the reminder Dave, great and timely post for me.