How to Market to People Not Like You

by / ⠀Finding Customers Startup Advice / July 28, 2011

niche customersEvery company, association and organization is trying to increase business or membership these days.  One of the fastest and most effective ways to increase business is by honing your marketing efforts to better reach a niche customer or prospect.

This is where “marketing to people who are not like you” comes in.  Niche marketing is the new norm, and “niche” comes in many forms:  gender, race, age, lifestage, physical abilities, affluence, language preference, sexuality, nativity and hobbies or special interests are all ways in which people can be unique but have shared interests or values.   By tailoring your product, message or marketing efforts to reflect consumers’ uniqueness, you are validating the importance of a consumer group.

To market your company, your products or service, or your organization most effectively, think about ways in which your customer prospects differ rather than how they are alike. This may be counter-intuitive to how you usually think:  we are so conditioned to thinking of our customers with a specific profile, sort of a “one-size fits all” mindset.  By focusing on differences, rather than similarities, you can learn what they value.  When you market to what people value, you are marketing to their priorities.  And people will spend money on what they value and what is a priority to them.

The most important element of niche marketing communications is that they be sincere. Consumers know the difference between token marketing efforts designed to get into their wallets and a sincere welcome mat that communicates “I see you, I value you and I want you”.  The most successful niche marketing efforts are embraced throughout a company, from the top management on down.  For example, Magic Johnson owns several Starbucks locations in Detroit.  Detroit is one of the highest-density African-American markets in the U.S.  Magic states that, at his Starbucks, they stock sweet potato scones, in addition to the standard blueberry muffins and oat bran muffins that all other Starbucks carry.  His product offerings are different at his Starbucks; they are designed to meet the demands of his consumers.  So although sweet potato scones are not part of the standard corporate Starbucks offerings, he found a local baker who was willing to make the specialty scones because that’s what his customers wanted.

Another example comes from a soccer specialty store owner I spoke with a few months ago.  He had a rapidly growing customer base from Argentina.  He noticed that these customers spent a lot of time trying on jerseys in the store.  He finally realized that the sizing was unfamiliar to them, so he mounted a large, international size conversion chart on the wall to show customers what their equivalent U.S. size is.  It worked well – he observed that his customers from Argentina didn’t have to spend time shuffling through the racks and trying jerseys on for size.  So he brought in a similar chart for footwear size conversions.

Niche marketing is more than the product itself or the communications message.  It’s the experience too.  The Angelika movie theatre realized that a key market opportunity for them was people who could go to the movies in the morning.  They knew that additional revenue could be generated if they could bring in an audience in the mornings.  But who can go to the movies on a weekday morning?  New moms can.  If a woman is on maternity leave or is a stay-at-home mom, she’s a perfect candidate for a morning movie showing.  After all, just because she’s had a baby doesn’t mean she’s no longer interested in movies.

The Angelika created “Crybaby Matinees”, a mom-friendly environment in which new moms rule:   no men allowed, so women can breast-feed comfortably, a baby-changing table in the back of the theatre so mom wouldn’t miss a minute of the movie if she needs to change a diaper, and shows at 11:00 am, timed for baby’s first nap of the day.  Not only did this environment address the barriers that might stop a new mom from going to the movies, it showed tremendous insight and respect for what a new mom’s needs are.   The Angelika’s Crybaby Matinees have been a huge success – new moms meet there every week and are loyal and enthusiastic customers who also help spread the word in their niche community of moms.

By thinking about differences, identifying your target prospects and learning about their needs and values, you can uncover new customers, new ideas and even new products and services that will help you grow your business.  It’s about niche marketing and marketing to people who are not like you.  Expand your thinking to focus on differences, and you will most certainly expand your business.

Kelly McDonald is the author of “How to Market to People Not Like You:  Know It or Blow It Rules for Reaching Diverse Customers”.  She is also a popular speaker and president of McDonald Marketing, a full-service marketing firm in Dallas, Texas.  She can be reached at 214-880-1717 or The company’s website is

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.