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Ask Mr. MarketingColumns

But … my dog can’t read!

There’s a handwritten sign in my neighborhood saying, “Please don’t pee on my plants.”

Though legitimate, I’m troubled by this request.

Like you, I know many dogs who attended school. They graduated knowing how to march and have unsurpassed culinary talents. But none got a passing grade in reading. 

Consider my dog, Buddy. A great editor, he’d bite my ankles when he disliked columns I’d read aloud. But tell him to read independently, and he’d stare at you quizzically.

This garden sign is undoubtedly directed toward humans, few of whom want to urinate in this homeowner’s shrubbery. One must therefore conclude the idea is for people to interpret the sign for their pooch.

My concern? The owner wants a secondary audience (people) to properly interpret the message, then transmit it to the primary audience (dogs). 

There are countless marketers putting out their message to the universe hoping someone will interpret it and communicate on their behalf to the right audience. Like a game of telephone, these messages get more misinterpreted with every layer they pass through.

This homeowner would probably benefit by changing their sign to read, “Hey dog owners: Don’t let your dog pee on my plants!” This makes people their primary audience and targets the message accordingly. 

Or they can communicate directly with the dog by spreading citrus, coffee, vinegar or chili powder in the garden. Dogs hate those smells and will avoid the yard of their own volition. 

Regardless of what you sell, there’s probably also a lesson here for your business. 

It’s important to always ensure you have a clear message and that you’re talking to the correct audience. 

And if you believe your meaning isn’t being properly received and acted upon, you should seriously consider adjusting the message and/or the communications vehicle. 

To ensure you’re maximizing your marketing opportunities, ask some current or prospective customers fitting your target buyer profile to confirm that what you’re saying is both clear and accurate. If not, adjust it according to their suggestions.

Finally, listen carefully to any advice this informal focus group provides. You may be too close to the problem, and these people will know better and faster whether your efforts will be successful.

Besides, ignoring them may just net you a garden full of dead plants.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

Bark at Mr. Marketing at 

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