April 25, 2022

Paul Sterett

Pass the Salt: Marketing from the Dinner Table

Dinner at my house is always a bit of a production.

With six kids, getting everything and everyone to the table can be a challenge. But once everyone is successfully seated, served, and grace is said, we are off to the races. The next order of business is to add some seasoning, and I ask, “Pass the salt, please.” And no one passes the salt. I ask again, a bit more emphatic, “Pass the salt, please.” Still, no salt arrives at my end of the table. Then I remember a very important detail…

I did not ask by name for someone to pass the salt!

“Addison, please pass the salt.” Boom! Addison puts her fork down and promptly passes the salt down the table.  

I’m willing to bet your marketing feels a lot like my family table. You politely reach out to your potential customers through various marketing avenues and not enough people (or even no one) respond to your message. So you dial it up a bit. Add in a deal, try TV instead of radio, and still not enough people respond. Then the vicious cycle begins with fragmented messages, random media placement, and worst of all, more “deals” that lower your margins.  

Stop the cycle and ask by name for someone to pass the salt. 

Let’s take a look at my potential customers at the family dinner.

Of the eight of us, everyone is capable of passing the salt, but just like your market, not everyone in my family is going to be worth asking.  

I sit at the end of the table closest to the kitchen and my wife sits at the other end of the table closest to the foyer. To my left is our five-year-old, Miles, and to my right is our eight-year-old, Liam. In the middle next to Miles sits our 12-year-old, Addison. Across from her in the middle right is our 10-year-old, Gabe. To my wife’s left sits our two-year-old, sweet Charlotte Cooper, and to the right of my wife sits our 14-year-old, Olivia.  

As you can imagine, just like your market of potential customers, I need to be in tune with a few things about each of my family members when trying to add some salt to my mashed potatoes.

To efficiently achieve my goal, I need to identify:

  • Where is the salt on the table?
  • What is the mindset of the person closest to the salt? 
  • What path is the salt going to take to get to me?

Proximity-wise, Liam and Miles, to my left and right, seem to be great fits to answer my marketing message. Let’s be realistic, at ages five and eight they could have the salt in their hands and instantly forget what they are supposed to do with it. I can try getting my message across in a variety of ways – tone, length, incentives – but it is still a roll of the dice. 

Farthest out is my wife. She is highly responsive, but the salt is going to have to pass through two to three people before it gets to me. Olivia is a bit closer and mostly responsive, but there are still two people separating us, delaying the arrival of the salt. Sweet Charlotte Cooper is equally as close to me as Olivia is, but let’s be real, it’ll be a couple of years before she is helpful, and I’m better off making sure I stay in her good graces until the time comes for her to be able to pass the salt.

The sweet spot is in the middle of the table, between Addison (12) and Gabe (10).  Both can quickly connect to the other end of the table and both are pretty responsive. Of the two, however, Addison is my go-to. She is less distracted, able to focus, and has a good attitude, which makes the interaction peaceful. She is also able to reach over Miles and put the salt directly in my hand. Gabe can be helpful, but too often he gets distracted by a variety of things, delaying the delivery of the salt.

Each member of my family represents your market and the potential customers within it.

Miles and Liam: They are your prospects who seem like a great fit to allocate marketing dollars to since they are so close, but be prudent with the time and resources aimed at these boys. Build a good relationship with them, so that when they are a more qualified prospect, they are poised to become a customer.

Olivia: She is not a bad prospect for you, but it’s going to take a bit more work for her to become a customer. When she does become a customer it’ll be a whole lot easier to keep her, but be mindful of the cost of acquisition on the front end and plan accordingly.  

My wife: She is a great prospect by all accounts, except there are a number of variables that stand in the way of getting her to become a customer in a cost-effective way. If she does become a customer and you care for that relationship well, she’ll be a customer for life. Be balanced in how you reach out to these types of prospects.

Charlotte Cooper: She is your prospect that is nothing but a distraction. Extremely cute and fun to interact with, but a complete waste of time for now. Keep this prospect on the back burner, but it will be some time before she is worth allocating even moderate resources toward. 

Gabe: He is almost a 10 out of 10. He is your prospect that won’t take a whole lot of effort to reach, but be ready for the distractions when closing the sale. He is a good prospect to allocate marketing resources to, but be sure to have a plan in place for the sales cycle these prospects require before they become customers.  

Addison: She is the prospect who should command your full attention and focus. She is in the exact right position in her buying cycle and, with the right message, she will become a customer in short order. Deliver on great customer service and this is your customer who will deliver the lowest cost of sale and the highest margins.  

Let’s bring it all home. What are you to do with this family dinner?

When you sit down to plan out your marketing strategy, be intentional and strategic in identifying who is at the table.

Get focused on understanding the difference between the Addisons and the Gabes in your market. Drill down further into the prospects in your sweet spot so your message is tailored to fit. This sweet spot is often referred to as a demographic, but drill down even more. 

If you are building your marketing plan on your own, be cautious with demographics like Adult 25-54. This is a demo that commands the highest rates from TV, radio, and digital, but there is a tremendous variation within this demographic in how messages are received. If you try a blanket message to reach all the target profiles in the Adults 25-54 demo, you will end up wasting a bunch of money. Addison and Gabe can both be in this demographic, but clearly, they require a different message to effectively reach them and convert them into a customer. 

This is extremely important to understand. I’ll be sharing more insight on this in the near future. You’ll likely want to have a distinct conversation about it with me. I’d be happy to speak offline with you.

In the meantime, I hope the salt finds its way to you quickly at dinner tonight. Be sure to ask someone by name and enjoy those mashed potatoes!

I own White Hart Insight, we specialize in marketing for small to medium-sized businesses in Georgia and the Carolinas. Hit reply if you’d like to connect or email me at paul.sterett@whitehartinsight.com


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