Friday, July 3, 2009

Know Your Market

I made it back from Lephalale with no scars so that's good, but an interesting thing happened that reminded me of the importance of knowing your target market.

I'm not altruistic, but I am very superstitious; I'm a big believer in karma. Because of this I almost always give money to beggars when they ask for it. I have a few exceptions, mostly children, which might seem strange but often parents send their children out to beg when they could be in school so if they are successful they will continue to send them out to beg. I feel it's important for them to not be successful. I know there are exceptions to this, but I work better with rules when it comes to making decisions such as this.

So, we were in the parking lot of one of Lephalale's malls and I was just getting in the car when I saw a white man approaching me. I knew he was a beggar and prepared to get money out of my handbag. Then he did an unfortunate thing; he began to talk.

He starts by saying that he has problems keeping jobs because he has a very low tolerance for laziness. When he's hired as a supervisor (apparently that is the only job he can get) he can't deal with the blacks who like to take two hour lunches since they're so lazy so he always gets fired.

Now this was a perfect case of him not knowing his market. He assumed that since I was white, I was in his tribe- his tribe of whiny, white people who want to blame all of their woes on the lazy blacks who are now in control of things. He thought by laying his problems at the feet of the blacks who are busy messing up beautiful South Africa for all the good, hard-working whiteys, I, being of his tribe, would pop out some money. He seriously miscalculated his target market.

I pulled my hand out of my handbag - empty- and told him I wouldn't be giving him any money that day, or any other for that matter, since I didn't much care for racism of any hue. I got in the car leaving him in the middle of the parking lot ranting about how he wasn't racist. I few passing people took time to look at me and look at him and listen to the conversation.

Now if this white beggar was clever, he might have engaged some of the passer-bys in a short conversation about what ensued. Quickly he would have got their position and then he could refine his spiel and likely come out ahead - not only a victim of black empowerment, but now publicly ridiculed by some white, communist sympathiser from over the border. He may very well have made out better in the long run.

So our lesson today, students? Knowing your market and targeting your pitch makes all the difference when it comes to success.


Sue Guiney said...

really interesting...horrible and unfortunate, but fascinating. And what a lesson you gleaned from it!

Lauri said...

Thanks Sue, glad you enjoyed it.

Helen Ginger said...

And if you don't know your market, for goodness sakes, don't spout off until you've scoped them out a bit. You can learn a lot by listening with mouth closed. Great post, Lauri.

Straight From Hel

Elizabeth Bradley said...

My dad had a saying, "Don't let your mouth overload your ass." I think it applies to this fellow, he talked himself right out of a handout.

Anonymous said...

Excellent story. Didn't he know that less is more? Sounds like he talked himself out of a little tip. Good on you for sticking to your guns, Lauri.

Unknown said...

Great post Lauri! I love how you have used the example of the racist white beggar to create a metaphor for writers and their target audience! Cool!


Lauri said...

Helen- I agree, rather not take any position until you case out the joint a bit.

Elizabeth- Your father was a wise fellow- thanks for that!

Thanks Selma and JD.

Sharon Lippincott said...

My father often expounds "Ben's Three Laws". They have served him well over half a century. One is to "find out what people want to hear and tell it to them."

At a glance that sounds like he advocates fibbing or fatuous blather. Not so. It emphasizes listening so you can tell them what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them.

That beggar's misfortune is not knowing Ben or his laws. But if he did, he wouldn't be a beggar.

Lauri said...

Ritergal- Thanks for stopping by. I am going in search of Ben's Three Laws right now. They sound sensible.