Mental Zip Codes

I recently attended a marketing seminar where the instructor had us figure out the demographics of our target market: age, sex, where they live, how much they make, favorite hobbies and so on. I think of these as tangible or statistical demographics; you can count or measure them; you can buy mailing lists with them; you just can't make people buy with them.

As I listened to people describe their products (in this case books), I detected a common refrain: my target market is every teen, or every manor everywoman of a certain age that think this way. One woman had a book on relationship-building rituals for women. To buy this book, a woman would have to value relationships. Now it may seem like all women value relationships, but the home shopping network is about things, not relationships. The Red Hat Society is about relationships.

Another woman had a book about achieving your goals. When I thought about some of my books, they're about people who want to solve problems to create progress.

Why Won't My Target Market Buy?

Have you ever had that experience where you know who should buy your product or service, but they just won't? I'd like you to consider that it's because you haven't written your ad, mail piece or commercial to target their mental zipcode. If your target market, demographically, is a broad spectrum rather than a narrow band, you might benefit from analyzing their mental demographics.

What Are Their Mental Demographics?

From the Motivation Profile and Motivate Everyone there are three key mental demographics with three to five underlying elements. Think of each one as a mental zipcode:

  1. Values
    • People-Relating
    • Places-Being
    • Activities-Doing
    • Knowledge-Learning
    • Things-Getting or Having
  2. Motivation Traits
    • Achiever or Problem Solver
    • Leader or Follower
    • Innovator or Processor
    • Thinker or Doer
    • Revolutionary, Evolutionary, or Traditionalist
    • Big Picture or Detail-oriented 
  3. Time Orientation
    • Past
    • Present
    • Future

Think about your ideal customer. What are their top five traits out of this list?

There is specific influencing language designed to reach each of these mental zipcodes. Like Harry Potter's owl, this influencing language will carry its message to the intended receivers only. The shorthand version of this influencing language is available on our Motivate Everyone Quick Reference Card.

If you aren't using the language that reaches your customer's mental zipcodes, your ads, mailers or commercials never reach your customer's mind. They will all end up in the physical or mental trash, or the mind's dead letter file.

That's why your marketing isn't working: you have addressed your message to the wrong mental demographic.

Why Can't I Reach Everyone In My Tangible Demographic?

You can, but you will have to craft different words for different mental zipcodes within each physical zipcode.

For example, the marketing for a book about relationship rituals can be crafted to be about:

  • People-Relating to mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends, coworkers etc.
  • Places-Being - Where the ritual takes place: home, shopping center, park.
  • Activities-Doing - Rituals are activities. The author offered one example of women shopping for shoes that reflect who they are becoming. Once they find the right shoes, they stand in them and tell their friends who the woman in these shoes is and what she accomplishes.
  • Knowledge-Learning - Learning how to think about holidays and everyday events as opportunities to create rituals that deepen connection with others.
  • Things-Getting/Having - Shopping for shoes is about things.

Can you imagine how marketing can be crafted to reach each of these core values?

Then, the marketing could be further narrowed to reach achievers or problem solvers. Can you imagine how some people might be compelled to buy a book on relationship rituals because it would help them achieve better relationships while others might buy because it helps them avoid the remorse associated with missing out on deeper relationships?

Leaders need the facts and have to decide for themselves. Followers need to know who else has used these rituals and how they have benefited from them. Can you imagine how much differently these two marketing pieces would be from each other.

Are You Reaching the Right Mental Zipcodes?

Get the idea? You can have the right physical zipcode (mine is 80224), but the wrong mental zipcode and totally miss your target market. Most marketers craft their message as if everyone lives in their mental zipcode, but marketers rarely have the same mindset as their market. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between market and marketer is like the difference between lightning and lightning bug.

Haven't you waited long enough to ask yourself this question: What's my target market's mental zipcode?

To learn more about how to reach each mental zip code, order my book, Motivate Everyone.

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