Why Exclusion is a Good Thing

David Lazarenko

It’s a no brainer that, in business, trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for failure. I’m sure almost everyone reading this would agree. However, in my experience, agreement and action do not often coincide.

While many of the clients I have worked with believe whole-heartedly that they can’t please everyone, they still make decisions based on what’s best for everyone. Take, for example, a recent client discussion about tradeshow giveaway items. During the discussion, we had complete agreement that the most critical audience would be key, loyal, large customers, and therefore we had an absolute desire to attract this audience to the client’s booth. We brainstormed ideas for enticing them to the show and ultimately to the booth by giving them something of significant value once they got there, knowing that the cost for each of these items would be high, but that we would need fewer as the audience size was smaller.

Sounds good, right? But it didn’t happen. Why? Because fear of exclusion crept in.

You see, at some point in the discussion, someone asked, “What are the other customers and tradeshow goers going to think if they don’t get one of the giveaways?” This question drew concern from many in the meeting as the fear that others might be disappointed made the decision to cater to a specific audience less desirable. Discussion quickly turned to whether we could afford to buy enough meaningful giveaway items to provide to everyone – which obviously wasn't the case. The decision was made to go with something less meaningful (i.e. cheaper) so that we didn’t risk disappointing anyone.

Fast forward a few months to the show. What do you think happened? Fewer key customers and a higher number of less desirables. By choosing to avoid exclusion, the client ended up excluding the audience they desired most to begin with, for this audience knows they are important and wants to be treated as such. By throwing a meaningless item at them (which was ultimately influenced by everyone but them) they felt slighted. Not a feeling you want your key customers to feel.

Now be honest, while this example is specific to something as simple as a giveaway items, have you done something similar when making decisions pertaining to messaging, creative, media buying, invites, budgeting, etc.? I would guess the real answer is yes.

And I’m not surprised; accepting and acting on exclusion is difficult. Why? Because inclusion is so much easier.

The misguided belief that we can please everyone – make everyone happy – puts a smile on our faces. But ultimately, it’s unachievable and a trap many fall into. It’s harder to exclude as it takes strength and determination to follow through with it. But aren’t strength, determination and follow through what truly make for good business? So avoid the easy route. It doesn’t end where you think it will.

If you agree, give us a call and maybe we can help ;)

In his Working Wisdom series, David Lazarenko shares insights and inspiration gathered throughout his 15-year agency career. Through real-life examples and an analysis of industry trends, he offers up practical advice and actionable strategies for marketers.


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