Do you invite strangers over for dinner?

When it comes to content marketing, I often use a metaphor to relay a simple message to my colleagues, “Do you invite strangers over for dinner?”

From the dawn of advertising, we’ve been doing this. We’ve invited in the brands that have blanketed us with TV, newspaper and radio messages that might make sense to us — the target demographic which defined us in remarkably broad strokes. To put into perspective, being a male 25–34 interested in technology and living in Chicago still puts me in a very large bin of people — many of which are nothing like me.

Truth be told, marketers have more information about me than I could ever realize. Between my web searches and surfing behavior, my social data that I make public (or share through social logins), my shopping and purchase behavior, how I interact with email along with hundreds of other digital touch-points, it’s fascinating to think that marketers probably know me better than I know myself — and with good certainty can actually predict my purchases or digital moves.

Whether we know it or not, we opt into this communications — and it’s merely a matter of connecting the dots. As a marketer, this can be as easy or hard as we choose to make it — but that will come in a separate post. The fact is we have this data, and can get very specific on the communications we push to our consumers.

When we have this information, why would we treat customers as part of a much broader audience when we have the chance to talk to them in unique, personalized ways? Liken it to having a conversation with someone at a dinner party, versus standing on the stool in the corner and shouting at everyone. The goal is a genuine dialogue and connection.

Oftentimes, the challenges are time, resources and process streamlining. Though the first hurdle is changing the marketing mindset to know what we can do. The most dangerous statement in marketing is “that’s the way it’s always been done,” so how can we be a change agent within the organization? It typically just takes people asking the right questions.

So when I say to my colleagues, “Do you invite strangers over for dinner,” I’m hoping it clicks — the fact that as advertisers with data, we’re given the opportunity to take users out of the large bin, and market to them as an individual. As a consumer, I’d rather have dinner with someone who knows me, rather than someone who sees me as one of many.