Big Mistake: Meaning Mismatch in Marketing

Yesterday I discovered, to my surprise, that a good friend who does licensed massage therapy said she doesn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur.  In her mind, entrepreneurs want to get outside investment, hire employees, and grow their businesses fast. People like her think of themselves as self employed, sole proprietor maybe, small business owners probably. And those professionals, the doctors, lawyers, accountants and such, they don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs either. I think of them all as entrepreneurs.  But what if they don’t?

Business mistake: What if you want to reach that larger group, and you address them as entrepreneurs in your marketing, but they don’t think of themselves that way? So most of the people you want to reach don’t ever realize you’re talking to them?

What about you? Official stats say there are about 27 million businesses in the United States and about 21 million of them have no employees. What’s an entrepreneur to you? There are only a handful, a few thousand, that meet that stiffer definition. What matters is whether the target potential customer self identifies into the group. If a business is aiming at one group and using a word that stands for the other, that’s a big mistake.

This isn’t just semantics. It’s not about language or definitions. It’s about the fundamentals of marketing.

In human communication, the listener assigns the meanings to the words. Not the speaker. You don’t get to tell the audience what your word means. They tell themselves.

That’s why so many marketing images show an arrow hitting a target. This kind of meaning mismatch is one really powerful way to miss.




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