Are you Marketing to Hunters or Farmers?

I was reviewing a marketing plan for a startup company the other day when I suddenly got a flash of insight and understanding. This company is struggling to succeed with their sales and marketing because they might be targeting the wrong group. The decision makers in their target market are Farmers, yet all their marketing content and campaigns seem to be aimed at Hunters. Both groups are important, but very different in how they see the world and react to things. This marketing plan has the target market group properly identified, but they might have the message and the delivery scheme a bit wrong.   Read the following blog posted by marketing expert Seth Godin:

Hunters and Farmers
10,000 years ago, civilization forked. Farming was invented and the way many people spent their time was changed forever.
Clearly, farming is a very different activity from hunting. Farmers spend time sweating the details, worrying about the weather, making smart choices about seeds and breeding and working hard to avoid a bad crop. Hunters, on the other hand, have long periods of distracted noticing interrupted by brief moments of frenzied panic.

It’s not crazy to imagine that some people are better at one activity than another. There might even be a gulf between people who are good at each of the two skills. Thom Hartmann has written extensively on this. He points out that medicating kids who might be better at hunting so that they can sit quietly in a school designed to teach farming doesn’t make a lot of sense.

A kid who has innate hunting skills is easily distracted, because noticing small movements in the brush is exactly what you’d need to do if you were hunting. Scan and scan and pounce. That same kid is able to drop everything and focus like a laser–for a while–if it’s urgent. The farming kid, on the other hand, is particularly good at tilling the fields of endless homework problems, each a bit like the other. Just don’t ask him to change gears instantly.

Marketers confuse the two groups. Are you selling a product that helps farmers… and hoping that hunters will buy it? How do you expect that people will discover your product, or believe that it will help them? The woman who reads each issue of Vogue, hurrying through the pages then clicking over to to overnight order the latest makeup kit–she’s hunting. Contrast this to the CTO who spends six months issuing RFPs (request for purchase) to buy a PBX… he’s farming.

Both groups are worthy, both groups are profitable. But each group is very different from the other, and I think we need to consider teaching, hiring and marketing to these groups in completely different ways. I’m not sure if there’s a genetic component or if this is merely a convenient grouping of people’s personas. All I know is that it often explains a lot about behavior (including mine).

The simple key to effective marketing is to really understand your customer. Understand them so well that you know whether they are hunters or farmers. Understand them so well that you know what keeps them awake at night and worrying about the future. Know what they are talking about with their colleagues. Know what they need. More importantly, know what they want (I need a new car for basic transportation, but I really want a shiny little sports car…). How do you do this?  Simple. Go spend some time with them. Invite them to lunch. Just drop by their offices to see what they are doing. If you are a hunter yourself, you probably already do this frequently. If you are a farmer, then get off the farm now and then.

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Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that this beautiful world that we have created needs our help. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.