Insiders and the mainstream: How knowledgeable are your customers?

taskmasterMany aeons ago, Old Taskmaster noticed that there are two distinct groups of consumers in many industries.


On the one hand, you have the “insiders”, who closely follow an industry and its products. They often have inside knowledge about an industry, including its products, history, personalities and processes.


This category includes people who work in an industry, as well as enthusiasts who – for example – read or create specialist publications, including websites, blogs, social media pages and online message boards. Aside from having insider knowledge, many define part of their identity by choosing one product in the sector over another.


Of course, not everyone who eats at a restaurant is a dedicated foodie, not everyone who likes a nice glass of red is a wine connoisseur and not everyone who buys a new smartphone is a committed gadget geek. So that leaves the rest of us – the mainstream consumers. The everyday people on the street who are not the “insiders” in a given industry.


The breakdown between insiders and mainstream consumers will vary from sector to sector. Some sectors are known for having large insider consumer bases. The entertainment, fashion, hospitality, IT, design and auto industries are all great examples of sectors which tend to attract insiders.


In some niches, insiders make up the majority of consumers. Hobby-related businesses, collectors or the arts are all examples of this.


In other industries, the mainstream consumers dominate. While many people will identify themselves by the fact they drive a Ford or a Holden, there’s no similar sentimental attachment to laundry detergents.


A similar phenomenon can sometimes be found in B2B sales. An auto manufacturer, for example, will (hopefully) have more internal expertise in evaluating auto parts than they would in evaluating the quality of catering companies.


The distinction between insiders and mainstream consumers has major implications for many areas of your business.


Insiders are likely to look for different features than mainstream consumers. Customer service or support geared for mainstream consumers can seem patronising to insiders.


You are likely to get very different feedback from market research on insiders than you would from mainstream consumers. And while specialist websites or magazines can be really effective at reaching an insider audience, they can be less effective in reaching the mainstream.


So it’s time to take a moment to reflect on your industry and ask yourself a few key questions. Are there many insiders in your industry? Which type of consumer are you targeting? Do you gear up you marketing, sales, product design and market research to insiders or the mainstream? And how effective are your current strategies in doing so?


Get it done – today!


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