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  • Writer's pictureChris Peterson

Activate New Markets by Thinking Like Your Customers

Updated: Mar 27


plant growing from pile of change signifying business growth
Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

Your customers do not reflect your market - they reflect your business and how your business thinks, including the values you project. So, to a large degree, your market is defined by something you control.


You can choose to make your market bigger, and it won’t cost you a cent. You just have to think like customers who aren’t buying from you today - and create a new fit for them by understanding their values. This strategy delivers breakthrough growth because it abandons traditional methods of defining markets. Here’s why:


When businesses want to learn about their customers, they often look at customer profiles from databases. They may run surveys or hire consultants to develop customer “segmentation” to identify different groups of customers. The problem is that all of this work defines your market as people buying from you today. Customer analysis defining your market is self-perpetuating. The way to break out of this is to think about your business fitting with people not buying from you - and create a new fit that appeals to their values.


I focus on egalitarian (loosely correlated to liberal) and positional (loosely correlated to conservative) customer values in this blog, but values can also include regional and generational values. But thinking about customers as egalitarian or positional offers a logical starting point because it’s less complicated and powerful.


Example: Growth From New Market Value Alignment


I’ve been working with a few well-known companies to understand who customers are and if there is a much larger market opportunity. In every case, there is clear evidence for thinking differently about the market to make it bigger and more efficient using a market value approach.


In one case, the customer analysis revealed a strong egalitarian skew, reflecting how the business presented itself on its website and in communications. Yet when we applied the same value analysis to the customers responding to marketing campaigns, positional customers cost far less to acquire - 40% less! There just weren’t as many of them because the company’s default value setting - projecting egalitarian values - was acting like a brake on growth with the positional half of the market.


These positional customers who were responding wanted the product so much that they bought it despite how the company was projecting its values. In this case, the opportunity is to create a test segment targeting more positional customers using basic positional values in the marketing content.


So, how can you apply this kind of thinking? Here’s an easy way to explore this strategy for your business in 2024 in the next few minutes.


Activate New Markets - Get Started at No Cost in Ten Minutes


We use some sophisticated tools for performing value analysis on businesses, but there are ways you can do this yourself at no cost to get a sense of how it might work.


An essential enabler for this strategy is AI because AI allows you to look at your business, products, and communications more dispassionately. Even more importantly, AI helps you see your business through a market value lens, which is the way customers look at your business.


Here’s how it works: You have an AI model learn your business using your website, and then determine what value skew you might have today. This can reveal your business's “default value settings” and spark growth ideas.


“Train” AI On Your Business


The first step is to have AI learn your business in a simple way, including how you talk about your products. I’ll use Nike as an example here to illustrate the process.


Here’s a simple prompt for this first “training” step. Just replace “Nike” with your company’s name when you apply this to your business:


Take a look at the company Nike by looking at their website, www.nike.com. Learn how they talk about their products.

Your AI model should feed back a basic summary of the products and language.


Identify Skews in Steps


Now, you want to get a sense of the presence of an egalitarian vs. positional skew in your business using your website. In our experience, AI models appear to be trained to be politically neutral, which is not a bad thing. But we’re not interested in politics but in growing a business. So, if you use words like “egalitarian” and “positional,” it won’t work. You’ll get something highly qualified as a response.


A better approach is focusing on core values distinguishing egalitarian and positional customers without using “egalitarian” or “positional” in the language. For this exercise, I’ll choose three sets of these values to show you how this works: Interdependence vs. Structured, Exploration vs. Familiarity, and Social Status vs. Hierarchical Status. The first value in each pair is egalitarian, and the second is positional.


Here’s the first prompt you can use to understand any skew. Just replace “Nike” with your company name. Take this step after you give it the simple training prompt above that asks it to look at your website:


When you look at how Nike describes its products, does the language focus more on interdependence, or does it communicate in a way that promotes structure and hierarchy? Give me the answer in three sentences.

Here’s the response:


Nike's product language tends to focus more on interdependence rather than promoting structure and hierarchy. Their messaging emphasizes community, teamwork, and the collective experience of athletes and sports enthusiasts. The brand's narrative centers around empowerment, inclusivity, and the shared journey of achieving athletic excellence, appealing to a wide and diverse audience.

So far, Nike projects a value that will appeal to more egalitarian customers. Now, let’s try the second pair of values:


When you look at how Nike describes its products, does the language focus more on the exploration of new things, or does it communicate in a way that promotes more familiar things? Give me the answer in three sentences.

Here’s the answer:


Nike's product descriptions lean more towards exploring new things, focusing on innovation and advancement in their products. Their language highlights cutting-edge technology, new designs, and progressive ideas in sports gear and apparel. This approach aligns with a narrative that encourages customers to engage with the latest athletic performance and style developments. For more detailed insights, you can visit Nike's website at Nike.com.

Again, the appeal is more for egalitarian customers. Now, let’s try the third pair of values:


When you look at how Nike describes its products, does the language focus more on achieving social status or a type of hierarchical status? Give me the answer in three sentences.

Here is the answer:


Nike's product language primarily focuses on performance, innovation, and the individual's athletic journey, rather than directly promoting social or hierarchical status. Their messaging is more about empowering the individual athlete, encouraging personal achievement and self-improvement through sports. The emphasis is on breaking personal barriers and achieving goals, appealing to a broad audience with a focus on personal growth and community rather than status. For more detailed insights, you can visit Nike's website at Nike.com.

So, with this third pair of values, the answer comes back “neither.” What’s interesting here is that “empowering the individual, encouraging personal achievement and self-improvement” touches on several shared values discussed in this newsletter - core American values, which can be used to appeal to both groups.

Now, let’s assume you work at Nike, you’re more egalitarian yourself, and you conclude that your communications project mostly egalitarian values. You want to see if more positional customers will respond better if the language aligns with their values.


Here’s a prompt that can generate a test message:


Give me sample marketing content that shows how Nike could talk about its products in a way that invokes some level of hierarchy (without being heavy-handed) when talking to customers. Give me the example marketing content in three sentences.

Here’s the response:


Join the ranks of champions with Nike's elite gear. Elevate your game with our latest technology, designed for those who aim for the top. Step into a legacy of greatness, where every athlete is empowered to surpass their limits.

Note two things here. First, there isn’t anything controversial about this marketing copy. It won’t land Nike in the news headlines because it angered people. It simply applied a basic positional value to products to appeal more to that half of the national market. Second, this entire exercise can take just ten minutes - it’s easy with AI. Imagine combing through Nike’s website to perform your analysis - it would take hours and may not be as dispassionate.


The three sets of values I used may or may not work for your business, although they are general. Here are a few more values you can find in related blog posts if you want to try others (there are more):

  • Good and Evil

  • Visual Styles

  • Certainty

  • Empathies

  • Fear

  • Winning

  • Influences

  • Self-Image


This simple exercise won’t cost you anything and is fast. Yet the results may spark a significant idea around activating new markets to achieve business growth. It’s just the starting point, but it will get you going. When you do, you will immediately see how to create a stronger fit with markets not buying from you today.


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