Believe it or not, my career started selling restaurant coupons door-to-door. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s true. When I was 22, fresh out of college, I wanted to move to Massachusetts, so I did. But I had no job. Forced by the reality of paying bills, I settled for a job pushing restaurant coupons door-to-door. The job was 100% commission-based. If I had a good day, I went grocery shopping. If I had a bad day, I ate whatever was cheapest at McDonald’s. I learned many things during the four months I hustled, but what stuck with me most was what I learned about personas. I didn’t call it that in those days, but they were buyer personas, nonetheless.
After a couple of weeks on the job, I started to see patterns — neighborhoods where I’d make a lot of money, and ones where I’d make almost nothing. It wasn’t densely populated areas with lots of stay at home moms. It wasn’t retirement communities. It wasn’t even neighborhoods that had lots of mansions. It was a busy downtown with a police station, fire station and bank. I could make more in one hour visiting those three places than I could walking the other areas for six hours. Police officers hated the idea of me walking in unfamiliar neighborhoods alone. I leveraged their concern for my safety to sell more coupons. At the fire station, there were always hungry (mostly) men, who were generally a little bored with down time between calls, happy to indulge a young woman in a flirty chat. And bankers fully appreciated a good bargain and always had several people more than willing to part with their money for a good deal.
By accident, I had discovered personas. Crude, incomplete, not well researched personas, but buying signals nonetheless. And this is something that has stuck with me throughout my entire career.
We tend to spend far too much time chasing people who don’t need or desire our offering. Instead, focus on those to whom you can make a real connection and you’ll find your productivity soar.