I have a problem. I’m an introvert. I’m not shy. I’m not afraid of being in public. But I am horrible at chit-chat and gossip. If I spend an evening at a social function with people I don’t know or don’t like, I get home and feel like I’ve spent all day at the ocean. It’s that fighting-the-waves and drained-by-the-sun kind of tired. I would rather spend four hours with my head stapled to the carpet. I would be more comfortable that way.
That’s me. Absolutely. I do enjoy meeting new people and spending time with friends, but the minutiae of socializing does not come naturally to me. If you’re an extrovert, you are probably thinking, “What is her problem? You just talk. About anything. It’s easy.”
I have found that introverts and extroverts have a Mars-Venus thing going on. It’s hard for an extrovert to get inside the mind of an introvert and understand where they are coming from. This article by Jonathan Rauch explains it better than I ever could (and might help you understand the introverts in your life better). We’re just hard-wired differently.
This got me to thinking about whether marketers might need to take a different approach to be more effective in reaching introverts, who make up 25-40% of the general population (but 60% of the gifted population!). That percentage is large enough to think about taking the needs of introverts into account in your marketing, even if you are not trying to specifically reach engineers, writers, researchers, lawyers, programmers, college faculty or Star Trek fans, all of whom are more likely to be introverts.
Here are some tips for marketing to introverts (or just dealing with my people effectively):
- Use e-mail, blogs, message boards and other asynchronous online methods of communicating that allow an introvert to take time to think about what to say, then write and edit a thoughtful response.
- Be aware when you are conducting research, such as focus groups or interviews, that introverts think carefully about what they are going to say before it comes out of their mouths. If you do not give them enough time to think about their answer, you will miss out on their insights. Use a minimum 5-second rule of silence after asking a question or between other people’s questions to give the introverts a chance to respond before you move on.
- Do not expect an immediate purchase or change to be made once you have laid out your case. Introverts need time to process information before making a decision, and will wait until we are sure before letting you know. Don’t rush us or put us on the spot.
- Realize that introverts may have a few close friends, but not necessarily an extensive social network. We may not be comfortable recommending your product to others we don’t know well, but be very happy to have something to talk about with our best friends. You won’t see many introverts with thousands of “friends” on MySpace.
- Introverts hate small talk. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. And don’t make us say it again. And that means that you should also get to the point as quickly as possible.
- Introverts love to read, so give us written information we can look over and go back to as we think about it.
- Introverts may not tell you what we are thinking. Our innermost thoughts are private and not shared easily. Don’t assume that we agree with you just because we are being quiet. But if you give us an opportunity to give you asynchronous feedback once we’ve had a chance to think things over, we can provide lots of thoughtful comments.
- Introverts are great in one-on-one interactions, but we often clam up in group settings. If a lot of people are talking, we may not be able to get a word in edgewise, or we may feel that what we have to say does not add enough new or interesting content to the conversation and is not worth the effort of speaking up. We don’t like to interrupt others who are talking, and we don’t like to be interrupted.
- We like to operate independently, not as part of a team. Don’t force us to interact or compete with others in order to participate in your program.
- Introverts prefer to deal with people we already have a relationship with. Take the time to get to know us and let us get to know you. A blog is an excellent way for an introvert to become familiar with you over time and feel comfortable interacting with you.
- If you have a product or behavior you want an introvert to try out, let us go off and do it by ourselves rather than in front of someone. We will want to explore and make mistakes with it on our own before being comfortable with someone watching us.
- We learn best by watching and mentally rehearsing. Provide modeling of the skills we need to develop to be successful.
- Honor our need for privacy and personal space. Give us the option whether to self-identify as being part of your group or program – we might not want to reveal our participation.
- Because introverts are more internally motivated, we do not succumb easily to peer pressure or following trends. The fact that everyone else is doing something doesn’t necessarily make us want to do it.
I hope I didn’t come off as a curmudgeon, and I hope I am not making too many generalizations from my own experience assuming that most introverts feel the same way. If you are an introvert, please let me know if these tips ring true for you.
Most marketers and sales people are extroverts. Don’t forget about us introverts and you will be much more successful.
Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers! First candle is tonight.
UPDATE (12/18/06): Welcome to my thousands of Reddit visitors and fellow introverts! If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating to my ongoing campaign to raise money to fight modern-day slavery through the American Anti-Slavery Group (see sidebar widget on right). Give someone the gift of freedom this holiday season. Thanks!
Photo Credit: Introspectrum