Marketing to Introverts

Reading a post on the Businesspundit blog about networking for introverts (via lifehack), I had a major flash of recognition with the first paragraph:

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

Technorati Tags: , ,


  1. Scary.. I consider myself an introvert and you just described me to a tee. Great post.

  2. Marketing to introverts using blogs and messageboards? No thank you!!! Besides violating anti-spam rules, having someont interject advertising into a community is intrusive and annoying. My board has been banning several people a day who attempt this and the people most upset with this approach are the ones most likely to identify themselves as introverts. Your other points were excellent.

  3. What I had in mind was creating blogs or message boards as part of a campaign, not marketing within an already-existing online community.

  4. > Marketing to introverts using blogs and message boards? No thank you!!!

    I believe this was referring to creating blogs and message boards, not using them.

  5. My introvert boyfriend and I both exclaimed “that’s true!” simultaneously as I read a few of these… nice descriptions from an unexpected perspective.

    I particularly like the mention of working in groups… I remember it took me until my last year of high school to realize that other students really were happy when teachers assigned group work (dreaded punishment to me) and were horrified when assigned a big presentation (hooray!).

    Anyway, great post!


  6. I am also an introvert and realize that every single one of the points you made describes me. If everyone posting these comments were in one room discussing the article I would most likely not speak up because I wouldn’t want to interupt someone else or because I need time to come up with my response on my own. In this case, I can sit here and think about my response as long as I want. At work, if I need to ask someone in a different department a question I would much rather sit down and email them than actually get up and walk to their cubicle because it allows me to think about what I need to ask. As you said, its not because we’re shy or scared to talk to people. Its just how we’re wired. Nice Article!

  7. Wow. Those were bullets were dead on. They described me perfectly.

  8. I should have viewed my comment before I posted it. Oh well.

    *Those bullets were dead on.

  9. The perfect description of an introvert!

    I think I’ll have to show this to my wife. She finds my slow decision-making process teeth-gratingly irritating. She can’t understand why I take so long to make up my mind.

    Another couple of possible traits for introverts:

    1) Driven to just get things done, rather than to steal the limelight. So more likely to be the power behind the throne, organising things in the background.

    2) Willing to praise others rather than talk up their own achievements.

    3) Subversive. They don’t bend to peer pressure but that also means a tendency to not see group decisions as binding (especially if the discussion has been hijacked by someone loud or pushy). May just go ahead and do whatever they think needs to be done rather than follow the group decision blindly.


  11. One of the things I actually enjoy about being introverted is that marketers don’t try to market to us. Please don’t spoil the situation by making us into a target demographic.

  12. Oh, the irony! The comments thread is full of people crying out “I’m an introvert!”

    Guess what, I’m another one. And like the others, those points were all bang on.

  13. Thanks for posting this; I could really identify with most of your observations. It’s hard to deal with individuals who constantly “live for the moment” without any thought towards the weight of their comments or actions. It’s like, “have some self control, buddy.”

    I’d also like to think that introverts are slightly more courteous: in conversation we tend to listen to respond and not wait just to talk.

    Anyhow, thanks for your insight.

  14. Thank you to everyone for your many comments and confirmation of my ideas. I think this just goes to illustrate how ignored introverts are, when it’s a new phenomenon to have someone else understand and describe your daily experience of the world. Maybe we need an introvert support group. But then again, we’d all just sit around looking at each other and smiling, knowing that everyone knows just what we’re thinking without saying a word. 🙂

  15. This was good, and I agreed with a lot of it. However, I think you over generalize. Take a myers-briggs personality test sometime. I find those are incredibly accurate. Enough so that I am convinced their four dimensions of personality are pretty accurate.

    See, I am an introvert, but there are things on your list that clearly don’t apply to me. I will for instance, try something new in front of others. I will sing karaoke in bar. I don’t find those things scary. I am introverted, because I find smalltalk and all of the bullshit of social interaction to be tiring.

    This doesn’t mean I’m shy though. You say as much in your article. Not being willing to try new things in front of others indicates a shyness or lack of confidence. Believe it or not, one of the biggest extroverts I know is quite shy. She doesn’t like to do new things in front of others. She worries that they’ll judge her. However, she loves all kinds of social interaction and “jib-jabs” constantly. (jib-jab is my term for talking that isn’t meaningful communication)

  16. My advice is to stop using lies as marketing tool, we introverts see right through it. Also we see when companies are little greedy bastards, if your company is one, then forget marketing to us, you wont make a dime on us.

  17. Thank you for the interesting post. I think I have a better understanding of why my boyfriend does things ‘his way’ now and I will try not to get irritated just cuz it’s not how I normally would do things :o)

  18. I’m a so-called introvert and find it quite annoying. I’m coming to see it for what it actually is: social ineptitude. We don’t know how to relate to people in a passing, friendly way so we dress up the things we cannot do as smalltalk and “the bullshit of social interaction.” Which is nonsense, because it’s not meaningless, this thing called small talk. It’s a ‘yes’ to the notion of politeness, and a recognition of A.N. Other’s humanity. But we suck at it and hide behind excuse laden nonsense.

  19. Nedra, Enjoyed reading your post on introverts. It is the psychological equivalent of the righty/lefty thing:
    what can be so “right” for 90% of people can be so wrong for the other 10%. Thank you and happy holidays!

  20. > I’m a so-called introvert and find it quite annoying. I’m coming to see it for what it actually is: social ineptitude. We don’t know how to relate to people in a passing, friendly way so we dress up the things we cannot do as smalltalk and “the bullshit of social interaction.”….

    That’s not correct, an introvert does not get as much gratification from social interaction as an extrovert, which can cause them not to seek it out as much. It does not mean an introvert is inept in social situations, that is a separate problem.

  21. I used to do training on introversion/extroversion and one exercise we used to do was have them work in two groups on how they would spend an enjoyable weekend, writing their answers on flip charts.

    What was hilarious was not the content of their lists (pretty typical of both groups), but HOW they would interact. The extroverts would be screaming, yelling, interrupting each other, going off on tangents, etc.

    The introverts, on the other hand, would take turns with the pen, each quietly going to the flip chart, writing down one or two thoughts and then handing the pen to the next person. One or two people might quietly chat with the person next to them, but there was never the large group discussion we had with the extroverts.

    Pointing out those differences in process was always where the deeper learning took place. Extroverts finally GOT how differently the introverts function. Not that they RESPECTED it more, but they at least got it. :-0

  22. What are you doing??? I was glad that introverts are not easily reached by marketeers so they’d more or less leave us alone. Why give them the tools to reach us. I’d rather to be left alone and missed by marketing.

    Second: Introverts are not socially inept. I would rather say that extroverts actually have nothing in-depth to say in social situations . They like to talk about meaningless things which is uninteresting to most of us.
    Why is it accepted and “cool”. Why is it interesting to listen to people talking about music, football all day when the more interesting things in life that really matter such as science or politics are boring???

  23. Introverts are not socially inept they are not shy. It’s the extroverts that make us feel that way because they think it’s uncool to start a conversation with a simple “hello how are you”. Instead one has to break the ice by using smart one liners.

    Introverts rather shut up if they don’t know about the topic rather than extroverts who seem to have an opinion about everything…

  24. Excellent post, Nedra. (And I’m not just saying so because I happen to be an introvert, either…!)

    I’d add one more tip/characteristic, which I’ve learned to compensate for (although it still takes effort to do so).

    * Take introverts at their word. Introverts tend to use spoken words sparingly, and don’t tend to state and then restate or augment or embellish. They say it once…and move on. In their mind, the topic is covered.

    But sometimes I find that others — probably extroverts (!) — aren’t convinced of any given argument/topic/whatever unless the speaker states and restates, sometimes a few times. (Lather, rinse, repeat.)

    On the flip side, introverts have excellent hearing. : )

    They may not respond, but they can find those who “re-state” their points frustrating to deal with. As I tell my family, “I heard you twice the first time.”

  25. Ann –

    Good point you added. I come up against that as well, particularly when I am doing public speaking. I make my point, and once I’ve made it I need to remember not to just move on to the next point (because after all, what more is there to say?), but to spend more time giving examples or talking about other aspects of that point. I’m always frustrated when I listen to an hourlong talk that has only one or two important points surrounded by padding. That’s okay if the extra words support and enhance the points, but not when it’s basically saying the same thing over and over.

Submit a Comment