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What the Charedim Taught Me About Marketing

As happens from time to time, I was recently invited to speak at an event for entrepreneurs. Once we got past my super slick response to "What is your speaking fee?" with "You mean you're actually going to PAY ME?" (which won't happen again - learning opportunity!) we got down to business regarding the audience and what they're looking to learn.

It's important to me, when speaking, to engage with the people who have dedicated their time and attention to attend. Since I generally address entrepreneurs, and often audiences comprised largely of women, these people are busy.

They gave up an hour to hear me speak, and undoubtedly that means they sacrificed something else - an hour to work on a proposal, return a potential client phone call, bake wretched parve cupcakes for the end of the year preschool party, invoice the previous months' accomplishments, etc.

I am terrible at being a talking-head; I'd much rather deliver an interactive, tailored experience than drone on and vaguely gesture toward PowerPoint slides. Likely stemming from my tendency to get bored quickly at conferences, my goal is to give each person a practical, immediate takeaway from the session. This style usually results in only getting about halfway through my presentation because I'm busy fielding relevant, tachliss questions from the audience. Which suits me just fine.

Responsibly, the conference organizer had one due date for the topic, another for the title and bio, and a final for the PowerPoint deck. (When did we start calling it a deck, rather than a presentation? Decks are for hanging hammocks and sipping cabernet.)

Never one to miss a deadline - I'm a yekke after all - I submitted my presentation and figured I would hear neither hide nor hair until the conference.

But I did.

I got censored.

See, when walking through Content Marketing 101 (I promise the actual talk has a better title) I illustrate my points by "marketing" a made-up personal fitness trainer. And as we all know, PPT decks require attractive visuals to keep the audience's attention. So as I discuss strategy, target audience, voice and branding, I introduce three different fitness trainers and discuss their brands.

Try to find pictures of these people fully dressed. Go ahead and try. I'll wait.

Failed, didja? Yeah, me too.

I include these pictures in the presentation to illustrate varying brands marketing the exact same service but doing so in different methods and styles, appealing to different audiences. I use them as examples of resonating with a particular audience.

But the audience for this particular conference is Charedi women. And I thought about that before I submitted my deck. I really did. I switched out this picture

for this one

because it made the same point (admittedly in a less amusing manner) without referring to pop culture icons that most of us are familiar with - but this audience is not. So here I am thinking that my deck is all kinds of kosher, but apparently I was wrong. It wasn't mehadrin, so the pictures had to go.

And I got my back up.

It's my presentation.

They're not even compensating me, I should be able to use whatever pictures I want.

Puh-leez, it's not like they're naked pics or anything. Relax!

So I pushed back on the organizer. Gently. Surely Charedi women have seen women's arms before? Surely they can handle a bit of female skin, surrounded by a female audience, listening to a female speaker? And the wise organizer said "They can and do see women's arms. But it's a matter of making them feel comfortable. It's a matter of speaking their language so they can focus on the message."

Those three short, kind sentences hit me like a ton of bricks. I use that exact same phrasing in my presentation. "Speak the customer's language," I quip, smugly. When writing web copy for a digital marketing agency, I advised "If your customer speaks food, be bacon. If they speak numbers, be calculus." And here I am, arguing against my own advice!

No time to punch myself in the face, even though I deserve it. I revised my presentation and now the slide looks like all three trainers are going to church:

Thank you, kind Conference Organizer, for forcing me (gently!) to take my own marketing advice.

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