What you’re really doing is selling apples to audiences

by Carl Natale on November 30, 2010

AppleOne of my favorite family games is Apples to Apples. It consists of two decks of cards:

  • Green cards have adjectives on each, and red cards have nouns.
  • Players hold several red cards.
  • The dealer lays out a green card on the table.
  • Each player, except for the dealer, tries to match a noun in their hand to the adjective on the table.
  • The dealer chooses the best match and gives the green card to the winning player.
  • A new dealer puts a green card on the table.
  • The player with the most green cards wins the game.

For example, the dealer may lay out a card that says “Fascinating.” He or she has to pick the best match among:

  • Opera
  • Burger and fries
  • Paul McCartney
  • Peace and love

Which would you pick? Now suppose the dealer is a teenage boy. Which would he pick?

The key to winning this game is figuring out which noun “the best match” according to someone who has different values than you have. So the only way you’re going to win that example round is if you play “Burger and fries.” If the dealer is his grandfather, maybe you will do better by playing the opera card.

What does this have to do with your business?

Like I said, the key is understanding your audience. You need to craft a message (the red card) that explains how you can solve their problems (the green cards).

You’re going to have more than one audience

Niche marketing is about selling a solution to a specific problem. You may have different audiences with that problem. So you need to match your messages to those audiences.

Sometimes you have nothing

Sometimes it’s going to take a stretch of the imagination to match anything in your hand to what’s on the table. Either you can throw away a card or try to argue the point. Arguing is the fun part.

I’m not saying you need to argue with your audiences. But starting a conversation when you don’t have the solutions to their problems is a solid strategy. You will learn a lot. Maybe you both will find out you’re a better match than initially thought.

Then there is pandering

In the game, there is a certain bit of pandering. And by “certain bit” I mean it’s totally necessary to play the card that doesn’t match your values.

In life and business, there’s a certain bit of pandering. This time there’s just a little. Yes it seems like a solid strategy to making sales. But is that how you really want to live your life?

If you’re forced to consistently forsake your values, you’re not going to be successful.


By persuading the dealer your card is the best match for his adjective, you are selling your apples to an audience. The key is recognizing that your audience has a different perspective than you do. Then craft your message in terms the audience can understand and agree to.

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