“Yeah, the woman down the road is stupid about her garbage. She leaves her trash cans out, and then the bears come…”
A family friend who has a house in Massachusetts about 2.5 hours from NYC made this comment to me a few years ago, when I was staying there.
At the time, my jaw dropped to the floor.
Because – BEARS?!?!
I don’t do bears.
Though I come from a rural area in the UK that looks somewhat similar to Massachusetts – North Wales, to be precise – never in my life would I expect to meet a BEAR in my rambles around the British countryside.
And this story quickly turned into one where – whenever I told it – I would immediately know if my listener had spent much time in the USA.
Because the response of most British people, when they heard the tale, usually resembled my own at the time.
“WHAT? Bears?! Seriously? So close to New York? By a TOWN?”
“Yes, yes,” I would say. “And have you ever seen a raccoon??? I’ve seen a few of them at night on the street where I live in Brooklyn too!!!!”
Americans, on the other hand, when they heard my story, would nod along until I got to the end of it, and then keep gazing expectantly at me as if they were waiting for me to reach my point.
“Yeah,” they’d say, looking a little puzzled. “That happens here. You don’t have bears in the UK?”
Let me tell you, people, Wales is a country with 3 million people living in it, and nearly 9 million sheep.
Of COURSE we don’t have bears.
We’re outnumbered 3 to 1 by sheep, and we don’t have the space for much else.
(Though there *are* some British environmentalists who think that the sheep have enjoyed their reign of terror for too long, and that we need to “re-wild” Britain by bringing in at least a few wolves…)
Basically, then, I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be able to tell this story for laughs or even for much of a reaction at dinner parties in the USA.
Because nobody got it.
And nobody thought that bears being in such close proximity to a house was anything to get excited about.
As a result, I now either adapt the tale in ways that my US pals can appreciate, or I just save it for my friends in the UK (who continue to react with wonder and incredulity. Thanks, guys!)
And that’s why, as a business owner, you really need to understand your audience.
Who they are. What they know. Where they come from.
Otherwise, if your perspective isn’t lined up with theirs, you run the risk of failing to connect with them.
What about you?
Do you have any stories that you thought would be funny but that didn’t, err, go over so well, because your audience wasn’t on the same page as you? Share them below — no judgment. Honest. ?
And remember, if you need any help aligning your stories and language with your audience’s desires and language, I’m here for you…
(As long as your stories have nothing to do with bears, of course.)
p.s. Download my 4’P’s of Personality-packed Copy for more advice on how to speak to your audience in a way makes your ideal customers think “Ooh, yes! A business that finally gets me!”