The competition for resources is getting quite tough throughout the Puget Sound. Prices across the board are going up – home values, property taxes, the cost of doing business, even the price of a burrito. So we decided, last May, to totally uproot our lives in Seattle, and move to the Willamette Valley. And since getting down here in November, I have had to really readjust my expectations. Money is worth a lot more here (great!) but the quality of what you get for it is not always what I have come to expect. And the reality of that disconnect between feeling like I got a good deal on something that wasn’t quite what I wanted is due to me not being representative of the intended audience.

Here’s a benign example: we went to a strip-mall sushi joint, here in Salem. I was not expecting anything mind-blowing, but I

AgeDashi Tofu

Real agedashi tofu! More ingredients than “tofu”!

had read positive reviews and hoped it would be a quality of american-style sushi which is better than what you get at a high-end grocery store. And we were relatively pleased with the sushi itself – the rolls were tight, the sashimi was fresh, and the rice was good. But – we ordered agedashi tofu, which was just awful. It matched the description (“fried tofu”) but had no relation to the actual dish agedashi tofu. What we got was a lot more like tofu tod – the dish you order at thai restaurants which is JUST fried cubed tofu. There was a significant disconnect between the restaurant and its audience. I would venture to say that I have eaten an order of magnitude more agedashi tofu than the typical diner at a Salem strip-mall sushi joint. And for the restaurant’s normal audience, that fried tofu might be absolutely delightful. But since I am not their audience, and I was expecting more than fried tofu, I was super disappointed.

Now – in relation to the professional world, this manifests in various ways. I recently was contacted by a social media promoter here in the valley. I am not an expert by any means in social promotion – it certainly has its place, and can be really useful for consumer-focused “discretionary” businesses. (Bars or skydiving schools need social promotion, more so than data analytics firms or consultants.) This promoter has a unique selling proposition, due to the naivete of the market in the Willamette Valley. And he may in fact know his audience quite well. But I am not it. The reason I know that, right off the bat, is because he uses an email address. I can say that, to me, is a surefire way to not be taken seriously, no matter what your business is. But apparently the audience he’s working with doesn’t feel the same way, because he’s got clients.

I see a disconnect between storyteller and audience in other professional situations as well. At a fundraising dinner recently, the local speaker struggled to articulate the mission of his organization. Everyone in attendance wanted to be there, and knew enough about the org to cut him lots of slack. However, he was upstaged significantly by the speaker who’d traveled from Portland to be there. The local storyteller thought the audience didn’t need engaging because they were already supporters. Had he done a better job of inspiring the audience, I venture to guess the paddles would have been raised more enthusiastically, and for more money.