Targeting the centripetal demographic

Previously, I wrote about why selling to local small businesses is extremely difficult. I used different words at the time to describe it in that post, but I since began using more descriptive words to describe the two demographics that I discovered back then.

“Centripetal” means drawing towards the center. I describe people who are drawn toward the center of techological growth as centripetal. These people are active on social media, rely on the internet for both work and leisure, and generally just are more connected with other centripetal people.

“Centrifugal” means repelling from the center. I describe people who ignore technological growth as centrifugal. These people are the reason why we still use snail mail and fax. Unlike how centripetal people are highly connected with other centripetal people, centrifugal people are not necessarily connected with other centrifugal people. They’re less likely to be connected at all, really.

If you’re a new entrepreneur, you should know that you will only succeed by solving problems that people have. However, it’s only easy to validate problems when you discuss them with centripetal people. Centripetal people are more likely to seek optimizations and maximize their bottom line. They’ll be much more excited to talk to you. Centrifugal people are just clocking in and out daily. They don’t care enough to talk to you.

As a new entrepreneur, you should seek the centripetal rather than centrifugal.

I’d like to take a moment to share a real-life example, local small businesses. Local small businesses oftentimes have shitty websites. That’s crazy because it’s so fast, easy, and cheap to have a beautiful website today. I used to think that a shitty website was a sign that a lot of value can be delivered for the shitty website’s owner if you provided simple modern tech alternatives. I was wrong. A shitty website, I eventually learned, was a signal that the business owner is centrifugal. Centrifugal people don’t care about keeping up with technology. Their shitty website does what it needs to do. Responsive? Easy on the eyes? User-friendly? Fuck that shit. It works, and they won’t change their shitty website or any of their expensive antiquated processes.

Have you ever been to a restaurant with awesome food and terrible processes and wondered, “Wow, they’re so inefficient! Why don’t they fix their processes and technology? Can’t they make much more money that way?” Restaurant owners tend to be centrifugal. They don’t give a shit about their shitty processes. Yes, they COULD make more money by following your centripetal advice, but they don’t have centripetal goals. And no, they won’t talk to you about your obviously-much-better restaurant POS app.

So I moved on from local small businesses and decided to go to more progressive spaces. I pitched a few value propositions for web startups. Unfortunately, that didn’t go so well. When I realized that selling to tech SMBs and enterprise is hard as well, I realized that even a modern web startup is a bit centrifugal. The busier and larger a company is, the more centrifugal it likely is. Larger and busier means less mobile. Centripetal is mobile, because you’re always on top of each optimization and each technological improvement. Centrifugal is sticking with the suboptimal because you’re too immobile to improve.

So, for at least the next few weeks, one strategy I’ll use is to target very, very small web startups. Web is generally very centripetal. Very small should be even more centripetal.

If you enjoyed this post or would like to give me any feedback at all, I'd love to hear from you! You can tweet me at @dillonforrest or email me at dillonforrest@gmail.com. It'd make me super happy to hear from you!