Many people incorporate diversity into their marketing; their proce­dures; and their hiring practices because it’s required to get government contracts, or because it’s the “right” thing to do.

You can make a strong case for doing so for either of these reasons. But there’s another, equally important reason: it makes good business sense.

In fact, there are many different types of diversity: cultural, racial, gender, and language, to name just a few. This month, we’ll talk about another kind you may not have considered: educational diversity – targeting and communicating with your customers not on the basis of any of the commonly addressed factors, but instead based on the type and level of their education.

Your customers may have done postdoctoral work in a very specific discipline of chemistry, or may not have even finished high school. They may have taken specialized technical training, or done research in the Australian Outback.

And of course, formal education is not always an accurate indicator of intelligence. We all know people who were straight-A students in school but have no commonsense whatsoever. We also know people who can’t comprehend physics, but are able to play the piano by ear without any formal training. And still others who may not be artistically inclined but may be extremely articulate. Your customers may exhibit a fairly broad spectrum of intelligence with areas of both strengths and weaknesses.

You can make a serious mistake by underestimating or overestimating the level and type of your customers’ intelligence. For example, placing an ad for artist supplies using long-winded, verbose copy would probably not connect well with that audience. Neither would describe the applicable principles of electrical engineering when describing the features of a circuit breaker in an electrical supply catalog.

I remember a call I made to Microsoft technical support sev­eral years back to ask a question about a fairly complicated graph I was trying to create. I listened in amazement as the technical sup­port representative gradually began to explain what I needed to do in increasingly higher and higher lev­els of technical complexity. It was as if she was recognizing without actually asking that I was technically competent (my undergraduate degree is in computer science) and that I was able to grasp what she was explaining.

This made the call go much more smoothly because she didn’t have to explain what to do in “baby-step” terms: “Now do you see the menu item called ‘File’? Move the mouse to that word and press the left button. Great!” She was able to successfully complete the call much more quickly, and I didn’t feel like she was being condescending as I frequently do on calls like this.

This is why it’s important to train your marketing staff to rec­ognize a target market’s level of ex­pertise and adjust their interaction with that market to reflect this.

If you take the time to understand your customers – to identify their unique attributes and tailor your products and services to these characteristics – you will be far ahead of your competitors who take a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Everybody is different, but we all want to feel special and appreciated. The businesses that understand this and make the extra effort to demonstrate it will stand out from the crowd every time.