I recently applied for the TSA Pre-Check security clearance. As part of the process you visit a TSA office in person, provide the proper paperwork and answer a few questions. One of the questions they ask while you are there is “What color is your hair?” I said “brown.” The TSA agent looked at me and then keyed into the system “Grey to partial grey.”

Are you kidding me? If my hair is “grey to partial grey” it’s BECAUSE of the TSA! He made a cursory glance, saw ONE grey hair (okay, maybe more than one) and then assumed the rest of the answer.

But do credit union and bank employees do the same with our target audiences? In other words, do we make assumptions based on one minor (or potentially false) detail?

For example, we assume everyone who is older than 55 does not need a loan so we automatically try to cross-sell them a deposit product. Or we assume one person in the family is the financial decision maker and only talk to them. Or we assume only females are on Pinterest so we don’t market to men using that channel.

Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions. Do you assume characteristics about your target audiences? Do you give them grey hair when in fact they mostly have brown hair?

Marketers like to lump people into neat fitting boxes. There are generational boxes such as Matures, Boomers and Millenials. There are income boxes such as upscale, middle market and low-income depositor. There are racial boxes such as Hispanic, African-American and Asian.

However, assigning broad characteristics to particular groups is dangerous. No one wants to be stereotyped. Everyone is unique and everyone is different. The best way to reach consumers is to get to know them. Their individual traits, desires and dreams.

One of the best things your sales staff and marketing professionals can do is to engage consumers in conversations and get to know them. So stop marketing stereotypes and start engaging in conversations.

Of course, when I think of the TSA I’m not sure I want to have any more conversations with their agents. I’ve already been to second base with them a number of times.