- by Don
What if I told you that—especially if you’re just starting a business—there’s one thing you can do that will help you get more clients than any other strategy? And what if that thing was so counterintuitive that most people choose to ignore it? Well, such a thing exists. And if you adopt it and apply it, it will help you grow your business more easily. What is that one thing I’m talking about? It is picking and choosing a well defined target market.
There is great power in choosing a well defined target market. Yet, most people tend to avoid choosing a target market for their business. They feel that defining a target market is too limiting; they feel that putting a stake in the ground and declaring who they serve means they are excluding too many potential clients. But sadly, by not focusing on a clear target market, instead of attracting clients, these business owners come across as plain, unexciting, watered down… and maybe even desperate. So how can they fix this?By the end of this post, you will walk away with the knowledge of the benefits of having a target market, how to choose your target market, and what to do next if you’re facing a roadblock in your decision. Essentially, I walk you through step-by-step on how to choose your target market.
The Power of a Target Market
So why is a target market so important? According to Book Yourself Solid®, there are three advantages to having a well defined target market:
But isn’t having a target market too exclusionary?
When I coach my clients to select a target market, most (or more accurately, all) of them initially push back. “But wait!” they ask, “If I have a target market, aren’t I excluding a huge segment of potential sales?” The answer to that is, “Yes… and no!”
Having a target market does not mean you must only work with people in your target market! If someone outside your target market asks to work with you, and you think they would be someone good to work with, then by all means work with them!
Having a target market does not mean you must only work with people in your target market!
Think of it this way: Having a target market means you know where to prospect for potential new clients when you need prospects. It doesn’t mean that you only work with people in your target market.
But, this does not mean you should water yourself down to fit whoever you’re talking to at the moment. I get it… this can be hard to do! But here’s the thing: if you’re too generic, you don’t stand out, people may question your claims, and there’s no compelling reason for people to consider working with you.
I often joke that if you say, “I help people...” it just doesn’t resonate. Even people who desperately need your services just don’t see themselves as your potential clients. But if you say, “I help left-handed balding men in their forties who wear glasses…” just about anyone you meet will respond, “Wait! You need to talk to my cousin/friend/neighbor…” It’s uncanny how when you describe your market, people will either self identify in that market, or think of people in your market that you should meet. By describing a specific client type, people will automatically think of who they know that matches that description including themselves!).
(Full disclosure: “left-handed balding men in their forties who wear glasses” probably isn’t really a good target market unless you know where they hang out and how they communicate. But this story does illustrate how being specific can attract your audience.)
When I go to a networking event, I often look out across the group and wonder, “How many of these people are potential RVers?” And then I’m tempted to introduce myself as a “small business coach” or something generic like “I help small businesses get more clients.”
And then I remember what I’ve learned from years of experience:
You know those networking groups where you get to stand up and deliver your elevator pitch before going into an informal networking session?
Well, I’ve found that if I go with a generic description that might appeal to a high percentage of the people there, it’s rare for someone to go out of their way to talk to me.
On the other hand, if I stick to my target market and say something like, “I typically work with mid- to late-career corporate professionals who want to replace their income so they can leave their soul sucking job and spend more time RVing,” then I’m likely to have several people seek me out during the informal session.
They tend to say things like, “Hey! That’s me!” or “You should talk to my neighbor. He’s always talking about wanting to RV Full Time.” Or even, “Wow! That’s pretty specific. How does that work?” And then as we talk, they’ll often say something like, “I’d love to leave my soul sucking job and start my own business, but I don’t really want to go RVing. Can you still help me?” If they seem like a good client, then of course I’ll answer “Yes!” Just because they don’t fit in my target market of RV dreamers, by all means it doesn’t mean I can’t work with them.
It’s like this: If you’re fishing for trout, but a bass falls out of the sky and lands in your basket, would you keep it? If you like bass, why not?
Go small to go big
Do you understand how being specific can actually draw potential clients to you?
If you’re still having doubts, think about how many clients you need. Do you need to land every small business owner in New York City to make a decent living? Or do you just need a few clients a month? Most likely, a few clients a month will be more than enough to meet your income goals.
Once you realize that you can’t serve the whole world by yourself, it becomes easier to focus on who you can help. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a large pond.
When talking about target markets, I’m often reminded of my family vacations from when I was growing up. We had a small pop-up camper, and we camped in the Great Smoky Mountains every summer. We’d usually camp a few days in either Elkmont or Cades Cove, spend a night or two in Gatlinburg (which I later realized was so my parents could have a nice bath or shower), and then spend a few nights on the North Carolina side, usually in Deep Creek campground.
On the North Carolina side, there was a trout farm not far from the park entrance, and one of our family traditions was to go there and let my brother and me catch trout for our dinner.
If you’re not familiar with trout farms, they have small ponds stocked with lots of trout. It seems like it only takes about 10 to 15 seconds from when the hook hits the water until you’ve caught a fish. It’s a great experience for active kids who don’t have the patience to sit still for long periods of time waiting for a bite!
Now think about this… if you need to catch a couple of fish for dinner, where’s the best place to fish? Should you fish in the trout farm, which maybe only has a few hundred fish in the pond? Or should you fish in the ocean, where there are more than 3.5 trillion fish?
It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, than to be a small fish in a large pond.
At first glance, you might think your odds are better where there are more fish. Yet the trout pond is fairly small, maybe a few hundred square feet, while the ocean covers almost 140 million square miles! And even if you like fishing in the ocean, you don’t just start casting into the water. You’d likely choose what kind of fish you’re after, go to a spot where that type of fish hangs out, and choose your bait to match the fish’s eating habits. Sounds kind of like choosing a target market, doesn’t it?
Choosing a Target Market
If you’re struggling to book clients, it’s likely that you either:
- Haven’t picked a target market; or
- Picked the wrong target market
Many people make the mistake of picking a target market based on where they think the money is. So then they end up with a target market that doesn’t resonate with them. As a result, they are likely to end up procrastinating about showing up in their target market because… well, let’s face it… it isn’t fun. It feels like work. And it is.
Another common mistake is picking a target market in which you don’t know anyone. If you don’t already know people in your target market, you’ll need to grow a network in your new target market. While that can certainly be done, it takes time.One common attitude I see is that when people leave a job, they want to get as far away from it as possible, and they discount using their network from that job to create a target market. For example, I’ve known several attorneys who, when they started a new business, wanted to work with anyone but attorneys. The reality, however, is that they weren’t escaping attorneys when they left their job, they were escaping the conditions attorneys are subjected to. And once they embraced attorneys as their market, and created value for those attorneys (which sometimes meant helping other attorneys leave their jobs, too), their businesses really took off!
How to choose a target market
Here's a quick and easy way to determine what your target market is. You need to ask yourself questions about the kinds of people you relate to, examine your own passions, then find a blend between the two.
Ask yourself questions
Start off by asking yourself question related to the kinds of people you've enjoyed working with in the past, people you want to work with, and the people you currently know.
Use questions such as:
Think about your knowledge, passion, and talents
Take it a step further by looking within. Think about your knowledge, passions, talents, hobbies. etc. What are they?
Use questions such as:
Merge the answers together
Once you've answered the above questions, try to combine top answers from both sets of questions.
For example, if you are a former hairdresser who is passionate about kids, your target market might be hairdressers who specialize in children’s cuts.
Or if you are an accountant and grew up in a family with a construction business, you might target construction accountants.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed as you work through this process, so really helps to approach it playfully. Make it a game and have fun trying on different possibilities. And remember, your target market isn’t 100% cast in stone. If you pick a market and discover that you don’t like it, or it’s not working out, you can always change to a new target market.
Further guidance in choosing your target market
Are you thinking about creating a new business? Or do you have a business, but aren’t meeting your revenue goals? Either way, picking the right target market is incredibly valuable in attracting more clients.
I hope this guide helps in getting you starting choosing your target market for your business. If you need customized guidance for your target market, then you're in luck: I'm offering a FREE new service that will help you!
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