'Target market' is surely original marketing jargon.
Figuring out what you have to do to find someone to buy from you is at the heart of start-up angst. There are infinite books, blogs, articles and opinions that tell you to 'determine your target market' (fewer say 'how').
Can everyone buy from you?
Most small businesses are inclined, at least initially, to say, OK, target market, tick: Any male/ female over the age of 16. (Everyone can buy from me. There's nothing else like what I'm making. No competition.)
If this story sounds familiar, as things go, the next stage is when you perceive that this target market of everyone is quite annoyingly particular about price - you have to be the cheapest to get the business. You resign yourself to it. Discounting is a necessary evil to 'beat off the competition'.
Sometimes you get even more frustrated when long term customers go elsewhere because someone else offers the exact same thing you do, but the customer didn't realise. Maybe that creates pressure to offer even more deals, products and services.
Barely a trickle of leads
You're spending more and more money marketing, and there is barely a trickle of leads. Your email isn't generating sales. Why aren't people remembering you?
I just want 1% of this market!
It's getting harder and harder to win new customers. Where is this target market of everyone? You only want 1% of this market?! Surely that isn't too much to ask? You've got all this experience, history, quality product, and not enough of them are buying from you!
Facebook 'likes' are doing nothing to help
What good are all of those Facebook Likes anyway? No matter how much of your spare time you sacrifice to write content, not enough people are reading your blog (and not converting to buy?). So few people are sharing your Facebook pictures. Your website cost a small fortune, and the visitors are just bouncing after 30 seconds, and doing nothing more. Just what good are all the adwords?
You KNOW that people need what you do. They just aren't picking you.
If any of that sounds familiar, or just scary, you are not alone. And there is one screaming reason for all of it.
You are being far too general.
General, everyone, all things, too much, non-expert, average, ordinary. Ouch.
You can't possibly be that vanilla. Somewhere along the line you convinced yourself to 'play it safe', that 'it's what the customer wants'. Or some slippery fear has stood in the way of you figuring out what makes your business special. If you are just starting up, roll up your sleeves and work out a special thing to start from.
If you don't understand who your 'ideal customer' is, there is only so far you can go with your business.
Get specific. Pick your top 5 customers, and take a magnifying glass to them. What are the similarities between them? Find exactly what the customer wants, align it to the very special thing about what you do, and get good at just talking about that one thing. Sometimes you will have to explore a few different types of customer to find the sweet spot. You still do need something worth you getting out of bed everyday.
This is focus. Think of it as adding a telescopic lens, so that no matter how far away the right customer is, they can clearly and instantly recognise you as meeting their needs. And the idea is, that there is enough of this very specific customer to sustain your business. And you're going to attract as many of them as possible, as you are the one that meets their very specific needs.
OK, so that covers being specific, but do you really need to go as far as 'ideal'?
Once you have gotten specific, you need to be commercial about it. There is little point spending time and energy attracting customers that don't understand the value of what you make or do, and therefore, will expect to pay as little as possible. If you don't know what qualities a customer has that make them ideal for your business, you haven't got a good handle on spending money on marketing communications - whether it's where and how, what it looks like, or what it says.
You can't be relevant to everyone, but you can be bland to everyone. You want that spark that ignites that feeling of caring to know more, and if you can't demonstrate an understanding of what that specific customer needs, then you will ignite nothing. (For instance, don't be a tailor. Be the best at alterations overnight, for business women in the Midlands, who prefer to buy big brands, but can never get the perfect fit off the shelf.) With an ideal customer in mind, you'll communicate to a clear, real person, making what you say connect.
Without working out if a customer is good for your business, you won't know which ones you need to rather say 'no' to (scary!) because you will probably not meet their needs well enough, and you won't be able to make the right kind of profit. Is this what you are doing everyday?
Your ideal customer is out there. It just takes a starting point, and a little work to get to know who they are. And you will really feel the difference it can make to have this idea driving your business.
I'll be looking at the qualities of an ideal customer in one of my next posts.
If you are near Malvern, Worcestershire on the 14th August, My Marketing Club is workshopping the Ideal Customer (book The Marketing Club here).