Part 1: It’s hard to shoot anything if you’re aiming at everything
When I ran my first business I used to find it frustrating to see all those potential clients out there but not be able to just reach out and grab them. It’s so tempting to think there’s some ingenious way to scoop them all up, show them how brilliant you are and set up the meeting that will inevitably turn into a long and fruitful partnership.
So off we went, hunting far and wide. I fell into the classic trap of doing lots of activity aimed at everyone. Cold-call teams were hired. E-shots were pinged out to hundreds of corporate event managers. £1000s went on glossy magazine advertising. All to appeal to as wide an audience as possible; not one potential market missed out, we dredged the lot.
Being specific felt totally counter-intuitive. I was too worried about missing any golden opportunities that might just be out there, maybe, perhaps, who knows where, somewhere we hadn’t thought of. But of course, by trying to talk to everyone, we ended up saying very little to anyone.
Our bland vanilla messaging meant that the clients we should have been focusing on had no strong sense of why or whether they needed us. It was only when I began focusing on companies for whom I knew we had a great product and natural affinity that new business really started flying in.
At the risk of sounding like Confucius, we won big by aiming small. That’s why I believe fervently that to grow a business, you first have to identify your ideal client and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly.
Start by being specific. Really specific. In the events world, “anyone interested in hiring an event management company” won’t cut it. It’s a huge market. Even those who say they target blue chips or the charity sector or other event companies are being too general. You need to get down to detail.
Let’s take the example of a massage therapist. They could choose to focus on women aged 35-55 in the Surrey area with an income greater than £45,000. Then they could go a step further, selecting only women already interested in alternative therapies. Of these, they could define two more niches: those with/without children.
At this level of knowledge and detail, you’re in a far better position to decide how and where to promote your company.
It’s worth pointing out that defining your target market in this way does not mean excluding potential clients from outside it. But what it does mean is that you can concentrate your sales & marketing efforts and brand messages on the people most likely to buy from you.
Bear in mind too that you’re unlikely to have just one target market, unless your offering is very niche. Nevertheless, when you know exactly what your discrete target markets are, you can use different techniques to reach each one.
Best of all, you’ll feel better about all of this. You’re more in control of your business and it’s far more satisfying to approach people you know will appreciate what you can do for them. And of course, if you ended up working with them, you’ll enjoy it far more in the long term too.
So that’s Part 1: how to consider defining your target audience. Keep an eye out over the next few days for Part 2 – my step-by-step guide to how to go about it and what to do with the results.