Me: “So who are your ideal clients? Who’s the target market you want to work with?”
Really Well-Meaning Professional: “Everyone! Which is why I’m totally confused about why I don’t have more work!”
It’s sad but true that I usually have this conversation with professionals who are struggling to find success in their chosen field. Whether they are a small business owner, a service provider, or a salesperson for a large company, someone who thinks that everyone is their customer is (ironically) usually short of customers.
They might think that they are keeping their options broad and that they are “opening the net”. In reality they either haven’t put the time and effort into defining who they help or they are afraid of committing to a specific demographic and cutting themselves off from future opportunities. In doing so they make themselves an unmemorable commodity to their prospects, clients, and peers. And if you know your economics, you know that a commodity’s price falls to the lowest point possible to cover costs.
Lots of great things happen when you have a clearly defined audience that you serve. You can communicate more clearly to prospects and clients because you actually know the problems you solve. Your marketing is more effective because it speaks to specific needs. Others can refer you more easily because they can grasp what you do. You’ll know where you fit into the spectrum of your field. Yes, the people who are outside of your target market are less likely to respond, but it’s offset by the fact that your ideal clientele will know how to find you.
Here’s a morbid example, but one that illustrates the point well:
- If you’re a general practice doctor, you have to compete against every other doctor, health clinic, and webmd.com for patients (i.e. clients).
- If you are an oncologist, people who have cancer will work harder to find you because you focus on the solutions to their problem.
- If you’re an oncologist who specializes in pancreatic cancer, the pool of people who need the expertise you have is smaller, but if they have pancreatic cancer they are really motivated to find you.
- And if you are the oncologist who is the expert in a rare type of pancreatic cancer that only effects one hundred people a year – you best believe those one hundred people will seek out your services.
So plant a flag. Narrow your focus to a specific group that you can help better than anyone else. And then tell everyone.