How do you really determine who your target market is? I mean your REAL target market – not the one you made up when you were writing a business plan. Who are the people who will purchase your products or services ?
The best way to identify your target market is to use data and trends of the 1,000s of customers who have purchased from you. What are their FAQs? What are their aches and pains?
But what do you do when you haven’t had 1,000 people buy your product or service? Or for that matter, even 100 people. How do you determine who your market is and more importantly where you should be spending your time and dollars marketing?
I’ve asked this question a hundred times. I’ve tossed it out at workshops where participants are identifying their company’s unique selling proposition. I drilled students in my business plan courses. Don’t just give me the surface answers – what is your real market? Often I get the easy answer like “educated men with 150k+ income”. No, that’s who you wish would buy. The minute you start explaining what you are selling, I can find 100 reasons why this demographic would not be your target market.
My personal favorite response: ” I serve everyone”. No you don’t. Even universal food brands realize that they don’t serve everyone – and we all need to eat. Think I’m wrong? Survey the owners of all of the national health food stores who are slowly changing the way the major supermarket chains operate. I never used to see organic or vegetarian foods in the major chains. Now they have their own aisle.
When you really start to dig at this question, it’s challenging. And often hard to answer. Yet it’s the foundation of any solid marketing strategy – who do you serve?
It’s one of the big questions I am grappling with now. Who do I really serve? And how do I demonstrate the value that I offer?
My business model has changed in the past few years. When I first started, I worked with other businesses – associations, organizations, nonprofits and for profits – who were seeking a trainer to deliver workshops on entrepreneurship education. I had a blast doing this work because I could network with several clients and offer conference programs and workshops for hundreds of people. It was a total win-win. I got access to audiences and my clients got rock solid trainings.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that my work was based on a model that didn’t allow me room to scale up and create opportunities to work with hundreds of clients at one time. And there wasn’t technology that could support that vision.
So I’m taking a real hard look at my target market in my new business model. It’s a process to literally “unlearn” many of the ideas that I had previously about my business. But I’m game to do the heavy lifting and continue asking, questioning, and probing until I nail my it.
I know there is something I can offer in particular to “old school” small business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to realize their business dreams in our new economy. Those who are unfamiliar with how to mix up the new trends in personal branding, social media, setting up systems and how technology (for non techies) can support in their business. Plus there are some other factors that people keep asking like, “How do I eliminate the fear factor/uncertainty of starting”?
So it’s back to the drawing board and I’m grateful for the Lean Startup methodologies to guide this conversation. One of the tenets of Eric Ries’ work is that you need to test, test, and test the minimal viable product you create. While I’m not a techie I do believe there is something valuable to gain from testing and viewing the trends. However, what Eric doesn’t talk about is how vulnerable and uncomfortable this can be for business owners. Eeek – you have to put a minimally completed product out in the market and just see who shows up? And keep tweaking it while they watch what are you doing?
I’m wiling to be a guinea pig here and share my insights. .
In the interim, anyone game to share with me who their target market is and why? I’m happy to share some free consulting to the folks reading this blog. Go for it and I’ll be kind in my response!! lol.