One of the real “rookie” mistakes made by new entrepreneurs is to completely fail to know her target market. This is something that is very easy to spot. A few of the signs are:
- Her business is not thriving, meaning she needs more customers and she is not financially successful.
- When asked who she works with, she replies “Oh, I work with just about anyone.”
- If asked to thoroughly and completely describe her target market, she is flustered and can't give more than a sentence.
The “Oh, I work with just about anyone” response is one I've heard from both new and not-so-new entrepreneurs many times. So many times, in fact, that it now drives me a little nuts. When someone says that, they are setting no boundaries for who they work with, which is a deadly thing. Let me ask the “just about anyone” entrepreneurs these questions:
1. Does it matter to you if a customer stiffs you?
2. Are you open 24/7?
3. If you were, for instance, a seller of curtains and blinds, would you drive 400 miles to sell a set of blinds to someone?
Of course, the answer to each of these is almost always NO! And that's a good, thing, because that entrepreneur has just started on a path of better describing her target market. Her target market are people who have the money to pay for her products or services, she works with those who contact her during specific days and hours of business, and she has a limited geographical area in which to sell her blinds. This isn't a complete description of her target market, but it is a start.
You can picture the creation of your target market as setting fences and gates around a specific group of people with whom you really want to work. You might not be as blatantly obvious about it as the gatekeepers are at hot night clubs, where one must stand outside on the sidewalk and get personally picked to go inside, but that is one very good example of a business who is very picky about who they want to serve.
I've learned about finding your niche and describing your target market from 3 or 4 of my coaches and mentors, but the one who made me work the hardest to describe my market, hands down, was Suzanne Falter-Barnes. She has a very long list of questions that one must answer to get through one of her platform building classes. The first time I saw that fat list of questions I just about fainted. In fact, the document she proposed I fill out to describe my market was 17 pages long! Still, Suzanne knows her stuff and I was there to learn, so I plowed into the questions. At the end, I felt like I'd invented something akin to a kid's secret playmate. I started getting actual pictures of how my target market person looked, how she dressed, what she spent her money on, and more. I got so familiar with her in that 17 pages of ruthless questioning that I decided I knew her well enough to name her, for Pete's sake! And that is what I strongly suggest you do, too.
My suggestion is to sit down with your computer or a piece of paper and describe a “sample” person from your target market as if she (or he) is a character in a book you are writing, and it's up to you to fill your reader's head with a detailed, specific, colorful image of the character you are writing about. Describe age, education, the kind of work she does, where she lives, her likes and dislikes – anything you can think of that will add to the picture in your head. This may lead you to dig around on the web for demographic or other information.
Spend quality time here, for it pays off in the end. Ask yourself (with pen and paper or keyboard nearby) “who is the most perfect customer for me?” If you have a hard time doing that, prime the pump by listing the characteristics of your most favorite or best customer so far. From there, dream on. Who would be delightful to work with? Who would you dread working with? What characteristics drive you crazy? Who have you worked with who bugs you so much you hope she never calls you again? You get the picture – and that's whole point. For here is a secret about financially successful entrepreneurs:
Those who describe and visualize their target market well have started the process of manifesting exactly that type of customer for themselves. You now have a vision of who you want to attract, in detail. Put that right on your business vision board and keep it in your mind's eye, for who you focus on tends to come your way.
Having this vision and description on hand also makes it easier to walk away from business that isn't right for you, doesn't truly interest you, and has a downside to it. (The downside being that while you are spending time with uninteresting client A, you cannot very well be also working with or running into very interesting and exciting client B. This is called “opportunity cost.”) Realize that it actually COSTS YOU to work with the wrong customer, for you are giving up the opportunity to work with who is just right for you.
Taking the time to dream up your ideal target market person makes finding that type of person much easier. You now know where to focus your efforts. If you are spending a lot of time and money networking in a group of direct marketers, and these are not your target market, it's time to make a change. Pull your time and money from the wrong group, and go find the right group. You'll find more and better business in the new group and waste less of your precious time.
When you are creating marketing plans, writing sales copy, or pulling together a presentation you'll be able to keep your secret target market person right with you, writing to them. There will be less agony over creating these things.
And finally, when you have the opportunity to build a relationship with a potential customer, you will be much more at ease because, after all, you will pretty much feel as if you know that person in a way. You'll be confident that you've spent time with someone who has a much higher chance of needing what you offer. This will shorten your sales cycle and make you more money faster. I don't know of any entrepreneur who doesn't want that!
So, get that blank paper or computer screen and get going. Breath some life into your target market, and you'll breath new life into your business, as well. It's a win-win for every entrepreneur.
(c) Sue Painter