This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with a young business man who was fairly new to the networking world. He was loving his experience in the groups that he belonged to, but knew that there were likely some things that he could improve to make it a more profitable experience for his business. He was in a field that was fairly easy to refer, but he just wasn’t seeing the results quite yet. While there could be 100 different reasons for his lack of results, the bulk of our conversation centered around his target market. When I asked him to to tell me about his target market, he explained that he really loved working with startup businesses. Then the very next sentence, he began talking about the work that he was doing with wedding planners and established restaurants in the area. My response……..wait, hold up a minute! So, what do you specialize in? Is it start up businesses, weddings, or restaurants?
Unfortunately, this gentleman is not alone at all. One of the most challenging topics for small business owners is the idea of having a firm target market. Most professionals say that they have a target market, say that they specialize in a specific area, but when when it really comes down to it, they quickly recite ten different target markets. Even when someone finally decides on a target market, they often change their mind over and over again until they forget what they were originally trying to accomplish.
Whether you are talking about traditional marketing or business networking, it is essential to have a short and specific target market in order to see the results you are seeking. Here are some of the most common reasons to have a target market that I have come across when working with business networkers.
- Be Known As The Expert – One of the most important reasons to have a clearly defined target market is the desire to be know as the expert in a specific area of business. In one of my past businesses, I developed a large network of over 100 financial advisors that were actively referring business to me. While I had the desire to return the favor, I found it very difficult, since everyone essentially did the same thing. Out of the 100 advisors, only 2 stood out. One of them specialized in working with nurses and the other with family of special needs children. You better believe, whenever I ran across a nurse or a family with a special needs child, I knew exactly where to refer them! The other advisors fell into the “Jack of All Trades” category, and therefor were never top of mind.
- Focused Marketing Materials – When you have a clearly defined target market, all of your marketing materials can be focused on appealing to the wants and needs of that one particular group. The wedding planner working with hundreds of brides is probably looking for something completely different than the restaurant owner worried about tomorrow’s lunch rush. Without a target market, you run a very high risk that your message doesn’t appeal to either group of people. At a minimum, it won’t have the impact that it could.
- Faster Results – Business networking takes time. There is no getting around the fact that I am not about to refer my best client to you until I know, like and trust you. However, having a clearly defined target market is one way that you can shorten the time frame needed to build confidence in your products and services. Nobody trusts a “Jack of All Trades” business. Often times, these businesses are built out a minimalist mentality. People who believe that they have to cast a HUGE net in order to find the handful of people that they can sell to. While, the wide net approach can work, it’s typically takes much longer. Focusing your offerings to a specific target builds confidence and trust with your referral sources, which are both essential to quick results in referral marketing.
- Reduce Costs. Increase Profits. – How many times have you felt like you were just spinning your wheels? How many times have you been frustrated when ever penny you bring in seems to go right back out the door? The fact is, having a well defined target market saves both time and money. Less marketing materials. More effective marketing materials. Less time spent working with prospects that were never going to buy. No more countless hours spent on client projects that earn you pennies in the end. Only working with a smaller select group of clients that are profitable is clearly better in the long run.
- More Pleasurable – At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much money you are making from a specific target market if you don’t first enjoy the work. We have all had those clients that helped to pay the bills, but drained us of every ounce of joy in our life. Life is to short to spend countless hours working with individuals like this. By defining a target market of people that you enjoy being around, people that you find engaging and interesting, your business will be much more pleasurable in the end.
While target markets are likely to continue being one of the most challenging areas for businesses, I encourage you to take that challenge head on. Spend some time exploring the topic with a trusted friend or advisor that is going to be honest with you. Find ONE area that you can specialize in and stick with it for at least six months. Not two or three areas, pick ONE! If it’s the right one, you’ll soon find that your network of people find it much easier to refer you, and you’ll be more profitable and enjoy your clients!