You’ve been working on your big idea for about a year. You’ve made countless sacrifices in terms of potential income, social engagement, and family outings.
All so you could build your dream and make a killing in the process.
A noble cause.
The moment of truth has arrived. Your product is finished and the only thing left is to implement your marketing strategy and watch the orders roll in.
They love your content and your mission.
For some reason, they don’t love it enough to buy.
Now, you’ve got hundreds of people on your list but no one is buying.
Maybe it’s too expensive. You reduce the price and let everyone know. Still nothing.
You tackle the positioning by changing the leading value proposition and watch with bated breath. You don’t have much run time left. Either they bite or you’re going to lose the entire year of effort you put in.
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Still – nothing. After a few weeks, you can’t keep up with your advertising – it’s draining you. You’ve got to scale back or go hungry.
Eventually, you fold the project because you just couldn’t get the traction you needed to stay afloat.
Any number of things could’ve gone down. The most likely is you didn’t build for a specific market – your target market. Instead, you built the product first and went looking for the market after.
In a nutshell, your target market is made of the people your business was built to serve. Your target market informs every action you take.
Your marketing is determined by your target market.
Your products are determined by your target market.
Your value proposition is determined by your target market.
Whenever I’m in Capetown, I make it a point to visit a restaurant called Beluga. I love their sushi. The interior is warm and inviting with the perfect blend of service and taste. It’s always a memorable experience.
Their target market isn’t the college student at the university down the street. The target market consists of professionals, local celebrities, and travelers like me.
Because they’ve defined their target market, they serve certain foods, cultivate a specific atmosphere, and advertise in the right magazines. Their laser focus on the people they serve has allowed them to thrive year after year.
Will they serve someone who’s not in their target market? Of course. Will they go out of their way to attract that person? No, they won’t.
Only a small percentage of the people who come in contact with your business will be interested enough in what you offer to patronize you. It’s your job to define who these people are.
When you pick a target market, you make a conscious decision on who, what, and where you use your limited resources.
72% of marketers say it’s hard to find and be heard by their target market. That’s scary.
If your target market is made of college students then you’d advertise in their newspapers, on campus, and on their radio stations.
If your market is made of professionals then you’ll focus on trade magazines, clubs, and organizations they belong to.
Let’s look at a few reasons why it’s important to define a target market.
This is one of my favorite uses of having a target market. You don’t need to look everywhere for your customers. You know who you want and from there you’ll be able to narrow down the search.
Let’s say you’re creating a product for middle-aged women who want to get in better shape. Where would you look? I don’t know, but it’d be pretty easy to find out using Google.
I’d start in my favorite places – forums. A search string like “women’s fitness forum” would be a good place to start.
Determine if they’re the right fit for you. Stroll around the forum and take a look at a few of the threads.
Another great place to look is Reddit. Use their search function and test out a few variations of your keywords to find relevant subreddits.
They have a community for almost everything. If you can find your target market there, start to answer the important questions.
That leads me into the next point about defining your target market before building a product.
People buy things because they meet a want or a need. If they can’t see how your product meets that want or need then they won’t buy it.
The distance between where they are now and where they want to be is where your products come in. The further apart those two points, the more work your product needs to do. The more work your product needs to do, the more you can charge.
The problem is that if you don’t understand their real wants and needs, they won’t care about your product.
For example, we say we want to lose weight to be healthier, but really, there are many other reasons.
You want to stay attractive for your partner.
Maybe your friend is in great shape and you secretly envy them.
Another reason could be someone keeps making fun of you 1 I’m in pretty good shape. I’m six feet tall and weigh 185 pounds. I stopped exercising for a while. One of my cousins kept harassing me until I started hitting the gym again.
Freshbooks has epic messaging that cuts to the heart of small business accounting problems.
Optimizely also does a good job of calling out the people they’ve built the platform for.
We all have limited resources. Coke has a few billion to play with for marketing. Fedex has a few hundred million. Frank Bod has a million or more. Most small businesses start off with a few thousand dollars and even less manpower.
They need to laser target their market. Instead of targeting every 18 – 35 year old in America, they’ll be better served by targeting a specific subset of those people.
That could be college students.
That could be young executives.
Or it could be single parents.
You’re laser focused on who you’re interested in attracting. Because of that laser focus, your messages resonate better and you sell more product.
A product you didn’t create until you knew who you wanted to serve.
A product you didn’t create until you knew what your target market wanted.
Thursday boots is one of my favorite shoe companies. Their messaging is targeted at young professionals and college students. They’ve got a playful, hip, and carefree tone. They know how to relate to their target audience with high-quality imagery.
The also use competitions like #DogVacay.
A simple way to create targeted messaging is using retargeting.
Let’s say you’re selling fitness lessons to your target market. They’ve landed on your website and viewed one of our blog posts. They didn’t click through to your services/products page.
On facebook, after you’ve set up a retargeting pixel, you show them an ad that takes them further down your sales funnel. This ad mentions the blog post or category they viewed and prompts them to take the next action – viewing your products/services page.
After they click through and don’t buy, you create even more targeted messages that takes their previous action into consideration. “Hey, you saw our products and know they’re awesome, since your awesome, let’s make awesomeness together 2 don’t use that, I made it up off the top of my head.”
So on and so forth until you’ve channeled them through the entire sales funnel and gotten them to purchase. Let me know if you’d like me to expand on this process in the comments.
Finally, a well-defined target market allows you to create a better product. A better product combined with better messaging means you can charge premium prices.
The race to the bottom is never a fun experience. In the mind of your customers, you want to be unique. You want to provide something no one else can. Even if it’s something someone else may be able to provide :).
When you’re jumping all over the place providing products and services for the whole world, you lose sight of your unique edge. You fail to provide for a specific subset of your market. You become just another generic service provider.
When that happens, you compete on price. Price wars aren’t fun. Nobody wins. Instead, a target market allows you to be everything for a specific subset of people.
Louis Vuitton is able to charge premium prices because they don’t cater to the entire world. They cater to the people who understand what they’re offering. They cater to the people who care about quality, craftsmanship, and legacy.
If you don’t fall into that category, the prices Louis Vuitton charges may seem obscene to you.
Your target market is the lifeblood of your business. A well-defined market opens a whole vista of opportunity to take your business to the next level.
You can serve your customers better, charge more, and give them what they really want. A poorly defined target market does the opposite.
It makes it hard to get traction, keeps you running in place, and tricks you into producing what no one really wants.
Let me know how you’ve defined your target market in the comments and don’t forget to share.