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“Anyone Who” is Not a Target Market

Finding your target market – that segment of the population that is best suited for your business and is most likely to buy from you – is absolutely crucial to developing a plan for growth (aka a marketing plan).  When I talk to small business owners, they’re usually reluctant to start at the beginning, building a plan.  Many small business owners think all there is to marketing is getting the right ad in the paper, designing a creative direct mail piece or the perfect web site. While those things are certainly part of an effective marketing plan, none of it is going to be fully effective without a strategy to drive it.

Why a Target Market?

When small businesses spend money on advertising without knowing who they need to be advertising to, what are they doing?  First, they’re trying to be all things to all people and this dilutes their core strengths. It makes them look and sound just like everyone else out there. Second, they’re throwing a bunch of money away marketing to people who are not and never will be suitable prospects for their business.  I don’t know about you, but I have a limited marketing budget and spending money on people who will never buy from me – or who I wouldn’t want to work with even if they did,  is just not how I want to invest it.

So who is your target market? To answer this, let’s talk about who isn’t.

Identifying a target market always comes up in my conversations with small business owners and marketers. “Oh, I know who my target market is!” they proclaim.  I ask, “Really? Good for you! Describe your target market to me”.  Their answer? “Well my target market is Anyone who _______ {fill in the blank}”: anyone who needs a new car; anyone who needs a dentist; anyone who wants to buy a house, etc.  Would your answer be similar? If so, I’m sorry to tell you “Anyone Who” is not a target market.  “Anyone Who” buys homes and cars or has teeth is not your target market; “Anyone Who” breathes is not necessarily the best fit for your company.

Why Not “Anyone Who”?

Let me explain:  Let’s say you own a dental practice in the 94533 zip code. You may think “Anyone Who” has teeth and lives in your zip code are your target market. You send out a postcard to every home – let’s say 20,000 postcards  Of those 20,000 people, 30% don’t have the dental insurance you cover.  Another 15% haven’t been to the dentist in 10 years and aren’t going any time soon.  Another 20% work in another city and go to dentists near their work.  What does all this mean?  It means that 65% of the people in your zip code are not candidates for your practice.  It means that you just sent out 13,000 postcards or letters for nothing.  It means you probably wasted at least $6000 marketing to the wrong people.

Yes, this is a very simplistic example of the danger of not identifying and marketing to your target market, and the benefits are greater than just saving money. Finding your target market also allows you to: differentiate your business; find a niche that you serve best and work only with the people or businesses that value what you do; work with the customers that are the absolute best fit for the core products or services; and work with the customers who are most profitable.

So, unless your “Anyone Who” goes something like this:  “Anyone Who is female, between the ages of 35 and 45, has a college degree, 2 children, a husband, owns her home, drives a 3 year old car, reads Business Week magazine, has a household income between $80,000 and $120,000 and spent $4000 dollars on widgets last year” , you need to do some more work on defining your target market.  But trust me – “Anyone Who” isn’t it!

If you need help with this step, feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear from you. Click here to leave your comments. Thanks!

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4 Responses

  1. Great email! Couldn’t agree more with the facebook likes, if they are genuine and happen organically, that’s what I want. Otherwise, what a waste of time trying to build your likes, it’s fake and thus means nothing.

    The targeted marketing also peaked my interest.I’ma trained sale person by trade and have learned marketing on am as-needed basis and too often don’t spend the necessary tine to re-define my targeted market. It has changed I think, especially in this economy. Any suggestions on how to do that?



    1. Carolyn

      Hi Fay,
      Thanks- I am so glad you found the email worth reading!

      I can definitely relate to your story, I was in sales for 17 years and never really understood how marketing could help me be a better sales person!!! Just goes to show you how different things were! Please see my respon e to Michelle’s comment on how to re-define your target market. The report on my site is a great place to start!

      Good luck and let me know if you’d like a marketing audit – it works just as well for sales professionals as business owners!

      Have a great weekend!

    1. Carolyn

      Hi Michelle,

      Thank you very much – glad you liked the article and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know! As far as researching your target market, it is important to know some basics about them; demographic, goographic, and even psychographic. There are a number of ways to do this and when I work with small business owners, this is one of the key parts of developing their marketing system. It takes a little work, but it’s well worth it, in the end you wind up with a profile of your best customers and and idea of how to go out and get more just like them.

      You downloaded the free report from the home page of my site – that’s a great start in the process. If you would like additional help you might want to contact me for a complimentary marketing audit – you will certainly get some ideas from that.

      Thanks again and good luck!

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