Getting Really Clear About Your Target Market

Clients often begin a brainstorming session by saying, “I already know my target market. We don’t need to spend time on that.” I usually humour them and move along, knowing that a discussion around who really is their target market is to come at some point. We all think we know our target — phrases such as “small business”, “making over $xx per year”, “those having had a long-term issue with blank” come to mind. For me, I thought I had a good list of who I could help and who could use my services.

And then, one day, I had an opportunity to submit a proposal for a new project. I had a weird feeling about it, though, and procrastinated on actually pulling the information together. I had no idea why. The business owner was great — they loved their business and was really good at what they did. The business was long-term and very successful. Furthermore, the owner already had a great foundation of marketing activities — I had the opportunity to bring some real creativity to the additional pieces we would add to the mix. What was the problem? Why was I blocking out this seemingly fantastic opportunity?

I didn’t know. All I knew was that I couldn’t take it on.

After some soul searching — soul wrenching, really — I decided to consult with my friend and colleague Mary Ellen Sanajko of Conduit Coaching. She asked if maybe my definition of my target market was off.

“Off? I’m a marketer,” I thought, “I do this for a living. How can it be that far off?”

Mary Ellen encouraged me to look back at the clients/projects I loved working with/on and to find the common thread. Suddenly, I had new descriptive phrases such as “has a spark in their eye” and “confidence in their business idea”. All intangibles, all a little “out there”. But Mary Ellen was right. I needed to add a different dimension to my target definition.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the potential client I was speaking about earlier definitely had a spark in their eye and a great confidence for their business idea. But there were a few other things on my new list that were missing for me. And I’ve learned the hard way through the years that if you have an inkling about not taking on a project, don’t. Even if the most lovely person in the universe is the one offering it.

What is the take away from my little story? Even if you think you know your target market inside and out, take a few minutes to think about your favourite clients or projects and just see what common thread might tie them together. You may just have found the key to making your business  not just successful, but over-the-top satisfying as well.