Most business owners and marketers understand that they need to define their target audience in order to better promote and sell their product or service to the right group of people. This is probably one of those early lessons in any “how to build a business plan” classes. Whether you refer to this group as your target audience, customers, buyers, clients or people you do business with, its critical to have a deep understanding of who they are, what problems they have and their underlying emotional needs so that you can speak to them in ways that make them take action.
How deeply do I need to define my target audience?
One of the most common questions I get asked is around how specific you really need to get in the details that define your target audience, and if so, then why. Perhaps it’s fear that the tighter the focus, the smaller the pool of potential customers, but most business owners are hesitant to get too detailed in defining their target audience. I recently met someone who passionately believes that every human on the planet is a potential client of hers. After making little progress to help her understand the need to focus, I asked what her business is. She runs a smoothie shop.
That made it really easy to help her see why she needs to narrow her focus. She doesn’t ship product so that immediately shrinks her pool to people within a certain radius of her shop. While she’s fortunate to run this business in Portland, Oregon where we love our green smoothies more than Texans love a good barbeque, there is still a good portion of people that have no interest in drinking pureed vegetables. That was harder for her to accept because she wants those people to be her customers the most.
Tip: Just because you want someone to be your customer does not mean that they want to be your customer.
My term of preference when we talk about target audience is ideal customers. Most small business owners immediately understand the difference between ideal customers (the ones they love and want more of) and those not-so-ideal customers that haggle, complain and end up costing the business in either time or money.
I asked the smoothie shop owner to put her short-term altruistic goals aside for a moment and think about how much impact she’d have on the world if she had to personally convince every veggie hater of the benefits of her smoothies, give them free samples of every flavor, accept returns after they gag, and deal with negative feedback across the social networks. She was beginning to see why it’s easier and far more valuable to sell to her ideal customer.
By definition, your ideal customer has the problem you solve. They have the headache and need your aspirin. You don’t need to educate them on the problem because they already feel it.
Try This At Home: Define your ideal customer
Think about your customers. Your ideal customers only. Who are they? Remember, if you don’t enjoy working with them, they’re not ideal. What makes them different from your other customers? How are certain ideal customers similar to other ideal customers? Get as detailed and personal as you possible can.
This I will promise you: Have you ever heard phrases about needing to know where you’re going so that you know when you get there? This is similar: you cannot attract more ideal customers until you know exactly who your ideal customers are.