I guarantee it’s not “everyone” or “anyone with a computer”. But I bet a lot of you reading this think that is exactly who your target market is. And if you are a specialist in a particular technology, you probably still think your target market is much larger than it should be. Let me fill you in on a little secret: if you try to market to everyone, you’ll resonate with no one. And your business will suffer as you scatter your efforts chasing every potential customer. The most successful technology professionals are those who pick a target market they love and focus all their energy on serving that market. I must thank my lovely wife, who is my business partner and business consultant herself, for introducing me to this concept many years ago.
It’s actually a very simple concept, but an extraordinarily difficult one for small business owners in any field to accept. And it seems that we technology professionals, being stereotypically ego-driven and hard-headed (and not necessarily blessed with people skills), have an especially difficult time coming to grips with this idea. “My skills apply to any business!”, we’ll say. “Everyone has technology and I can help them!”, we believe. The difficulty comes in separating the theory from the practicality. Yes, in theory, every business and every individual is highly dependent on technology and we can probably help every man, woman, and child in our city, state, and country if they’d let us. But the reality is that as independent professionals, we only have so much time and energy. We can’t help a fraction of the people out there even if we worked 24 hours a day. The practicality comes in recognizing there is plenty of business out there and if we focus our efforts on being the best professional in a particular target market, we will thrive.
Yes, this seems counter-intuitive at first. We all want to try to maximize the number of people who know about our services. After all, it would seem that the more people who know about our services the more likely we are to gain business. But know this – what is truly important is not how many people we market to, it’s how many people IDENTIFY with our marketing message. Most people who are marketed to will quickly forget all about the message. The only people who remember you are those who truly recognize that your service or product will fill a need they have. So why waste your time and money marketing to people who aren’t listening? Focus your efforts on those who really see the value in what you provide. And guess what – when you are highly successful in your target market, people outside your target market will seek you out. You will get more customers of all types by focusing your marketing on one target market.
How do you identify your target market? Let’s ask a few sample questions. Do you prefer to work with businesses or individuals? But even more specifically, what types of businesses or individuals do you like working with? Myself as an example, I enjoy working with creative professionals, as well as lawyers and doctors. The reality is I could probably make a living serving only one of those target markets. But I enjoy the diversity, so I focus more on how the business thinks of technology. I enjoy working with professionals who want to leverage their technology to maximize their profits. I don’t really want to work with businesses who see their technology as a cost-center or a necessary evil. I’ll let other technology professionals handle that work. Because finding your target market is not all about the money. It’s about being happy in your work as well. If you can fill your time only with clients that value your work and the work is highly satisfying to you, you’ll be wealthy with both money and happiness.
If you’re a specialist, such as a database admin, you may think that’s a target market already. And it is, but I bet you could get more specific and as a result, be more successful and happy. For example, what size company do you prefer working with? Some of us prefer smaller companies. Others prefer working with large corporations. The way you market to those two markets is quite different. Where would you rather spend your time and money? Perhaps you prefer working with the software of a particular industry. Make yourself known as THE go-to guy or gal for that particular software. Many consultants have been successful offering themselves as a third-party, independent authority on a particular software or industry.
The definition of a target market can be almost anything you would like it to be. You just need to figure out what that is and how your services fill their particular needs. Your goal should be to make it almost TOO specific, because for most people, they make their target market too general at first. Just keep in mind that your target market should be one that you truly enjoy working with and usually things will take care of themselves from there.
Do you work with a highly-focused target market? Would you prefer to work with a particular type of client but don’t know how to target to them? Share your target markets (or preferred target market) with us here and let’s see if we can help!