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Target Your Marketing Efforts
By Debra Murphy, Masterful Marketing

Pairing your offerings with the market you wish to serve surfaces opportunities that you may not have noticed before

Remember the birthday party game called "Pin the tail on the donkey" where blindfolded children had to try and stick the tail somewhere on the image of the donkey. They were only allowed clues such as left or right, and you couldn't peek. The one who somehow managed to stick the tail in the place closest to where a tail belongs won the prize.

This blindfolded game may be fun for children, but when it comes to your business, you need to see things with your eyes wide open. But many business owners seem to be playing this game with their business, meandering "blindfolded" through the market trying to land customers without knowing who are the most appropriate prospects.

As I continue to work with my clients, it still surprises me how many business people either have no idea who will buy from them, or they assume that everyone will. This type of thinking can result in marketing efforts that are costly and ineffective, leading to the belief that marketing does not work.

Target Market Myths

A target market is defined as the group of people or businesses that have a need, is aware of the need, and is willing to spend money to satisfy that need. Selecting the best target market possible for your business is the most important part but the most difficult part of the marketing plan for most business owners. Business owners will make many excuses when asked why they are not picking a target, but all are lame. No one wants to select a target market because they believe that they are "leaving money on the table" and neglecting potential customers.

Every business owner goes through this thought process until they discover that targeting enables you to target a more lucrative audience and develop messages with greater precision. Then the unusual phenomenon happens - your clarity about what you offer makes other prospects, even outside of your target, more likely to call you. If you narrowly define your niche market, your messages are clear, your offerings are precise, and your marketing efforts are more effective, even to those not within your target market.

Let me be very blunt about why you target a particular market. We call this group of people or businesses you want to do business with a target market because that market is the target at which you aim all your marketing efforts. Being focused on one particular market enables you to make choices that are difficult if you are all over the map. For example:
  • You can select publications that target your market in which to advertise or try to gain publicity through a PR strategy.
  • You can go to networking functions that target your market and miss those that don't.
  • You can target your messages, focusing on what's important to that audience using the language they understand.
In other words, it is a way to help you focus and be really clear about why your target should work with you. It is not necessarily a restriction on what types of companies with which you do business. You may choose to not work with a particular market because you don't have the experience or knowledge of their market, but that is a business choice. Those are decisions you can make as the opportunities arise.

Identifying Your Target

The products or services you have to offer are the most obvious constraint on what markets you can reach. In addition, you need to assess your skills and other resources available within and external to the business in order to determine which market you can best satisfy. The process is somewhat circular. You need to understand what you can do, who you wish to work with and then see if there is a match between what you can offer and what the target will actually pay for.

To get started, ask yourself the following questions about your product or service offering:
  • What is your product or service offering and why is it better than the competition? What unique capability can you offer that others do not? If you offer a service and you have experience within a particular industry sector, such as high tech, healthcare or construction, you may wish to target businesses within those market sectors rather than target all businesses of a certain size.

  • What is missing from your offering that you may need to add in order to satisfy the market? Can you add this piece through a strategic partnership or do you need to bring the skill in-house?
Using your current clients and customers as a model, determine the following:
  • Are your current clients what you consider your ideal target market? Are they easy to work with, love what you offer, and feel that you offer them high value for their money?
  • What are the characteristics of your ideal customer?
  • What customers would you like to work with and can you offer them something that they are willing to pay money for?
Given the above information, is there another market that may be better suited to your offerings that you can either go after in addition to or in place of your current set of clients? Again, determine the following:
  • What do they need and what are they lacking?
  • Why would they want to do business with you?
  • What do you offer them that others do not?
Collecting this information enables you to view your business from the perspective of your strengths, pinpointing the market that needs what you have to offer.

Benefits to Your Business

Going through this exercise has many benefits to your business. Knowledge of your target market enables you to make better decisions about your product or service offerings, including pricing, packaging, service, and distribution. Depending on your business, it is helpful to understand the market size and how buying decisions are made. Knowing how you can best service this market helps you focus your business on the products and services that best meet their needs. Pairing your offerings with the market you wish to serve surfaces opportunities that you may not have noticed before, finding a niche that you can service better than your competition.

Debra Murphy is founder of Masterful Marketing, a marketing coaching firm that empowers small business owners and independent professionals to take control of their marketing to get better results. She helps you change how you think about your business and put activities into motion that attract your ideal client. She started Masterful Marketing to ensure small business owners had access to the knowledge available to larger companies so they could live their dreams and build a business around their passions. Although her knowledge of marketing covers all the traditional channels, she specializes in online and social media marketing to make sense of it all to those who want to use it to effectively market their businesses.

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