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Going Small to Go Big: Choosing Your Target Market


One of the most common, fundamental challenges I’ve noticed in helping thousands of small business owners over 30+ years, is that they have tremendous difficulty narrowing their marketing focus to one primary group of people.

It seems natural for a small business owner to want to help “everyone,” but unless you have the marketing budget of McDonald’s or Coca Cola, there’s not very much chance of effectively influencing an extremely large and broad group of people – even if your product or service CAN help lots of different types of people.

It also goes against human nature to believe that narrowing your marketing focus will actually help you grow your business. Common sense seems to tell us that if we want to grow our business big, we need to appeal to more people – not less.

But in reality, the opposite is true.

I teach my students a saying:

If your target market is everyone, your customer will be no one.

And it’s not your fault if you’ve been taught the opposite – there’s an awful lot of what I call “BS” advice out there. That’s one of the big reasons why 95% of businesses fail in their first five years.

Here’s why choosing a narrow target market is the right way to go…

When we narrow our focus to a specific group of people, we can communicate with them much more effectively. We can become an expert in solving their particular problems and we can get to know them extremely well. This will help us to continually develop additional products and services to fill their needs, and it will help them to respond to us better.

So, how do you decide what your target market will be?

Here are five tips…

  1. Choose the people who can MOST benefit from the solution you have to offer.

  2. Consider who you would most enjoy helping or working with.

  3. Think about the type of people who will be easiest to reach with your message, AND who will be most receptive to it. That usually means people who recognize that they have the problem you can solve and are actively seeking a solution.

  4. Put yourself at ease by realizing that just because you select a particular group of people to focus on, doesn’t mean you can’t serve others who may also come to you for help. So you’re not actually excluding anyone from becoming your customer, client or patient – you’re just going to focus your proactive marketing time, effort and money on the target market you choose.

  5. Don’t drive yourself crazy. Trust your instincts, pick a group you feel you can truly help and then put together your marketing plan. Marketing is an ever-changing and evolving process. The important thing is to start to take action. You can always refine your target market and your overall marketing plan in the future as you learn more and grow your business.

3 Responses to Going Small to Go Big: Choosing Your Target Market

  1. Scott Reply

    July 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Great article, Steve!!

  2. Paul Reply

    July 27, 2013 at 1:19 am

    Super important business lesson.

  3. Mike Reply

    August 30, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Another great article Steve! I agree that target marketing is a major problem for many busiess owners, especially start-ups. Even among service professionals, the specialist will always earn more money than the generalist. As an example, a heart surgeon will out earn a family practioner. I especially like the insight that you offered about still being able to provide service to others, even though you are focused on a target market. That piece of insight will empower others to saty focused.

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