Finding the right types of customers is key to the success of your business, both in terms of profitability and your own satisfaction.

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Once, a marketing consultant offered to do some pro-bono work for a non-profit organisation. She believed that donating her time and expertise would be much more beneficial than money.

She created a high-profile ad campaign that ran on the London Underground – all for free. The campaign was, in fact, so good, that it went on to win several awards.

You would assume that the organisation must have been falling over themselves to thank her, right?

Not exactly. They were one of the most demanding clients she had ever worked for. They were constantly asking for amends to the artwork to the point it became embarrassing to ask the graphic designer, who was giving up his time for free. When she managed to negotiate some free ad space for them on the London Underground, they complained the stations they had been offered didn’t have a high enough footfall.

The consultant learned an important lesson: it’s not enough simply for your customer to have a need for your product or service. To find your ideal customer, there are other factors to consider.


Finding Your Niche

Choosing a suitable niche market (or more than one) for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make. That’s why I devote an entire lesson to it in my online course, with a model to make it easier (RAID – Research, Analyse, Identify and Define).

Now, there’s a common mistake that many entrepreneurs make: trying to market to everyone.

This is a natural instinct – we do it because we don’t want to limit potential sales by focussing on just one group of people. Instead we cast our net wide in the hopes of attracting the attention of more potential customers.

In fact, the opposite often happens. You can’t please everyone and a mass-marketing strategy is wrong for nearly all small businesses, for at least three reasons.


You can’t market to everyone

There so many other companies and organisations out there vying for your potential customers’ attention, that they have learnt to shut out most of the commercial “noise”. Therefore if you try to market your products/services to everyone, using a marketing message with broad appeal, you’ll probably connect with no one.

Let’s use a fishing analogy: a fisherman has many different types of fishing equipment at his or her disposal and even though there are hundreds of different kinds of fish in the ocean, the fisherman can be reasonably certain of attracting the type of fish that they want by choosing a specific combination of rods, lines and bait. And most of the other fish will ignore the bait, but that’s fine, because if you are looking to supply your local fish and chip shop with tonnes of delicious north Atlantic cod, the last thing you want is a boat full of eels.


You can’t satisfy everyone

The second reason that you shouldn’t use a mass-marketing strategy is that you cannot sell your products/services to everyone. Why? Because even people with the same problem have different needs, different preferences and will have a vastly different view on products that do essentially the same thing. Hence it is impossible for your product or service to satisfy the needs of everyone in the market, even though they all have the same underlying problem!

Cars are a good example of this. Even though they all have four wheels and an engine, there are a multitude of different brands and models serving the market. The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling car in the UK in 2015. It’s not that different to the Vauxhall Corsa (#3) or the VW Golf (#4), but each has it’s own niche in the market.


You don’t want to work with everyone!

The third reason why you must focus your marketing efforts on specific niches is that not everyone who wants your type of product or service is someone that you want to do business with.

Let me ask:

  • Do you have a lot of customers who complain about how expensive your product is?
  • Do they seem completely disengaged?
  • Do they make unreasonable demands then threaten to stop working with you if you don’t comply?
  • Are they consistently late paying your bills?

If you are experiencing any of these issues, it’s time to re-think who you want to do business with.


Hitting the Sweet Spot

After you have found a group of people who have a need for your product or service, follow these 3 rules to find your ideal customer.

1. They can afford to pay what you charge

If a client needs and wants your service or product but simply cannot afford it, then you should direct them elsewhere. Unless you can see some other benefit to working with the client, don’t cut your prices just to try and win a client – it will devalue what you do.

2. They value what you deliver

Try to gauge what your prospective client or customer really thinks about your product or service before you agree to work for them. If you suspect they don’t value what you do, I promise they will be more trouble than they are worth.

Why would someone hire you, or buy your products, if they don’t value you? It seems entirely counterintuitive, yet it is surprisingly common. Estate agents, car salespeople, lawyers and financial advisors, all regularly feature in the list of most hated professions in the UK. People claim to hate them, yet employ them anyway, why? The answer is simple – they need them, rather than value them.


3. You want to work with them.

This is the most important piece of advice. Never work with someone simply for the money. You have to actually want to work with them. The most important word in the previous sentence is “with” rather than “for”. Whether you are selling a product or service, this should be a partnership rather than a master/servant relationship.

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It may seem like madness to turn people away. However, if you market to and accept customers who are not right for your business, you will find yourself in a similar position to our marketing consultant above.

Banging your head against the wall!

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