But I'm a small business - why do I have to worry about my target market?

Maybe you’ve heard it before, maybe you’ve even thought or said it yourself - why do small businesses need to worry about target markets? Isn’t that something the big corporates do? My target market is anyone who needs widgets (insert coffee, art supplies, financial services, musical instruments, skincare products, whatever it is you do), and my widgets are the best, so I can help anyone. Meerp. Buwmp bouw. Not quite.


Ok so let’s just get this straight. Target marketing is not just some fancy marketing voodoo for the big corporates that some suited team of marketing consultants present to boardrooms in flow charts and info graphics. Targeting your market, or in other words, targeting your ideal customer is really important for small businesses too and I’m about to tell you why without the jargon and corporate speak.

Serve your customers better than your competitors do

So when you’re in business, you’re trying to deliver your customers something that they need or want. Chances are that you’re not the only place they can get that product or service either - it’s likely you have competition and your customer has other options. In order to compete therefore, you’ll be aiming at serving your customers' needs better than your competition does. Simple, right? Well it is, but this is where all sorts of marketing terminology usually steps in with a whole slew of jargon, statistics and graphics that basically try to convey this simple truth: if you’re going to serve your customers better than your competitors do, then the more you know about them, the better the chance you’ll have of achieving that.

Understand them

What happens when you start to drill down into the details of who your existing customers really are and who your ideal future customers should be? Well most likely you’ll find  you’re not actually serving the whole widget market. You’ll find that your customers have things in common; needs, preferences, values, problems. It’s in this detail, in this level of paying attention that you find what to hone in on. What makes them tick and how you can do things to better meet their needs. Now you can really start to see how you can blow their minds by doing a better job of being who they need you to be for them because you understand them.

How do they want to feel?

Now you’re a widget company that services the pink widget market. Sure, others who are not part of the pink widget market might also be satisfied with your product, but you know that the pink widget market needs pink widgets, they need them within 24 hours of ordering, they value and rely on great customer service and they’re happy to tell their friends about your widgets on Facebook. With this information you can start planning and prioritising your business practices and systems to make sure these pink widget customers feel the way they want to feel.

Serving well is how you stand out

This has never before been more critical for small business and never so achievable. The advent of Web 2.0 and the evolution of the digital world, the advancement of the smartphone and hand-held devices coupled with the interactive nature of web property, particularly the social platforms, means that we are all far more technologically connected than at any other point in time. It also naturally means that business no longer needs to rely on their face-to-face and in-person relationships, nor are they constrained by their geographical location in relation to their clients.The flow-on effect of this for small business is that although they have access to a greater number of potential clients, so do their competitors, and potential clients also have access to unlimited information pertaining to your particular industry. Therefore it’s never been more critical for a small business to know who they’re serving and serve them extremely well.

Make them feel like they matter

Have you ever heard that saying that if your try to serve everyone, you end up not serving anyone? It’s true because now that we all have so much accessibility to so many products and services, the way we choose who we’ll do business with and give our attention to are those who make us feel like we matter. Brands with personality, great products that feel like they were made just for us, backed up by great customer service and the feeling that we’re understood and cared for. This is how we choose and it’s how small businesses can stand out and compete with the bigger brands who, for all their resources, may just be struggling to reverse engineer that human element, that human desire to feel like we matter.

It's not for everyone, but it's better to those who count

Find out what your target market wants and go out of your way to over-deliver that with spunk, personality and care in a way that resonates with them. You’ll only be able to do this if you take the time to find out who they are and what they care about. It goes beyond you and your product and service, and spreads into a whole context for how you and the thing you do exists within their lives and their stories.

This is target marketing

This is how you will stand out. This is how you will be chosen and spoken about. This is how you will gain loyalty from the people you serve and how you will iterate and improve your business well into the future independent of what your competitors do. This is how you create a brand that sticks and stands the test of time - pick your thing and do it extremely well, the best. And the key to achieving this is in understanding your ideal customer so well that you can see the world through their eyes.


So no, it’s not just a corporate marketing buzz-word, it’s the fundamental key to small businesses standing out in a crowded world where trust and attention are our scarcest business resources. Small businesses have limited resources - don’t waste them. Take your time to identify and understand your ideal customers and focus everything on caring just for them.

I hope you enjoyed this article and have some extra oomph to go out and get really clear about the people you serve. Tomorrow I'll be talking about the advantages of being part of the niche you serve as a way of understanding them better and therefore better meeting their needs.

Catch you tomorrow,


Photo credit: "Gift" by asenat29 via Flickr