Every business needs customers, so turning away customers might feel like business suicide. But hard as it may be for business owners to hear: not everyone is your customer. Although it may be tempting to start a business thinking everyone will need what you offer, that strategy rarely leads to long-term, sustainable success. Your product or service has specific target customers and users. Consider a store like Walmart, for example. They may have mass appeal and a broad target market, but they’re still not for everyone. If you’re looking for high-end brands and designer couture, you’re probably not going to consider Walmart brands.
The truth is that when you try to speak to everyone, you appeal to no one. If you think about your favorite consumer brands, you’ll probably realize that they appeal to you because they seem to understand your problems, desires, and what you’re looking for from their product or service. By narrowing down on your ideal customer, you actually open your business up to serious growth.
New customers and consistent sales build businesses, but not every paying customer is a good customer. “The customer is always right,” retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge famously said in 1909. Yes, over a century plus a decade ago! While there is something to be said for treating customers with respect and delighting them with your products and services, the customer is not always right, and they may not even be the right customer for your business. If you have been in the business for any amount of time, there’s little doubt that you have had customers you regret taking on. Perhaps they are always complaining, want more than they pay for, take up too much of your time, and make you feel unmotivated and uninspired. Sometimes the fault is neither theirs nor yours; you’re simply not a good fit for one another, and it’s often better to cut your losses and move on.
Sample questions to help you determine whether a customer is a good fit for your business:
- Are they loyal to your business?
- Do they spend a lot of time trying to get free information from you without buying anything?
- Are you able to reasonably meet their expectations?
- Does your brand benefit from the association with theirs?
- Is the client profitable?
- Would there be a better way to spend your resources if you didn’t have them on your books?
- Do your business ethics align?
- Do you feel excited and motivated about the work you do for them?
If the answers to these questions are raising red flags about a particular customer or segment of your market, it may be time to have some difficult conversations. Even if you choose not to fire a client, use the things that make you uncomfortable about the arrangement as screens when bringing on new accounts.
Not everyone can afford your product or services. And that’s OK. You know how much time and resources go into your work, what you need to pay the bills, and how much you need to charge to make it all worthwhile. There’s no need to feel shy about your pricing and offer discounts to prospective customers who say that your services are beyond their budgets; the truth is that they’re just not your target customer. Your pricing can also be a good way to screen potential customers—those who don’t see your value or can’t afford you are not worth pursuing.
Businesses evolve over time, and sometimes that evolution leads to a change in target market. For example, let’s say you started out as a food truck and people loved your nachos so much that you decided to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Along with new menu items, you’re now serving a different purpose and a new customer need—think birthday party groups enjoying margarita jugs instead of passers-by looking for a quick fix on the run. As your business and business goals develop, you need to re-adjust your target customer profile.
To fill your client roster with ideal customers requires you to clarify who your ideal client is and what makes them the right fit for your business. The basis of good sales and marketing is defining your customers carefully. Once you have a clearly defined target audience, it becomes easier to identify where to invest your time and budget effectively for a better return on investment—and a better overall working environment. Carving out a niche within your industry allows you to connect with your specific audience—their pain points, desires, and motivations—and actually makes the job of marketing your business easier:
- Content creation is easier because your content is focused on your target audience’s needs
- Your content becomes more strategic and valuable to the audience
- You’re more likely to be viewed as an expert in your field
- Your website messaging becomes clearer
- Your call-to-actions become more enticing and applicable
- You’ll see more engagement with your email communications
- Your social media following starts to grow
- You’ll get more positive online reviews
And, from a business operations perspective, having customers that are a good fit, can afford your services, and see the value in what you do for them reduces friction (and injects more fun) into your everyday dealings.
At Brighter Messaging, we help our customers (service-based businesses that are carefully guarding a well-established reputation in their niches) clearly articulate their value proposition and target market and create a clear vision and plan that aligns with their customers and their brand. Contact us to learn more about our value proposition workshop and small business marketing strategy services.