As a small business owner, consultant, executive coach, keynote speaker or other expert who focuses on winning corporate clients, the growth problem you face isn’t lack of business opportunity.
On the contrary, the real problem is too much opportunity!
Now, I realize that when you are first starting your business, navigating a recession, or struggling to get clients, it may not feel that way.
But in truth, there are millions of organizations the world over. And collectively they spend tens of trillions of dollars a year buying products and services. (Yes, trillions.)
The problem is, as a small business owner or a diverse supplier, you have limited time, limited people, limited money, and limited resources.
And the more you spread out your resources, the weaker and more diluted they become.
Trying to chase every opportunity in the marketplace is like trying to turn the ocean blue with a bottle of blue food coloring.
Really let that image sink in.
Because even after you narrow your focus, there will be times when you question your decision. You’ll worry that you are missing out on sales opportunities.
But when all those “what if” questions come racing into your mind, you can come back to this mental image of dropping blue food coloring in the ocean.
It will serve as a great reminder as to why you’re being disciplined… even though so many other entrepreneurs out there continue to chase their tails.
Now — how exactly do you decide what target markets to focus on?
It’s actually a lot easier, and more pragmatic than you might realize.
There Are 3 Easy Methods to Follow When You’re Deciding Which Target Clients You Should Focus On
Here we go…
Method #1: Follow the Money.
And actually, this is Rule No. 1 in business, period.
After all, that’s why businesses exist — to make money.
So, when you’re deciding which clients to focus on, start with the simple method of asking yourself:
- Which industries are flourishing?
- Which industries are struggling?
One sector that’s not flourishing right now is traditional retail.
Month after month we see brick-and-mortar retailers filing for bankruptcy protection and failing to invest in their futures. They are quickly becoming irrelevant.
On the other hand, the technology sector, especially areas like artificial intelligence, cyber security, and e-commerce, are thriving.
So when picking your market niche, you want to look at which industries are growing, hiring, evolving and investing.
If you’re a diverse corporate supplier or consultant, pay special attention to companies that are investing in their digital and global future.
If you’re a leadership coach, trainer, or keynote speaker, look for those clumps of companies that are actively working to become the workplace of the future.
But that’s not all. To truly find your target market, you need to dig even deeper.
Look inside of companies to figure out which decision makers, which divisions, and which functional areas have the most money to spend — and the authority to spend it.
Keep in mind that inside of every company, there are “profit centers” and there are “cost centers.” Here’s what that means in plain terms.
A profit center is a department or division that helps the company to directly generate revenue. The sales department is a profit center. So is the division that manufacturers the products that the company sells.
Conversely, HR is a cost center. It’s overhead, plain and simple.
Just don’t write off all cost centers the same way. Chief Information Officers and IT departments, while certainly cost centers, are today viewed as strategic assets — and have enormous budgets and authority. That’s why you have to do your homework.
Method #2: Grow Where You’re Planted.
Here’s what we mean by this.
- Grow where you’re planted experience-wise; and
- Grow where you’re planted geographically.
From an experience perspective, take a look back over your entire professional journey. What types of organizations and industries have you worked in?
Healthcare? Education? Energy? Retail? Real Estate?
Now before you object to the idea of “going back” to the industry or type of company you may have run from, hear me out.
We’ve worked with thousands of business owners around the world, and we know many folks have faced toxic work experiences at one time or another. As such, the thought of returning to that world can be an emotional subject.
But while you may have run screaming from the building the day you left your job behind, the fact is, that first-hand industry experience is a massive strategic advantage.
Think about everything (and everyone!) you know because you’ve worked in a particular industry before:
- Who the key companies and organizations are
- The key trade publications and industry associations
- The industry jargon and lingo
- The big problems they face
And yes, you likely even have contacts in your Rolodex that you CAN dust off in order to get your business ramped up. (Business relationships NEVER expire!)
Plus, getting paid big bucks as a business consultant or supplier on the outside is a heck of a lot different than being a poorly treated employee on the inside.
Now switching gears a little… “grow where you’re planted” also means looking at where you are located geographically.
You might think in today’s day and age — with all the modern technologies we have at our fingertips and the fact that everyone is just a Skype, Zoom, or phone call away — that it doesn’t matter if you focus on companies that are halfway around the world.
And yes, that’s partly true. You can win clients anywhere in the world.
But if you’re just starting out or you’re struggling to get consulting clients, the best place to look is right in your own backyard.
Here are three reasons why.
- Your personal network of local friends, family and neighbors puts you only one or two degrees of separation away from valuable strategic introductions to people inside local companies.
- It’s easy and low cost to get to local business events where you can easily meet decision makers from these companies in person.
- Surprising as it might be, decision makers have a greater sense of trust and rapport with experts who are located right in their own backyard. And in fact, they are more likely to choose a local consultant, coach or vendor over one that’s located across the country or around the world.
So as you decide on your target market, think about what types of companies and organizations are concentrated in your city (or the closest city to you).
For example, in places like Baltimore, Boston and Berlin, there are tons of biotech companies. In Northern Virginia there are tons of defense contractors. In Paris, there are oodles of top fashion brands. And in California, it’s all about tech companies.
Method #3: Preach to the Converted.
This method is all about focusing on the believers… that is, decision makers and companies that already care about and invest time and money in the thing your company fixes (or the type of product your company sells).
Here’s why. One of the most expensive and time-consuming things you can do in your marketing is try to convince decision makers to care about something they don’t already care about.
Conversely, the decision makers who have shown that they’re willing to invest to make something better are likely to keep on investing in it.
Here’s a fun quiz. Let’s say you’re an expert at helping companies to improve customer service.
Should you focus on:
- Companies that frequently rank as having the worst customer service? Or…
- Companies that frequently rank as having the best customer service?
A lot of consultants would mistakenly pick option A. They think they should try to “fix” companies that are terrible.
But think about this. If the top decision makers at those companies cared even a little about their customer service, they would never have allowed themselves to become so terrible.
On the other hand, companies that are often recognized for good customer service are exactly the types of organizations that are likely to continue to invest even more in their customer service people.
The best part about this method is that it’s relatively easy to identify companies that are already investing in something. For every possible category, there’s at least one “top list” published by a media outlet or industry association.
If you sell coaching and leadership skills, for example, you can look for companies that are listed on the “Best Places to Work” annual ranking.
Just How Important Is This?
As you think about defining your target market, remember this.
Everything you do in your business hinges on who your target market is.
Your messaging. Your brand style. Your programs. The events you speak at. The content you write. The organizations you build relationships with. Even the team members you hire.
So please do not invest in your website, your logo, your branding, your social media presence, your videos, or any other marketing materials, until you get 100% clear on this thing. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.
Want expert help getting clear on your target market and how best to reach them?
Our private consulting programs are completely customized to you, your expertise and your business growth goals. And within just 90 days we can have you in a completely different place in your business.
The first step is simply scheduling a call with our team here.
Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Hi Angelique. You say “Look inside of companies to figure out which decision makers, which divisions, and which functional areas have the most money to spend — and the authority to spend it.”
How does one find that kind of information on a company?
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