No, Your Target Market should not be 'Everyone'

November 23, 2017 / By Bruce McDuffee

Is your target market 'everyone'? And why shouldn't it be everyone? The bigger the pond, the more fish, the more we catch, right? Let's go a bit further with the fishing analogy. In the pond are thousands of different types of fish who like hundreds of different types of food. You've got a fancy new type of bait that you think all fish will like. No not just like, but love! You eagerly bait up your line and toss it in from your randomly positioned boat. One hour goes by, two hours go by, only to see a few nibbles, but you haven't caught any fish. How can this be? My new fancy bait appeals to all types of fish. I'm the global leader in fish bait manufacturing.

Meanwhile, you glance over at another fisherman who seems to have strategically placed his boat in a small cove. He appears to be hooking fish one right after the other and having a wonderful time. You nonchalantly paddle over within shouting distance, "Ahoy, what's your secret?"

He responds that he has carefully chosen his bait to appeal to only 3 of the tastiest fish in the pond. He says he has been studying the fish in this lake for many months to learn which fish are ideal for his taste (perfect prospect) and what these fish like to eat. He even went one step further and found out where this particular fish lived in the pond. He winds up the conversation by saying that he chose his target fish carefully, segmented them based on their favorite flies and location. The final secret was that he selected tasty fish that liked to eat flies that he happened to be expert at tying. Oh, and he is the only one who knows how to tie this particular fly. (unique differentiation).

If you try to be everything to everybody, you end up being nothing to Workshop_200.pnganybody. You won't catch any fish.

Manufacturing marketers must choose a target market and carefully segment it to fit the ideal prospect profile. What's that you say, everybody is your target market. Au contraire Pierre! Your firm has strengths and weaknesses, a core competence, and a unique differentiator. These characteristics make your offering good for some, bad for others, and indifferent to most. Top-notch manufacturers realize this and select a target market that fits with the strengths, core competence and unique characteristics of their firm.

I've seen some companies who choose a market segment merely because they like the sector; maybe it's a high growth segment or the companies in this segment are flush with cash. But they have nothing unique to offer and no particular expertise with that audience. A target market is a poor choice if you do not have something the people in that target market want or need.

A few basic rules about selecting a target market:

  1. Choose a target market that can be defined and captured. If you can't pick the target market out and make a list, the definition is no good.
  2. Choose a target market that you can efficiently reach with your message. The target market should congregate in one fashion or another. (picture fish in a cove)
  3. Choose a target market that has a need your firm can meet with its core competence, uniquely if possible. Should you develop a product to meet a certain market's needs? Maybe, but if you're firm is already established, there is an infrastructure already in place that supports your core competence. Developing new expertise or a new core product takes a lot of resources and probably won't work. (think Delta Airlines and their closing of 'Song' in 2005)
  4. A good starting point is to define current heavy users of your existing offering
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