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Don’t be afraid to define a narrow target market

When I describe my target market, people wonder if it is too narrow. It is important to realize that some criteria may not be automatic deal breakers. Here’s what I mean. My target market includes small organizations of 25 employees or less. Does that mean that if a prospect has 50 employees I automatically tell them I’m not a fit? No. But I use that information as one of the items for identifying if I think I will enjoy working with this client. The larger the client, the more cautious I am.

On the other hand, some projects do have automatic deal breakers. A current client asked me a few years ago to consider a Silverlight project they were staffing. I realized pretty quickly that Silverlight wasn’t something I was interested in, and so I declined.

So what’s the point of spending time defining target market specifics if you may ignore some of the criteria anyway?

1) It helps you to better evaluate potential opportunities if you have really thought through what kinds of projects and clients are enjoyable to you, and what kinds aren’t. If you haven’t spent time doing that (and revising it occasionally), then you are more likely to agree to something that will make you miserable.

2) It helps you to write marketing copy (Google Adwords, website text, etc.) that is more likely to attract the kinds of clients you want.

3) It helps you describe the kinds of clients you are looking for to referrers.

Remember: you control who you work with. You can decide later that an 80% fit with your perfect project profile is good enough. But if you don’t take the time to define your target market at all, you’re suggesting that everyone is the right kind of customer for you. You don’t really believe that, do you?

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