Every once in a while when I’m chatting with a new networking partner I run into a little problem. I ask them who their target market is and they respond:

“Oh, we can help anybody.”

As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is not a helpful statement. Specificity is your friend in this case. If they can’t be specific in describing their target market, then it’s highly unlikely that you are going to have your associative memory triggered.  I don’t know about you, but “anybody” brings “nobody” to mind.

So what I will usually do when presented with this less-than-useful response is to take them through a few questions which will hopefully narrow down the pool of possible targets. Here are some of the questions I ask:

  • What clients do you prefer to work with? Sometimes this gets the “clients with money” response, but it often gets you the dream client.
  • Who have been your best clients in the past? If they liked them before, maybe they would like more like them.
  • Which industries do your customers usually come from? Again, this can lead to the “we can help anyone” answer.
  • Do you have a limited service area? City, county, state, region, national, global? Again, we are aiming for “prefer” rather than “possible”.
  • Why do your clients choose you? How do you differentiate yourself? If they say “customer service”, then they really haven’t thought about it. After all, everyone has great customer service, right?
  • Who was your most recent client? Were they representative of a good client?
  • Are they bigger than a bread box? This is the general question category. How big a company? How old (people or companies)? How much do they make? How many cars do they drive? Do they have a summer home? Do they have kids? How many? Are they newlyweds? Is the company family-owned? What generation? Etc, etc, etc.
Most people, when you get them started thinking about all of these details, will begin to be more specific about their perfect client.  The biggest challenge they have is they think by being specific about their target market, they are giving something up. Reassure them that you are just trying to find the best fit for them. If they continue to insist that they can help “anybody”, gently let them know that “anybody” reminds you of “nobody” and you’re pretty sure that’s not who they want.
Photo credit: Bogdan Suditu