I’ve worked with a lot of people to help them refine their target market. The target market is one of those concepts that people tend largely to ignore. Bad idea, since they are the basis for focused, powerful networking.

We’ve talked in the past about being more specific when we tell people about our target market. Saying “I’m looking for anyone who needs a home” doesn’t mean anything to our referral sources. We would be better off saying “I’m looking for couples in their thirties who just had a second child and live on the old west side.” That description is far more likely to bring someone to mind.

What I would like to focus on today is the word “We”. I’ve heard a lot of people start their target market statement with that word or something similar to represent a larger group. I think this weakens the message that we want to convey.

  1. It leads to a lack of specificity. Usually the “we” refers to our company. Companies can serve a wide variety of people. Non-Specific Motors, Inc “sells cars”. I “sell cars to recent college graduates in the tri-state area”. As an individual, my target market should be a much more specific subset of my company’s interests.
  2. It’s an advertisement. “ABC company serves the widget needs of the metropolitan area” only talks about the company, not about what we want specifically. “I work with the CEO’s of small appliance manufacturing firms, such as the XYZ Corporation” tells our referral source how they can help us.
  3. It’s camouflage. This is a common tactic for sole proprietors. They want to appear larger than they are and so continually refer to themselves in the plural. While that is understandable, remember that this is still a personal request. If we really need to maintain the camouflage, we can just adjust the statement to be something like “While my company serves a variety of people, I personally help young, single entrepreneurs who started a new business within the last year.” It still gives the impression that we are part of a larger organization while allowing us to ask for what we need personally.
  4. It’s impersonal. Remember, the strength of the network is based on the strength of the relationships which form it. A relationship is between two people, not a person and a company. By stating our individual target market, we are telling our connections that this is important to us. They, in turn are more likely to help because they want to help us. It’s far less likely that they will have the same emotions about our company.
Remember, a target market is who we prefer to help, not our company. Maybe one of the reasons people prefer to make it about their company is that then they don’t have to feel like they are asking for a personal favor. When it comes down to it, though, that’s exactly what a network is designed to do — help us succeed in both our personal and professional lives.

Photo credit: Steven Goodwin