As an entrepreneur, you pride yourself on knowing your customer. You probably dream about them. But have you really defined them in a way that can move your business forward. Many business people think that broader is better. The larger my audience the more people I can sell too, right? Not necessarily. When it comes to knowing your customer, to really being able to target your customer, less is usually more.

Why should you better know your customer?

So, let’s break this down. We are going to focus on a small business owner that has identified her target customer as “women”. So below you will find three women. From left to right you have a senior woman, a middle-aged woman, and a young woman. Based on the example our business owner is saying that all of these ladies are her customer.

But would you put them all in the same group when it comes to how you would talk to them? Do you think you would find them in the same places? Do you think the same product, packaged the same way would appeal to all of them equally? Of course not. Each of these pictures represents women at different stages in their lives. And we haven’t even touched on race and ethnicity. Or how about lifestyle?

Okay so let’s say our small business owner reassesses things and now she says her target customer is young college women. Great, right? She isn’t thinking as broad anymore. She is looking at a narrower audience. But is it really targeted enough? So below you will find three more women. Let’s assume that all three of these women are 20 and they are in college. But will they respond the same? From left to right you have a young single mom, a 20-year-old whose parents are paying for school, and a young woman putting herself through college while working.

Based on the example our business owner is saying that all of these young women are her customer. And they may be. But would do you think the same things would appeal to each of them? Do you think talking to them the same way would work? Probably not.

Although your company can and will do business with any customer it is important to remember that keeping the overall focus of the company narrow and clearly defined will enable you to focus on desired growth areas and avoid diluting your marketing efforts. If you are trying to appeal to all the above groups with one Facebook ad or local event you risk appealing to no one.

If instead, you focus your marketing and outreach efforts on a more clearly defined customer you can avoid the trap of trying to be all things to all people. This will enable you to ensure that each marketing effort, project, or sponsorship opportunity will reach your intended target.

How do you do it?

By now you are seeing why less is more when it comes to targeting your customer. But you are probably still wondering how do I go about doing this. As with anything else, there is the traditional way of doing it using market research and there is the entrepreneur / small business way of doing it.

Scientific market research is fantastic. And this is absolutely what you should do when you can afford to do it right. It offers you just that scientific data with which you can make decisions. It gives you a clear picture of who your current customers are and who your potential customers are likely to be. But there are two main drawbacks with this option. One is that good research costs a lot of money. Often more than you have to invest in your business. And two, it only produces good results if you have good questions. Remember I said good research costs a lot of money. But even if you spend a lot of money and don’t ask the right questions you may still fall short of getting what you need. So, if you go down the path of market research, find a reliable partner that you feel comfortable with and can afford. And make sure the right questions are being asked so that you get data that will truly help you.

Option two, the entrepreneur / small business way of doing it, is a bit more down and dirty. It is about asking yourself and your staff if you have them, questions about your customers. Sit down and examine everything you know about them. Who are they? How old are they? What are they interested in? Where do they live? Make lists. You are trying to paint a picture of your typical customer. Compare your thoughts to what Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can tell you about your customer. Were you right? If yes great. If not, where do you differ.

Once you have better defined your customer you can begin to craft your marketing plan to best appeal to those people. No more throwing stuff (i.e. marketing money) at the wall to see what sticks. You will now be taking a more targeted approach. And now you can really pride yourself on knowing your customer. You can really dream about them and how many more of them you are going to reach. Because even though your audience (market) is narrower you’re getting a bigger share of that market propelling your company forward.

By: Amy Matthews, CEO, AMI