February 14, 2012

Know Thy Customer

target marketI’ve said it before but it bears repeating – if you can only do one thing to help your business succeed you should spend your energy identifying who your target market is.  Here’s why:

At a recent conference, where food producers had spent thousands of dollars exhibiting their goodies to retailers, buyers, and brokers, I sat in on an information session where one company was asked who their customers were.

“Everyone,” the owner replied.

Thinking that perhaps she hadn’t understood the question correctly the instructor phrased the question differently.  “Who have you identified as your target market,” he asked.

The owner shook her head as though she couldn’t understand why he was asking the question again.  “Everyone is our target market,” she insisted.

Think about that for a second.  No matter what you it is you make and sell, what are the chances that everyone in the world likes it?  Even something as basic as white bread has plenty of folks who won’t touch it with a ten foot pole (people with gluten-allergies, people following low-carb diets, and people following a paleo approach to eating just to name a few).

The reason why understanding that “everyone” simply can’t be your target market is that it’s darn near impossible for you to effectively market to “everyone.”  Even the Big Brands, with millions of dollars to spend, segment the market and develop advertising and marketing to those people specifically.

That being said, as a small artisan food business you also don’t have the market research dollars behind you that the Big Brands do to determine who your target market is.  This earlier post – Finding Your Target Market – has some great information about what small businesses can do to identify who their customers are.  However, if you check back later this week you can also find the cliff notes version as to whom, according to market research guru Packaged Facts, is buying specialty foods like yours these days.

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