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Updated Jun 17, 2024

Everyone Is Not Your Customer: That’s OK

Narrowing your focus to a niche market helps your business find better customers.

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Starting a business is an exciting time and it’s understandable that you want to introduce your new company to the world and believe that everyone ― young or old, male or female, urban or rural, you name it ― needs what you’re selling. 

As a small business owner, you should feel enthusiastic about your business and confident about what it has to offer and you need to be an evangelist for your business. But believing that everyone is your customer is counterproductive because you’ll spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to reach people who aren’t interested. 

Editor’s note: Need an email marketing service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Why everyone is not your customer

Think about some of the country’s biggest companies. Although they’re wildly successful and have very broad customer bases, they can’t claim “everyone” as their target market.

Walmart, for example, focuses on budget and convenience shoppers, promising “everyday low prices” to deliver on its tagline of “Save money. Live better.” Although it has more than 4,000 stores in the United States and sells groceries, electronics, clothing and nearly everything else you need to run a household, it doesn’t carry high-end or luxury goods because that isn’t what its target audience is looking for in its stores.

Just as everyone is not Walmart’s customer, everyone is not your customer. Here’s why that’s OK: You can’t please everyone. But there are people you can please and once you figure out who they are, you’ve found your niche. Narrowing your scope to your actual and potential customers takes the pressure off “being everything to everyone” so that you can focus on delivering the products or services that your real audience gets excited about. 

Who is your customer?

So, if “everyone” isn’t your target customer, how do you figure out who is? If you already have customers, you can analyze your customer data to find commonalities. With this information, marketing experts recommend creating buyer personas, fictional characters who represent your ideal customers. 

Although they’re fictional, their qualities should be based on your actual customers. In addition to demographic information, you should include details about them that give you insights into who they are, what they want, the challenges they’re facing, the problems or pain points that are driving them crazy and why your business is a good resource for them. 

To learn more about your niche market, spend time in the online forums and groups they use to find out the questions they’re asking and the issues they’re dealing with and dig into social media. Additionally, you could interview your existing customers, ask your sales team about trends they’re seeing in the market and analyze data from your POS system and web analytics. [Related article: Best POS Systems for Business]

Scour the places your customers spend time online, speak with them directly and analyze your customer data to determine who your customers are.

A step-by-step guide to determining who is your customer

The expert advice above on buyer personas provides a great starting point for determining who is your customer. Take things even further with the below step-by-step guide to creating a meaningful, accurate buyer persona:

  1. Research your audience: Gather information on your current customers through Google Analytics and social media insights. Use that to identify demographic trends that tell you more about your audience. Better yet, figure out which social media platforms your customers use most often. Enlist the help of social media listening and sentiment analysis tools to see what customers on these platforms need.
  2. Research your competitors: Several online tools can help you gather (or at least approximate) the above data for your competitors as well. Pulsar and Similarweb are two great examples of performing a competitive analysis.
  3. Enlist your team‘s help in determining needs: Demographic data is only the start when determining customer needs. Team members who correspond with customers and prospects might have insights you can only dream of obtaining from data. Maybe your sales and customer service representatives have noticed certain trends in customer wants and needs. Consider meeting with team members to learn more about what they’re seeing firsthand.
  4. Assess your product‘s benefits: Ask yourself, “How do my company’s standout benefits help the customer? What is it about our product that gives our audience what they need?” Try to distill your answer into a sentence. Remember that your products and services may be different things to different people.
  5. Combine the above into an approximation of a person: The result is your buyer persona, the best theoretical reflection of who is your customer. A buyer persona might be a millennial professional who goes to bars twice a week, lives alone in a major city and uses public transit. Your alcohol-free wine brand helps him enjoy happy hour with a major perk: He can navigate the subways back home without getting disoriented. You may have several buyer personas representing different types of customers, all of whom use your products and services for their own reasons.

How to target specific types of customers

After you identify your ideal customer, here are three things you can do with this knowledge. 

1. Narrow your marketing efforts.

Recognizing that everyone is not your customer frees you from chasing unprofitable leads. Identifying your target buyers helps you pinpoint which prospective customers are good fits for your brand so you can stop wasting your sales and marketing resources on people who have no interest in or need for what you’re selling. 

Once you know who your customers are, it’s easier to connect with them, because you know where they are and what they want. So, instead of addressing your “everyone” customers in broad, vague terms, you can speak directly to your target customers and get into the nitty-gritty details that show them you understand their needs. 

That enables you to create the most effective marketing strategy, whether that means creating content that resonates with them on their preferred social media channel, running an email marketing campaign or following up with them on the phone or in person. 

2. Become a specialist in your industry.

Knowing exactly who your customers are and how your business meets their specific needs and wants allows you to break away from the pack and become a specialist in your industry. Specialist knowledge can give you a competitive edge over the generalists who also operate within your niche.

Chances are good that, as a small business, you’re not going to be able to beat the Walmarts of your industry on the breadth of product or service offerings, nor do you have the sales volume needed to win a race to the bottom. But you can offer specialty products or features that aren’t available elsewhere, such as those that are suitable for enthusiasts or professionals, or a level of service that isn’t provided by other companies. 

3. Adapt as your customers’ needs change.

Once you’re no longer selling to “everyone,” it’s easier to keep up with your customers as they change and to adapt your offerings to anticipate their future needs. It’s rare for an industry to remain stagnant. Knowing your customers helps you pivot as industry trends come and go, technology evolves or your customers’ needs change. 

Understanding your customers and their needs also helps you identify how to expand as your business grows. For instance, this may mean bringing on more employees so you can offer additional customer support or investing in research and development so you can launch new products or add features your customers have been requesting.

Find your target audience

To keep your audience engaged and your customers coming back, it’s important to find your niche. The more you try to cast the widest possible net in your marketing, the more difficult it will be to attract the customers who most need your products and services. By zeroing in on the people who get the most value from your business, you’ll be able to build a loyal following and a strong foundation from which to grow your business.

Tejas Vemparala and Max Freedman contributed to this article.

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
Adam Uzialko, senior editor of Business News Daily, is not just a professional writer and editor — he’s also an entrepreneur who knows firsthand what it’s like building a business from scratch. His experience as co-founder and managing editor of a digital marketing company imbues his work at Business News Daily with a perspective grounded in the realities of running a small business. Since 2015, Adam has reviewed hundreds of small business products and services, including contact center solutions, email marketing software and text message marketing software. Adam uses the products, interviews users and talks directly to the companies that make the products and services he covers. He specializes in digital marketing topics, with a focus on content marketing, editorial strategy and managing a team.
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