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How to Get Clear on Your Target Market–And Never Have to Hunt for Your Next Gig Again

In: Online Marketing

So, remember the last post, when I went on a lengthy spiel about fallen fathers and rainbow sprinkles and the reason why it's madly, wildly essential to have a specific target audience in mind, so you can understand how to best market yourself (read: connect) to that target audience? (And experience all sorts of juicy outcomes, including mo' money and mo' glow?)

Well in this post, we're going to talk about figuring out who this so-called “target audience” of yours is, anyway. I might even throw in some references to Mexican politics, razor burn, tuba players and/or Will Smith, but probably not, so don't worry.

Let's pretend for a moment that you're a gorgeous, smart, intuitive life coach with a rack to die for. If you're a male, I'm sorry. You've got boobs.

Let's also pretend that your name is Peggy, and you love what you do, but you can't seem to get enough clients in the door.

You're getting discouraged, and you're worried that you might never be able to quit your second job–which you need, right now, to make ends meet.

So you and I meet in a hookah lounge (what? It's hypothetical), where we proceed to order some kind of exotic spicy tea that we both think is disgusting after one sip but drink it anyway out of politeness, and then I hit you with the Q-bomb of Q-bombs (in the voice of Snoop Dogg):

Well P, who yo' target market be?

You tremble. You make a face like you've just eaten a bug. And then you reply (also in the voice of Snoop Dogg):

Shiiiiiitttt, dawg. My target market be any brothas or sistahs out there who be needin' some BLEEP BLEEP support, yo.

And then I bitchslap you upside the head, because I'm taking advantage of the fact that we're still in character. You look temporarily stunned. I release a cloud of hookah smoke into the air that makes us both cough. I then say (switching to my Oprah voice):

Look, Peg. *gently rubs shoulder* I know you're starting to feel a little desperate, and I know that you're grasping for clients, but the worst thing you can do is spread yourself wider.

Your face indicates that you're not sure if I'm making a crude sexual joke or if I'm being serious, so I go on to explain further:

Anyone willing to throw you a dollar bill is not your target market. You're not a stripper; you're a professional. And professionals, my dear, always know two things: Who their bread and butter comes from (not how it comes, but from who), and how to clear a pool table without so much as giving an opponent their first shot. Both equally important.

I go on and explain to Peg that the more specific she can get about who she wants to work with, the easier it will be to market herself to those individuals, because by being specific, she's got a shot at intimately understanding who those individuals are. And if she understands who those individuals are, then she can demonstrate that fact. And when she demonstrates that fact, those individuals will feel like she gets them. And when those individuals feel like Peg gets them, they will grow to trust her more and more. And when they trust her? Peg won't have to worry about a lack of clients and customers ever again.

The key does not lie in expanding–the key lies in getting HYPER FOCUSED.

So then Peg's thinking, “Great. I can get focused. But who do I focus on? And how do I know that they're the right people to focus on?”

And that's where most people get tripped up. They're scared they'll pick the wrong target market. Their efforts will be fruitless. They won't be their right people, after all. So rather with sitting down to figure it out, they prefer to ignore it altogether, throwing their business up against the wall until it sticks. (Or doesn't.)

But it doesn't have to be a big, complicated science. As a matter of fact, it's much easier than you think it is. All you've got to do is answer a few questions, and you'll have a much better idea of who the hell you should be targeting.

Let's take it step by step. Ready?

1) Who can benefit from your knowledge and/or services?

In Peggy's case, the answer to this question may very well be “anyone who needs support.” But, we obviously know that's way too broad, so we'll continue asking ourselves questions to drill down further. If you happen to be a wedding photographer, for example, the answer to this question might be “anyone who needs wedding photography.” Also way, way too broad and exactly what we're trying to get away from, but it's a starting place.

2) Out of those people, who do you think really wants your knowledge and/or services?

This is different from needing your knowledge and/or services, because people don't ultimately buy based on what they need; they buy based on what they want, because buying decisions are based on emotion. Every. Single. Time. This is a tricky one, though, because it's not always obvious who *wants* something–unless you have an audience at your disposal where you can run surveys and the like. But when you're just getting started, you won't have that, so how the hell do you have any idea?

Here's how:

Take a look at the benefits your product or service provides – and by this, I mean really sit down and figure out what GOOD you really do anyone. This isn't about what you offer people on the surface–it's about why they should ultimately care about what you offer. What good does it do them?

Then, once you've got the benefits of your product or service, you can work backwards. Look at the greater picture of the individuals you identified in step one, and figure out what stage that individual needs to be in, in order to really care about the benefits you have to offer…or what kind of person that person needs to be in order to care about (and want) what you have to offer. For example, for Peggy, lots of people might benefit from having support, but do you really think that a depressed person in denial about being depressed is going to care enough (or want) to take action? Probably not. They should probably be excluded from her target market – figuring this out isn't always about identifying WHO, but it's also about identifying WHO NOT. For the wedding photographer, lots of people could benefit from having high quality memories from their wedding day, but do you suppose that a bride who is on her second or third marriage is going to be going through the same thought process as a bride getting married for the first time? Probably not. Therefore, her buying process will be different, too. Take a look at the benefits you have to offer and see where you fit into the picture–which bride would you personally do more good for, based on your own interests and talents and specialties? Obviously these are just examples and there's a million ways to cut the pie, but you get the idea.

3) Now, out of those individuals you've just narrowed down, you've really, really got to consider who is not only able to pay, but willing to pay, if you're trying to make this into a business and not just a hobby.

Both play key factors here. If your market is college kids, you're going to have a hard time. College kids don't have any money. This is a very real consideration. If you want to read more about my thoughts on this, pop your name into the Get Gutsy box at the top of this page to your right, and you'll be given complimentary access to my free guide on jump starting your biz, where I talk about this at length. There's even charts. And pixie dust. And free condoms that pop out of the screen.

4) Last but certainly not least, I want you to look at this smaller demographic you've just carved out, and I want you to make it smaller by getting specific on what kind of client or customer YOU want.

You're allowed to get particular here! You're not just allowed; you're encouraged. Knowing what type of people you work best with will ensure that you do your best work–and that will not only make you a happy business owner, but it'll also help feed the referral engine, because when you're happily doing your best work, it shows. In your work and in your interactions.

A lot of people get stuck here, too. They don't know what kind of client or customer they'd want. And do you know the funny thing? After countless consulting calls, do you know what kind of client or customer most people end up wanting? One that's just like them, either at present, or at some other point in their lives. So Peggy will naturally be drawn to those that mirror her own personality, or have struggled with things that she has in the past, as will the wedding photographer. So maybe it's a good time to do a little soul-searching. What kind of people do you find yourself naturally drawn to? Include this in your description of your ideal target market!

At the end of the day, when you choose your target market wisely, it enables you to market yourself far more effectively. Even with something as simple as your elevator pitch. Which sounds more appealing:

Hi, I'm Peggy and I'm a life coach.


Hi, I'm Peggy and I help unassertive women get paid what they're worth.

Furthermore, which sounds more confident?

Which would you be willing to put your faith in?

Which would you be willing to pay more money to, if you happened to fit this particular target market?

Which do you think would be easier for others to spread the word about?

Which do you think would get more referrals?

Which do you think would be more successful?

Which do you think would be sipping on a glass of Belvedere right now, instead of stressing about how to get more clients?

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. So, so much of your success rides on your ability to GET FOCUSED on who you're trying to help. And then ride 'em til the cows come home.


Aren't you glad I didn't actually bring up Mexican politics and/or razor burn? I told you it probably wouldn't happen. And fortunately, I'm a woman of my word. Unless, of course, there's a game of pool on the line, in which case I will proudly hustle anyone who's asking for it.

Scranton girls, I tell ya. Frankly, I have no idea how the world would survive without us.

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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