Tuesday, April 8, 2014


To build your business successfully in a crowded marketplace, it's essential to know exactly who you're marketing to. Knowing your target audience is critical to everything you must do to market yourself as a self-employed professional. Whether you're writing web copy, choosing networking events, or deciding what goes on your business card, you must have a clear picture of who you wish to engage with.

Here are five keys to consider when choosing, defining, and working with the right target audience for your business.
  1. Market Niche ― Carving out a specific market niche will make your marketing easier, cheaper, and more powerful. You may already have a fair idea about what your niche should be. But how well have you defined it? In my view, the elements of an effective niche for a self-employed professional are: 1) target market, plus 2) specialty. Your target market is the group of people or organizations you wish to target as prospective clients. Your specialty is the particular area in which you provide service.
    For example, an executive coach could target high-tech companies and specialize in helping technical professionals become better leaders. A financial planner could target professional women and specialize in finding them socially responsible investments.
  2. Ideal Client ― Inside your market niche, there is a subgroup of prospective clients that you would especially like to work with. These may be clients that fit certain demographic criteria, or those at a particular stage of business or life. For example, the executive coach above might identify her ideal client as one stepping into a new leadership role, rather than an existing leader who the company believes is failing.
  3. Concise Description ― To make your niche work for you, it's important to have a concise description of it that almost anyone can understand. When you can describe who you most want as a client in just a few words, it's much easier to attract those clients' attention, and generate referrals from others who might know them. The financial planner above could say, "My favorite clients are professional women with $500K or more to invest, who'd like to make their portfolio more socially responsible."
  4. Reaching Decision-Makers ― If you market to businesses and organizations, you already know you need to find the decision-maker for any project you'd like to work on. Part of your market definition needs to be not just the type of organization you wish to work for, but what people in that organization are the ones you need to connect to. Depending on what you do, this could be department heads for a department such as Training, Marketing, or Accounting. It could also be a department that handles all contract hiring for the company, like Human Resources or Purchasing.
    Keep in mind that individual clients have other decision-makers in their lives as well. A college student or teenager may need a parent's buy-in, a business owner may need the consent of a partner, and anyone may need to first consult with a spouse. Be sure you know who these people in the background are that may require more information or persuasion.
  5. Understanding Your Business ― To make decisions about your niche and ideal client, be able to describe them concisely, and know who the right decision-makers are, you must have a through understanding of how your business fits into the larger world. If some of these areas seem a bit fuzzy, take time to find out more. You can interview colleagues or people in your target market, read the trade press for your field, or surf the websites of organizations, businesses, and professionals who might be prospects ― or competitors!
With these five key elements in place, you'll have built a solid foundation for marketing your business. When you truly know who your clients are, you'll have a much better chance of finding them.
Copyright © 2014, C.J. Hayden

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