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Target clientele: “why can’t I just target everyone?”

It’s a good question.

There’s no doubt that most planners could add value to most people. However, the question isn’t around whether you can, but instead whether you should.

Let’s look at this from a business perspective. You have two core options when it comes to growing a business. 

Option 1: Target everyone. The pros are that if your business nails it – you discover a genuine and unfulfilled need a large portion of the population is aware of, wants solved and places value and urgency on solving – then the sky can be the limit. The cons are that it can be costly and difficult to do. Failure rates are high. More than ever before, getting a marketing message out to the mass market is hard. There is much noise and, when you’re trying to talk to everyone, you can end up saying very little to anyone.

Option 2 is to design your business offerings and model to target specific type of client(s). This option makes it easier and cheaper to connect with them and get them to listen to what your business has to say. A perceived downside is you’re, by definition, cutting out some potential clients.

However, most SME advice businesses don’t want hundreds of thousands of clients. Most just want a select number who love what they do and are willing to pay for it.

So, unless you believe there is a genuine scarcity of potential clients, as in there are just not enough to go around, being specific shouldn’t matter. After all, when there are lots of them, you can afford to be picky

In actual fact, if that’s the situation and you want to build efficiencies in your business, wouldn’t it make sense to try and provide advice you have experience in and can do more efficiently than someone starting from scratch?

The other option is that you believe scarcity is an issue. You believe there are only so many clients. Even then, there is a strong argument that focusing on the few instead of the many remains a better strategy for that too. If you don’t stand out from the pack, why should people pick you over your competition?

Even despite that win-win scenario, many firms still worry about being of too “picky” or exclusionary. Why?

Focusing on the needs, issues, problems and preferences of a few specific client types cuts against the grain of what many advice businesses believe to be a logical approach. Many believe they should take any business. That logic works if you have a huge automated machine behind you that can handle client after client after client, or the ability to recruit en masse, but that’s not how most advice businesses work these days. They have limits, imposed by human capacity for doing the work, seeing the clients and providing the advice.

As such, this lack of focus on who you want to be advising is one of the main things that holds most back from achieving greater success.

Identifying your target clientele isn’t about saying no to everyone who doesn’t meet it. For most firms, that’s not a viable immediate option (often for cash flow reasons). However, it is about looking for a competitive advantage that will help you position your firm as experts, communicate more effectively and cut through the noise of the information age.

It will also help focus you too. It’s like when you buy a new car. You notice other new cars just like yours. It’s not they weren’t there before, just that you only started to notice them once your conscious mind was drawn to pay attention to them.

Being specific and understanding the deep nature of your clientele is also about getting closer to the clients who represent the future of your business. Despite the appeal of the myth of the entrepreneur with the blinding flash of inspiration, most successful firms are built on the foundation of solving pre-existing customer issues or unmet needs. It’s generally much easier than trying to convince the world of their need for what you have to offer. To identify those needs though, you need to understand and have insight into them.

Niche does not have to mean foregoing other clients with immediate effect. It’s a campaign, not an irreversible pivot. The outcome, ideally and frequently (if the insight is accurate), is the specialisation ends up being so robust and profitable that the business won’t have to concern itself with sales from outside it’s 2-3 core niches.

Isn’t that an outcome that most businesses would be happy with?

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