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40: Mistake 4: Not Identifying the Target Market.


Marketing revolves around the target market. A group of people who will be your best customers. Anything that's marketed or branded must appeal to this group of people.

When I sold the custom notebooks, I had 90% female customers. Even the male customers I had were planning to give the notebooks to female friends.

Their ages varied. The youngest customer I had was 13 or 14 and the oldest was in her 30s. The others were mostly in their teens and very early 20s. 

I had the notebooks delivered to KL, Terengganu, Perak, and even one to Sabah. In short, there wasn't any noticeable pattern to their locations. 

I thought this was good. It meant that my product was getting a favourable reception by people from all ages and walks of life.

That's why I didn't bother identifying the kind of people I wanted to be selling to. I just stopped at "people who like personalized stuff" and "people who appreciate art and lettering".


What's wrong with this?

Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly reasonable to want to sell to a lot of people. I used to feel like everyone is a potential customer. (And to be honest, I feel like that sometimes too)

But just because people would buy, that doesn't mean that they will be good customers to you.

Just because customers liked what I was selling, it doesn't mean that all of them truly appreciated the process, quality and value. They just wanted the product and that was it. They didn't consider anything else.

A bad customer will make you feel depressed and question your business, even if they can pay you the money.

While not limited to this list, a good customer will:

  • pay the price you stated and not try to negotiate;
  • accept the limitations of the product and not try to make you throw in more stuff/features; and
  • make the purchase in the manner you prescribed and not try to buy purely based on their own convenience.

It was hard to accept when they wanted more than what the price entailed. Sometimes they wanted me to squeeze in more words onto the notebooks. Sometimes they wanted me to fill the whole cover with colours. On other times they wanted me to reduce the prices (when they buy more than one).

I know what you're probably thinking. If they're being such undesirable customers, why not just say NO?

When I was in the business owner's position, it's not easy to flat-out say NO. 

  • I wanted to please customers. Make them happy. Who doesn't feel proud when customers say that they're happy?
  • I wanted the profit. If I turn this person away now, I can't guarantee that I'll be able to sell this notebook.
  • I thought having to do (undesirable) things for customers is part and parcel of business. Customer is king and all that.
  • I was taken by surprise on some of the situations. The notebooks are all ready so like it or hate it, I had to sell them. 
Don't underestimate how difficult it is to say No to your customers' requests. You would do anything if you feel like they would complain that you're not treating them well.

If I could turn back time...

I would take the time to identify my target market. 

All the problems I outlined above were all my fault. If I had taken the time to identify my target market, I wouldn't have had to deal with as many problems as I did. The process is like this:

Identify target market > Tailor the branding to the target market > Only attract target market > Not have to deal with undesirable requests

The branding (and consequently, marketing) acts like a filtration process. It filters out the people who won't make good customers. 

Take the time to consider the best way to sell your product and what's required to make it happen. A good customer has to be able to appreciate and acquiesce to all this. Trust me, dealing with customers outside your target market can be demoralizing. Don't do it to yourself.

P.S. Hey! A related article that I wrote for NC: 6 Reasons Why You Should Only Sell to One Customer