Many business experts and those successful in business often talk about target customer. They say that if you’re starting a new business that it’s important to have a target customer in mind. They argue that it’s key to getting you and your team to really focus on a specific person and their needs as it relates to your product.
This is all great. It can lead to some great focus on the product and get the team moving in the right direction. But it can also be a pitfall. If you, as the leader, focus too much on the original target customer you can ignore the evidence that comes in that could lead your business in a better direction.
The Original Target Customer
There are many correct ways to start a business. That is both a blessing and a curse. Because you can really only pick one and go with it when you’re starting one. I read a quote about songwriting once. It went something like, There are a thousand ways to write a song so pick one. Human nature doesn’t like that. We don’t want to give up anything. And if you choose one way to create a new business you’re, in a sense, giving up on the other 999 ways to start one.
It can be perfectly fine to have a target customer in mind when you’re starting a business.
Let’s say you’re mowing lawns. Your first customer is someone that lives on water with a medium grade bank. They don’t like mowing that bank anymore so they hire you and they pay you pretty well. You look around and notice that 100 other houses on the lake have steep banks. You can certainly focus your lawn mowing startup efforts on those 100 target customers.
And it can be a great niche.
But things could change…
Be Open To Adapting
Let’s say that you start focusing on those 100 houses on the water. You start winning customers. You show them the good job you’re doing and the work you’re saving the initial customers. It’s easy for them to see the benefit.
You’re busy. You’re not necessarily at a point to expand. You start getting occasional calls from others wanting service. They tend to be away from the water with large lots and few trees. You think, that’s not my niche, so you kindly tell them you’re busy.
A little more times goes by. You start hiring employees to help you with the work at the waterfront. Things go well. Now you start to think about expansion. You start looking for other waterfront areas around. After all, that is your target customer.
But what about the interest from the prospects with large, flat lots?
Now you start thinking about changing things up a bit. What if you bought large, fast mowers? Those lots sound appealing and might actually be a source of more money. After all, if you have large, fast equipment it’s something those lot owners may not want. But to you it brings efficiency especially if you have a few of those types of customers.
But it changes your target customer a bit. In fact, it changes it quite a bit other than the fact that you’re still mowing lawns.
One of the frustrations with a startup business, and really with any business at any point, is finding a balance between a target customer and a willingness to adapt. Not every inquiry is going to be the start of a brand new target customer. You don’t want to abandon what is working. Not without testing and some positive evidence.
A key thing that seems to be the case with startups is being willing to take a guess on target customer. Guess and see how it goes. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, guess again and repeat. You will likely find a niche.
But even while you’re focusing on that niche don’t be afraid to look at other opportunities. You can test new things. You can see how it goes. Don’t worry if it fails. You never know when a new niche market may come around as an opportunity.