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“Everybody” is Not a Target

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by chris on April 7, 2014

I always flinch a little if I’m in a meeting and hear that  “everyone” is the target or customer of a product or service.  Everyone? Really?  The mindset behind this belief is that “anybody” may need the product, so why eliminate any potential customers? This theory has business owners believing that segmenting your market can result in lost revenue.  Isn’t it better to have some money in the coffers than none at all?

Once upon a time in America, big businesses were able to market to mass audiences.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), that era ended along with three martini lunches.  Mass marketing techniques that worked in the 20th century are not the way to market in the 21st century.  Marketing today favors uniqueness.  The truth is that you will accept business from anyone, but shouldn’t try to sell to everyone. McDonald’s, with an advertising budget that exceeds 2 billion, does not mass market.   They target children, youth and young urban families.  So if McDonald’s, with a 2 billion budget, segments its sales outreach, shouldn’t you?

Everybody is not a target.  Back to the question of filling the coffers….what about ROI?  Return on Investment.  People invest in marketing and sales to make a higher return.  If you have to invest a significant amount of time, money and energy to acquire a low level client, is it a good investment?  If you have a positive return on investment, but it could have been a higher return, you have still wasted money.

Unfortunately most of those low level clients equate to high investment, low return when it comes to sales.   If you are selling a ground pork patty, (shaped to vaguely resemble a mini rack of ribs), covered in barbecue sauce and onions, and pickles on a roll, for $3, should you market it to someone who is looking for a five-star dining experience?

Seth Godin, entrepreneur and marketer, speaks of Otaku in his Ted Talk, “How to get Ideas to Spread”.  What is Otaku?  It’s a Japanese term for people that are obsessed with a product.  People with Otaku for your product will buy and help spread the word.  McDonald’s knows this.  Their McRib sandwich has such a strong following that there are websites that log McRib “sightings”.  (I’m not kidding, Google it and you can see if the McRib is available near you!) These customers are so passionate about their McRib that they are willing to drive, sometimes hundreds of miles, to buy the product.  These people are obsessed for sure.

There’s a great quote by Brian Chesky of Airbnb where he says: “it’s better to build something that 100 people love than 1 million kind of like.”  Great advice.  Focus your time and energy on cultivating those clients with Otaku for your product or service.  Not only will they produce the most revenue for your company, they will be your best salespeople.  They will offer endorsements and referrals, as well as share positive stories to their colleagues and on their social networks.  They will also provide you with valuable, honest feedback about problems and improvements, thus paving the way for an improved product and greater sales.

Identify who has Otaku, who does want what you are selling, and then sell, sell, sell! You can’t please everyone, so don’t try to.   You do need customers, we all do, and I understand.  However, sometimes the secret to success is knowing what not to do, and who not to target!  As hard as it is to write, and maybe for you to accept, not everyone is your customer.



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