When You Get Clear, You Get Clients

by Michelle Salater on September 9, 2009

I’m sure clients, colleagues, and you, Dear Reader, are sick of hearing me harp on how critical it is for companies to really understand their target market.

Call me a broken record. I don’t mind.

Before I take on a new copywriting project, one of the first questions I ask a prospective client is, “Who is your target market and how do you serve them?”

Not having a clear idea of whom you’re selling to or who your prospective clients are is the number one marketing mistake you can make—online or offline. If you don’t know whom you are speaking to, you won’t know the right message to communicate.

Identifying and knowing your target market—inside and out—requires you to look at yourself, at your company, and look into whom you serve and why. Too many companies have a general idea. Some have no idea at all.

Stating a target as “anybody who needs my product” won’t cut it (believe it or not, I hear this answer all the time). Defining your target as “people in the medical field” won’t help much either. Trying to be everything to everyone isn’t going to get you the sales you want.

If you want more customers, you have to know whom you are selling to. And you should know as much about them as you can.

Let’s say you own a high-end clothing boutique. You sell products to women, but identifying your target as “all women” is much too vague because most of your inventory is designed for a younger crowd. Look closely at your clientele, and you may find most of your patrons are between 32 and 45. Look even closer, and you may uncover a majority of your clients are young professionals who make over $80,000 a year.

Keeping with this example, now that you’ve identified your target, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and brainstorm. Make a list of questions you’d like to know about your target, then answer the questions to the best of your ability. You want to define their lifestyle, hobbies, profession, anything you can that will help you speak to their needs and wants.

Be specific. Where do they shop, dine, drink? What do they read? Did they graduate from college, have a bachelor or master’s? Are they active in their community? Do they bike on weekends, or do they spend time with family? Don’t limit yourself. Keep asking questions until you feel you know these people.

It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter if this is business to consumer or business to business, you are still dealing with people at the end of the day. So, if you are business to business and your target is a CEO, you need to know everything about who that CEO is so you can connect.

The more you know, the better you can target the group, speak their language, and give them what they want. And if you know all the above, it will help you further define the business message you want—a message that will attract your target audience to you.

Once you start mining to find out who your target market is, it has been my experience that many businesses find that their message isn’t clear, effective, or targeted to the correct market. It can be extremely difficult for businesses to project an accurate message, one that encompasses a combination of their company’s products, beliefs, mission, and goals if they don’t have a clear vision of their target market.

If you’re uncomfortable with the message you’re sending potential customers online, it’s time to change this message and solidify a strong brand image.

Just remember, speak to everyone, and you’re likely to get no one.

If you like this post, you might also like:

  1. Does Your Website Copy Make the Sale?
  2. Who Are You to Your Prospective Clients? The Answer May Be More Complex Than You Think.
  3. Four Common Mistakes Businesses Make with Their Web Copy
  4. 10 Questions to Ask Yourself before Hiring a Copywriter

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Andrea Costantine September 9, 2009 at 11:42 am

I could not agree with you more! Most people want to say “Well, anyone is my target market” It is definitely a trap most entrepreneurs fall into. It is one of the key elements I’ll be sharing at workshop in November. Identifying your target market and truly solving their problems!
Great post!

Michelle September 9, 2009 at 11:47 am

Andrea, I’m glad to hear you’ll be covering this at your Nov. workshop. I think the more entrepreneurs who understand this and take the time to identify and define their target, the better the economy will become.

Doug Stewart September 9, 2009 at 7:13 pm

If you own a restaurant, aren’t all hungry people potential customers? If you own a barber shop aren’t all people with hair potential customers? If you sell shoes, aren’t all people with feet your potential customers? But Michelle, my business is different . . .

Damien Whitehall September 9, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Doug: Ah, but what kind of restaurant? What kind of barber shop? What kind of shoes?

Just because everyone is a potential client, doesn’t mean that they’re a likely client. Depending on the style of shoe you sell and the atmosphere of your shoe shop, it may appeal mostly to teenage girls, mostly to athletes, or mostly to middle aged women. A cozy, candle-lit Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston has a vastly different clientele than a downtown McDonalds.

And just because you know who your target audience is (the people most likely to purchase your product, doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be people outside that target audience who are also interested.

Every product and service is going to most appeal to certain segments of society, and you will be far more successful marketing your product if you aim towards those segments rather than trying to attract everyone.

Britt Urbach September 10, 2009 at 9:31 am

Great points Damien and Doug, but I find that the more targeted you are with your message, the more clients you are going to attract. Too many businesses try to be everything to everyone and that’s where they lose valuable customers.

Michelle September 10, 2009 at 10:11 am

Doug, I see your point and I think Damien answered it quite well. Britt is right: the more defined your target audience, the quicker and easier it is to attract them and keep them.

Doug Stewart September 10, 2009 at 11:23 am

My questions were dripping with sarcasm. They were made with the intent of evoking additional responses like; “but a barbershop is for men, isn’t it?” “How can it be for everyone?” If you’re a hamburger joint, aren’t you excluding vegans? Plus, your business isn’t different when it comes to matching your message with your target market. Maybe I’ll leave the sarcasm out of future comments. Nah..it riled up some more comments.

Michelle September 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm


Bring on the sarcasm! I figured you were being sarcastic, but your answer is exactly what we hear all the time from business owners.



Damien Whitehall September 11, 2009 at 8:20 am


Sarcasm is hard to read in pure text. I thought you might be being sarcastic, but I really couldn’t tell.

Which I suppose brings up a good point about making sure that your message is clear, otherwise clients may misinterpret you.

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