We need to develop a new model, available in purple that runs on 22 volts, people want purple. We need a larger model, people want more power. We need a cheaper model, people aren’t spending. We need lighter unit, people can hardly lift our current model. We need to offer a metal case, people don’t like plastic. And on it goes…

New businesses launch on an idea. Existing businesses turn on ideas. Marketing constantly seeks ideas.

But the question seldom asked is, “who are these people?”

The first step in starting a business or developing a marketing plan is to define your ideal customer. You have to know who your people are. If you don’t, you’ll chase markets in which your company does not fit.

You must define your market.  And that definition should be relatively small so that you can ‘own’ a segment of the total market. And you don’t expand your offering until you own a segment or you will eventually fail.

Over and over businesses try to broaden their appeal in the total market and by doing so they offer nothing which perfectly suits anyone. Every time a call comes in for something the company doesn’t have, there’s a race to develop or find that thing. People want…

“People are asking for” can kill your business.

You should be asking, “what do our existing customers want?”  You can’t answer that question if you’ve never defined your market. And because you’ve never addressed that question, you’ll never be as successful as you could be.

And here’s the danger. As you try to define your specific place in the market, you will over reach. You won’t want to limit your business so you will inflate your market and in doing so, dilute your offering. By reaching for more, you will get less.

Construct a box of clear plastic with a small hole on the side and fill the box with interesting goodies. A monkey will reach in and grab a fist full of neat stuff. The hole is not big enough for the monkey to get his hand out with a closed fist. The monkey, however, will not open his fist and release some of the treasure. Instead, the monkey will struggle to pull his fist through the hole. Eventually, the monkey will quit. He may even injure himself trying to pull his hand out. (In fact, this how monkeys are captured in some parts of the world. A shiny object is placed in a hole in a tree trunk and the monkey will seize it. It’s possible to walk right up to a wild monkey and throw a bag over his head.)

The monkey will not consider reaching in for less and taking out objects fewer at a time.

As a business tries to please more and more of the total market, its identity becomes blurred. Is this statement ever true? “We sell the best for less!”  No, it’s never true. You can sell the best or you can sell the cheapest but when you dip into both ends of the same market you become a tightfisted monkey soon to be bagged by competition.

Look at your sales records for the past year. Make a list of the customer characteristics. What do all those customers have in common? Spend some time on this, it’s worth it.

Before you change or expand your product (or service) offering, you’d better clearly define who “people are.”

Failure to do so may make a monkey of you.

Chris Reich