How I Chose My Target Market

How I Chose My Target Market

One of our members on the ACA LinkedIn Discussion Group asked, “How did all of you decide on your niche?”

Good question! Because choosing a target market is something it seems a lot of people struggle with.

I will say that a lot of it is just self-created angst.

They are either resistent to the idea or they spend too much time and anxiety wanting to make the perfect choice.

But business is not a perfect science. You will always be course correcting as you learn and grow.

Ultimately, it boils down to just deciding!

That said, there are criteria that are important to consider when choosing a target market (i.e., industry/field/profession) on which to cater your admin support in order for it to be viable:

  • It must have a need for the solution you’re in business to offer.
  • It must be able to afford you. Meaning, for example, it can’t be a dying industry or one where the people are commonly not earning well.
  • It must be easy to find. That is, it should be large enough that you can easily find people in this target market congregating in large numbers, both online and off. If it’s such an obscure or esoteric industry that just finding them is inordinately difficult, that might not be such a good choice.
  • If you already have a background and knowledge about an industry, it could be a suitable match because you’ll already have some insights into how it ticks and where to find them, making your marketing and message a lot easier.
  • It’s important that you enjoy the industry you choose to cater to and the work involved in supporting it. Otherwise, you’ll never really be able to serve it well. You want your work to be joyful and rewarding, not a chore that you are only doing for the money.

In answer to my colleague’s question, here’s how I chose my target market…

When I first started I really had no conscious knowledge or understanding about having a niche (AKA target market). It was just “get clients, any clients.”

And because I had no clarity or consciousness about WHO my clients were or should be (e.g., who I wanted to work with, what kind of clients made for the best fit), I spent a lot of years just flailing around, having very little marketing impact and not making much money.

Eventually I ended up with an accidental target market of local retail type businesses: clubs, venues, restaurants, hair salons, florists, gift shops, etc. I got those kind of clients because once I got those initial few, they would refer me to others.

The problem with this accidental target market was that it wasn’t one I intentionally chose. It was more like it just “happened” to me.

And the types of clients this market was made up of predominately had all kinds of issues.

First, the nature of local small retail business is very volatile. It was always feast or famine. These businesses would open and close constantly (seemingly overnight sometimes). Money was always tight. A lot of the business owners were not very business savvy. Many of them turned out to be downright dishonest and unethical. And I had to constantly chase after my money.

The good thing about this period in my early business years was that it was what got me thinking about what I really wanted from my business and who I wanted to work with.

The whole reason I started my business was to live a different kind of lifestyle, on my own terms, and the way my business was at that time, it was anything but that.

I didn’t like who I was working with and wasn’t making the kind of money I needed to live and thrive.

Eventually I decided that I really wanted to work with attorneys.

The reason I chose them was that:

  1. I had a paralegal background;
  2. Three of my uncles at the time were attorneys (one has since passed);
  3. I’d always worked around the legal field in some capacity (District Court, Sheriff’s department, private investigator, legal assistant to the VP/General Counsel of a U.S. based international company as well as a few other government agencies).
  4. I’ve always had an affinity for the legal field. I love the work and find the law and dealing with legal matters endlessly fascinating.

Once I decided who I wanted to work with, I let go of all my clients at that time and started everything over from scratch.

It was the best move I ever made.

Of course, “attorneys” was still too broad because the work and operations involved in serving one practice area are often completely different from another. To write any kind of compelling message that would be meaningful, I had to focus on a specific type of attorney.

Plus, there are certain practice areas in the legal field I had no interest or enjoyment in supporting (e.g., personal injury, immigration, bankruptcy).

So, eventually I narrowed my target market of “attorneys” down further to those in the specific practice areas of intellectual property, entertainment law and business.

I hope this is helpful to you if you are someone still trying to figure out who to focus on.

And if you have already chosen a target market, please share with us in the comments how you chose yours.

9 Comments Posted in Target Market. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses

  1. Love this information! I’ve been struggling with this same issue. I do have a better idea of what my target market should be since I’ve grown up around it & even worked in it. I feel like now is the time to drop those unideal clients and push more to focus on my target market. Thank you Danielle! Another great eye opener.

  2. Onward and upward, Michelle! 🙂

  3. Carol says:

    Thanks for another great post Danielle. My story it’s very similar. I began as Progressive Business Solutions serving clients locally, then I created a separate division of my company for my niche market and area of expertise, serving equine business owners. Finally this past January I launched a new website and blog, reshaped my business with a new name and brand and focused all my marketing efforts strictly on the equine industry. It’s made a huge difference. My business is just four years old and I feel as if I’m just beginning to hit my stride!

  4. It really does, doesn’t it, Carol? Once you narrow the focus, it tells you exactly where to look for clients, what solutions to offer them, how to write your message… everything. AND it makes your business much simpler and easier to manage and administer, which means…. more time for LIFE and living! Wonderful to hear, Carol. 🙂

  5. Lisa Kelly says:

    Hi Danielle,

    Thank you for writing this; another great post. You and I had a back-and-forth over email (at length) back in April about my target market. It was very helpful. You referred to the succinct quote by Seth Godin on this: “Are you a meandering generality or a meaningful specific?” Our talk had a huge impact on me and your guide ‘How to Choose Your Target Market’ helped me uncover some great insights. I’m still doing the ground work to get more connected with my new target market, but once I do – I’m going to have to re-write a lot of the copy on my home page. Maybe I’ll finally start making the moolah I know I deserve! As much as I love the people I have been working with over the past 2 years, I can barely make ends meet and it’s time for me to evolve and grow. Looking forward to it. Thanks again for all of your help!

  6. Wow, I had no idea, Lisa! That’s fantastic to hear. I’m so glad our conversation was helpful to you! Keep me posted. Love it!

  7. Hi Danielle
    Do you ever find yourself with a conflict of interest because you have a niche market?

  8. I’ve been asked this before and no, I haven’t ever found myself with a conflict of interest.

    Here’s what I see people get stuck on:

    First, they have to remember, they are not part of any client’s “team” or business. They are running an independent business.

    That being the case, when you are running an independent business, it’s your job to have multiple clients. As an independent service provider, why would it be a conflict of interest to serve more than one law firm (just to use my target market for the example)? I’m providing an independent service no different than a court reporter or legal researcher or any number of businesses providing legal services. That would be like saying Kinko’s (a printing company) is only allowed to serve one attorney in all the land.

    Attorneys from opposing sides can and do commonly use the same independant legal services all the time. And if you’re running an ethical, integrity-based business, it’s not an issue. I’m certainly not going to go around sharing one client’s documents and proprietary information with others any more than any of those other services do or would. If I did, then that WOULD be a problem and completely unethical.

    The other thing is that it’s a big, big world out there. You only need a handful of well-paying retainer clients to do really well financially. It’s entirely possible to work with several clients within a specific target market without them having any other connection (if that even matters). In fact, when you are dealing with a specific target market, what commonly happens is once one or two people work with you and they love you, they will tell everyone else in that industry and pretty soon, you’re the go-to person that target market clamors for. It’s one of the easiest, fastest ways to build your business and client roster!

    If I did ever find myself in a situation where I felt uncomfortable, like if I were to ever have two attorney clients working on opposing sides in a litigation matter, I could just recuse myself from that particular matter. Hasn’t happened yet though.

    Clients have no right to expect to keep you all to themselves, legally or practically speaking. Because they are clients, not employers. If a client expects you to not work with any others in their industry, then they had better be prepared to hire you as an employee. 😉

    The benefits for clients of working with someone who knows their industry/profession intimately vastly outweigh any imagined conflicts of interest that rarely exist in reality.

  9. I have to say that when I first started my own business I took as many clients as I could get, but as time went on it was becoming more and more difficult for me to satisfy customer needs and I felt myself becoming irritated with them which wasn’t fair. Since then I have been steadily reducing my target audience to a specific geographical area and will be doing this again at the end of this year now that my client base has grown.

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