Is Your Focus Narrow Enough?

by | Oct 13, 2009

You’ve been working hard to build your new product or launch your service. You’re excited because your first potential customers are still interested in buying from you, despite several delays. Now it’s time to start chasing more customers by growing your sales team and launching your website.

So where do you aim your tiny sales team? To whom are you speaking on your website?

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re probably aiming at a target market that’s too broad when you start. There are two typical reasons for this:

  • You’ve told yourself, your team and your investors about the HUGE potential out there for what you sell. Hey, there are MILLIONS of people who could use your widget. You’ve been trained to THINK BIG, so why give up hope now?
  • It’s still early and you haven’t proved that the outer edges of your target won’t buy your product. Why rule anyone out if you don’t know for sure yet?

In the early growth stages of new companies, it’s easy to overestimate demand for your product or service, especially if you have investors in the mix. (Have you ever seen a startup sales projection chart that wasn’t a hockey stick?)

The reality is that the only people who will actually buy from you are those who are in desperate need of what you offer. Or, at least, those for whom what you offer is critically important to them or their businesses. For everyone else, what you offer is a “nice to have,” which today is the same as “that’s interesting, but I wouldn’t pay for it.”

And there’s another reason to narrow your target audience even more — web search.

People who desperately need things are typing very specific words into web search engines like Google. They’re not typing that cool new category name you made up last week (“online financial optimization solutions”). They’re typing concrete and common words that they think will guide them to a quick answer (“reduce bank fees”). If you aren’t in the game on several important keywords in your market, you face a much tougher sales and marketing battle.

Sound scary? Don’t worry. Narrowing your focus helps your salespeople to zero in to real business faster — and win. You can also spend marketing resources more efficiently and create a more credible brand story.

Your hockey stick sales chart may have to wait until the competition dies down and everyone starts spending frivolously again.

No, I wouldn’t wait for that either.

Is it time to narrow your focus?