Who do you NOT sell to?

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It’s an interesting question because we generally would ask “who is our target market?”

When this question is asked, we usually have an answer. Right? We know our customer. We know our target demo. We may not have all the details, but in general we know our target demographic (unless you’re one of those “we sell to everyone!” people…then you have some work to do).

However, do you know who you DO NOT want to market to?

Why this is important: 1) it can be expensive. 2) your brand can become watered down. 3) you need consistency.

It can be expensive:

I was listening to a podcast where they brought on the owner of a large retail brand. She sells women’s clothing and has a $50 Million business. They asked her “what are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made?” she didn’t skip a beat when she said “carrying plus sizes!!!!”

Yikes! Sounds harsh. However, she went on to explain. She buys clothes from vendors and vendors generally offer two “packages” to their retail customers. The first would be XS through XL items. Generally only S, M, and L. The other option is “plus size” items: XL – 3XL.

So when a customer came in and asked “do you carry 2XL?” she would say “let me order it for you!” and proceed to order a full package (6 total in a pack) new plus size items. All ranging from XL – 3XL. However, she would generally only sell the single 2XL and sit on excess inventory of her other plus size items. She looked back and realized in her market there just weren’t enough plus size shoppers to sustain her business. She lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory.

In an attempt to be everything to everyone, she caused a trickle-down effect. She was losing money on unsold inventory, so she had to slightly increase the prices of her other inventory items. The trickle-down caused other customers to complain about increased prices, lower quantities of new inventory, etc.

Realizing quickly that this was NOT her target market, she was able to pivot back to a business model that allowed her to be profitable and serve her core customers.

This leads me to the second point: Your brand can become watered down.

Be careful being everything to everyone. You can go to Walmart for a haircut, yet hair salons still exist. If you are going through child custody proceedings, do you call your business attorney? If you go to a doctor who says “well I specialize in hip replacement surgery, open heart surgery, cancer treatments, and mental health counseling” would you be excited? Would you shop around? Would you trust him/her?

When I was growing up we would drive to church every Sunday morning and pass this little store with a sign in the window: “Bike Shop, Florist, and Recording Studio” we loved it! We would crack up every Sunday at the sign and then brainstorm all the other random businesses they could add to the list. There is no way I would have ever taken my bike there, bought flowers from there, or recorded a hit album there.

Ask yourself: “How would my customers describe what I do?” Then do that. Lean into it and be OK saying no to things. If you are an attorney and you specialize in family law, but your client asks you to help her with a real estate contract it’s OK to refer her to someone else. If you start offering everything, you can never be GREAT at one thing.

Finally, you need to build consistency.

Your employees need to know your niche. They need to be experts in your niche. Your vendors need to know your niche. Your customers need to know your niche. It will help you with profitability. It will help you with employee retention. It will help you with customer loyalty.

Looking at your customers and then identifying who IS NOT your customer can put you lightyears ahead of your competitors. It allows you to maximize your marketing budget and truly saturate an audience.

Some ways you could break it down:

Geography – are you located in a certain part of town? Do most of your customers come from that part of town? GREAT! Then your target market is NOT anyone outside of those zip codes.

Gender – do you specialize in gender-specific items? Maybe you’re a women’s accessories brand. It makes sense in your head to target men because they might buy their wife a present… but who really is your target? Spoiler alert: it’s women. It’s okay to say “men are NOT our target market”

Interest – do you sell sports branded merchandise? I’m a big Notre Dame fan. If you are selling USC branded merchandise you are wasting your money marketing to me. So who is NOT your market? Anyone who ISN’T a Notre Dame fan.

Get the point?

Just keep in mind, I’m not saying those people will not buy from you. Sure, a Notre Dame fan might still buy a USC branded shirt for his friend (or for his fire pit). Sure, a man might buy feminine products for his wife. Sure, someone in Florida might visit Fort Wayne, Indiana for the weekend and stop in your store. Sure, grandparents might shop at the sporting goods store for their grandson’s new football cleats… but these are not your target audiences.

Don’t waste your dollars! I see businesses make the mistake of thinking they have reached market saturation and expand their marketing to new demographics too quickly… Until you’re a household name, a go-to place for your niche target market, and the place people are talking about to their friends, you should not expand your targeting.

Know who your target market is NOT – so that you can focus on the target market that matters most to you and your business.

I promise, it will help!

Thanks for reading my ramblings!!!

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