On Monday, I talked about the importance of defining your business’s target market in the startup phase of your business in Why Your Small Business Needs a Niche Market. This topic hits home with me because defining my niche market is something that I have always struggled with in my different businesses over the years.
When I started my health coaching practice, I knew that I needed to define my target market, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to choose one and stick with it. This is what happened: I would select a target market, run with it for a little while, then change direction, pick a new target market and the cycle would continue. It seemed like I always had a target market de jour.
This approach is definitely NOT good for a business or for a person’s sanity. Every time you change your target market, you have to rewrite the copy on your website, update your marketing plan, and modify the services you offer.
In addition to all that, it wasn’t uncommon for me to sign on ANY client (within my market de jour or not) when money was tight. All this jumping around and inconsistency meant that I was constantly wasting my time and my marketing budget trying to keep up with myself. Obviously, this is not an approach that I recommend.
What ended up happening was that I defined my target market backwards. I worked with a little bit of everyone and started ruling out the people that I didn’t want to work with in order to define who I did want to work with (which is quite a painful process, I might add).
Today, this is the target market for my health coaching practice: Women from 30 to 65 who want to lose weight through healthy diet and lifestyle changes who don’t have any major health issues.
Here’s how I came up with it…
Part 1: “Women…”
Since Day 1 of my business, I’ve always known that my target market was women. BUT, in the process of growing my business, I sometimes didn’t stick to my boundaries (especially when money was tight). Early last year, I set up a consultation with a gentleman who came to one of my workshops and wanted to meet with me. After a half hour of talking, I couldn’t figure out why he would be interested in health coaching—he didn’t want to lose weight, his diet was fine and he just kept saying over and over again, “I just want to be healthy”. So I told him that I didn’t think I could help him and started to wrap up the session. At that point, he proceeded to ask me on a date after wasting 45 minutes of my time. (Note to men: not a good approach.) That’s why today, I ONLY work with women.
Part 2: “…from 30 to 65…”
Over a year ago, I got a call from a lady who was wondering if I worked with teenagers in my health coaching practice. In my mind, I’m thinking, “definitely not”, but (since money was tight again), my “no” came out as “yes” and she set up a consultation with her 15 year old daughter who was suffering from IBS. During the session, the girl wouldn’t give me more than 1 word answers and her face was twisted in misery as her mother talked over everyone and described her bowel movements to a complete stranger. Then after this painful session had FINALLY reached an end, the daughter went to the lobby and the mom tried to sell me on the multi-level marketing herbal supplements that she “swears by”. This is why I ONLY work with women from 30 to 65 now. No teenagers, no kids, and no crazy moms!
Part 3: “…who don’t have any major health issues”
Over the years, I’ve taken on multiple clients with major health issues—depression, MS, bi-polar disorder, etc.—who want to lose weight. I find that these people do not do well in my program because they are dealing with so many other problems (which typically pushes diet changes to the end of a long list of issues). I had one client who dropped out of one of my group program and demanded a refund because she couldn’t find my office suite in the building (even though she’d already been there a few times). I’ve had a few depressed clients who just stopped showing up all together. My bi-polar client lost 30 pounds, but never thought her progress was good enough and would self-sabotage herself at every chance she got. My point is that I am not trained as a health coach to work with people with major health or mental problems, so that’s why I really have to draw the line and exclude them from my target market.
You get the idea that I could have avoided ALL of this drama if I had just defined my target market and stuck with it from Day 1.
I’m not quite sure what spurred my inconsistent behavior with my target market. It might have been a fear of missing out. It might have been that my brain works so fast that I was always trying to move forward to the next best strategy. It might have been my insecurities coming into play. It was probably Answer D: All of the above.
If you can’t just choose one target market when you’re starting your business, my advice is to choose 2-3 upfront and then narrow it down as you go along instead of switching from one to another or going backwards. This will save you tons of time, money and Tylenol (to deal with the headache of it all).