The First Question Every Startup Entrepreneur Must Ask (Which Most of Get Wrong)

Businessman draws a new creative business project

 

I was having a mentoring session with a startup entrepreneur the other day.  He is in the food business and wanted to have a “product” conversation.  I told him that it would be difficult to have a conversation about the product unless we first talk about his target market; and that’s the big question that most startup entrepreneurs forget to ask.  They should be asking “who?” instead of “what?”

By that I mean who is your customer?  Who is your target market?  Before you do anything else you should be clear about who it is you want to target.  Only then should you start all your other activities.

People often tell me they target ‘everybody.’  Well if you try to appeal to everybody you will end up appealing to no one.  The interests of a middle aged business executive are completely different than those of say a young mother with a new born baby.  So the way you talk to them and try to appeal to them has to be completely different.

Let me give you a personal example to illustrate my point.  This happened some years ago.  I got a call from a lady who was the editor of a Philippine language (Tagalog) newspaper that catered to the Philippine expatriate community here in Bahrain.  She was interested in getting a free martial arts lessons in my kickboxing school (now closed) in exchange for advertising space in her newspaper.

I politely declined.  From my experience I knew that the Philippine expatriate community was not a good match for what I had to offer.  We had premium pricing and targeted middle class and upper class families.

But say I owned a restaurant specialising in Asian and Philippine cuisine, I would have jumped on the offer.  Or if I was a telecom provider specialising in low-rate international calls to South East Asia, then this arrangement would have been ideal.

You get my point.  Decide who you are going to sell and market your product or service to, then draft your marketing messages accordingly.  And engineer all your business activities accordingly.

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