The Oaks Ignore Their Pleas

Who Do You Serve?

Posted in General by Jeff Graves on September 4, 2006

As I continue to “labor” away, thinking, designing, analyzing, and hacking away at my first attempt at building my own business, I’ve reached a point where I need to figure out exactly who my potential customers will be.  A few nights ago, I was interviewing a potential employee, who demonstrated a pretty good grasp of what it takes to start a business.  As I explained where I was in terms of a business plan, she asked a damn good question: “How are you going to differentiate yourself from the other companies doing much the same thing that you are?”  I have to admit, it kind of took me aback a bit, because while I’ve given thought to defining a specific audience, I clearly haven’t reached the point where it’s been defined well enough for me to clearly articulate it on the fly.  

Tara Hunt had a great post yesterday on the value of figuring out who you want your customer to be, and avoiding the “traditional” marketing demographic breakdowns, while recogizing that you’ll likely not succeed by trying to sell to that mass market called “everyone”.

 The truth of the matter is that if you don’t reduce your scope, you will end up designing for nobody at all. Your product or service will look confused and confusing and you’ll suffer from feature bloat at the very least. Especially in today’s ‘celebrate the individual’ world, where there is truly ‘something for everyone’* and the web has given us a plethora of free choices for so many things, it is more important than ever to serve your specific audience better than ever.

Tara makes some great points in her article, but as with so much involved in building a business from scratch, this stuff is hard, or at least, requires a lot of time, a lot of serious listening and focus, and a lot of work.  This is why entrepreneurs MUST LOVE what they are doing, because you’ll never put up with minimal sleep, an empty bank account, and near-constant exhaustion for anything less than love.

BTW, I was very appreciative of my interviewee’s inquisitiveness the other night, and told her so – I know I can’t do everything myself, and the more everyone who’s involved in the venture can be challenged by others, the better the finished product will be.  I can only hope I can convince a few more people like her to come along on the adventure that I’m beginning.

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