Seven Items to Keep in Mind About Your Target Market

When defining the target market for your offering, it helps to keep the following seven items in mind.

1. Focus

This is a business platitude, but you have to be focused; lack of focus is death for an early stage company.  This can be hard to do – you have many forces pulling you in different directions.  Pick one or two verticals, roles or regions (see below) and stick to them.  There is a caveat to this first rule (# 8) and you should hew to it as described.

2. Industry Verticals

If you are selling to businesses, the most obvious way to focus is to identify business verticals, identified by NAIC code that you will target.   This will mean that you can easily research the industry they are in, figure out their needs and map your pitch to their industry specific language.  Identify a minimum of two verticals and no more than three, or you will lose focus (see #1 above).

Selecting industry verticals will not help you if you are selling into the government of non profit space, but there are other criteria you can use to focus within these areas (See #4, #5 below).  If you are selling to, for example, k – 12 schools, colleges or county and local governments, you want to be as focused as you would if selling to businesses.

3. Geography

You may have an offering that you are certain has cross vertical appeal, and whose value proposition you need to validate in a number of business verticals or other organizational types (e.g. government, schools or non profits).  You can do this by selecting one or two regions (MSAs or counties) and identifying appropriate organizations to target in that region (e.g. a mix of businesses, non profits, schools and governments.)

4. Target Size

As an overlay of items #2 and #3, you should filter organizations by size (by headcount or revenue), selecting a size range that you think will be big enough to have budget to purchase your offering, and small enough to be able to make decisions in a reasonable time frame.  Your offering may appeal to SMBs or to divisions of very large companies; use a size filter to narrow your focus in a vertical or geography.

5. Roles

You should have a good idea about who you are selling to – their title(s) and responsibilities, background, pain points and buying behavior.  Titles will become especially important when you are building out email marketing programs.  Developing buyer personae can help you focus on the type of person you should be targeting in the organizations you are selling into.

6. Structure

When you have identified verticals or geographies into which you are going to sell, systematically sell into them in a structured manner and give yourself enough time to accurately assess their potential.  If you do not generate sales after a sustained effort, you should move to another vertical.

7. Opportunism

Although you should be systematic and steady in your approach to the markets you are pursuing (see #6 above) you need to be opportunistic.  Follow opportunities where they take you; if you land a number of sales in a specific vertical, geography or organization type, shift your sales efforts there.

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