When you are about to start a business you need to establish your brand which will set the tone for many different aspects of the business. In business school and in countless books and articles you are encouraged to start with the question “who is your target market?” This is a reasonable place to start as every business needs a customer and they need to be top of mind from the beginning. This should be part of the equation, but should not be the starting point. You need to establish who your brand is before you build it specifically for your target market. Below are three reasons why it is dangerous to build your brand around a target market.
1. Your target might not like you.
This seems harsh but it is a reality. Your business may be a perfectly sound business and the idea is great but you misjudged exactly who the market is and whether they would receive it or not. Limiting yourself to this specific market will leave you in an identity crisis if the market doesn’t take to you.
2. Your customers will move on
One thing that limits businesses future is not allowing their consumer to outgrow them. One of the golf courses I worked with fell into this and it stunted their membership growth. Many years ago there was a surge of membership because the club was family friendly and affordable. As these member grew older the club would change their culture with these members, the attractive quality of the club that caused memberships to grow in the first place was no longer present. You have to allow your customer to outgrow you. Continuing to cater to a certain market can take you right out of everyones radar.
3. It doesn’t leave room to scale
Scaling a business is one of the hardest things to manage and in this process it is very easy to lose the personality of your business. Focusing on the customer over who you are and the values that guide every decision can cause for a very unclear view of what your business is. In a world of the internet and global competition a lack of direction and consistency can send customers to a competitor very quickly.
So, how do you find your identity?
Like in personal growth it all starts with self awareness and introspection. It can often be hard to see what your core identity truly is when you are so close to the business and have been involved in all the changes from the beginning. You start to assume that others understand aspects of your business that feel like second nature to you but are no longer articulated. There are people out there (like me) that do this for a living. Sitting with a business and looking at all the mess and asking the direct questions to help you discover this core identity.
Once you have established this, you need to treat it as your compass. It needs to be what you check all decisions back to. If you have a good grasp on who you are as a person there is a good chance that you are still you no matter the audience you are interacting with. Whether it’s at the office, with your friends, sports team, or your parents. The same values and base personality is there. The language, phrasing, clothing you wear might be different to be appropriate but you know who you are. This is very similar with your business. Once you know who you are and can pick your target audience we know how that brand would interact with them in a genuine way. If the market doesn’t take to you, no fret. You can take that same personality and try another. Of course that is a huge decision and many things would need to change but the sustainability of your business and your own resolve will be dramatically strengthened.