SCORE, counselors to America’s small business

by Jim Novitsky

SCORE Counselor


Marketing: Who are my customers?

You run a small business and you wear many hats. One of those hats is Marketing Manager. You need to determine who to sell your product or service to.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to determine who your customers AREN’T, yes that’s right …AREN’T. Have you ever heard it said that you can’t be all things to all people? It’s really the same as saying if you try to please all of the people all of the time you will surely fail. By determining who your customers aren’t you can go to work on who your customers and potential customers are. You can spend your time and money wisely on those that have the potential to make a purchase and drive your business forward.

Every decision that you make has consequences. It is like a car with only 2 speeds. Forward and reverse. There is really no neutral action or non action. Everything will lead you to your goals or away from your goals. Make sure every decision you make is leading you in the direction you want to be headed.

In today’s competitive environment you need to find your competitive advantages and constantly work on showing and developing these strengths. What makes you unique? What do you do differently, or better than your competition? Do you offer faster service, friendlier service, better pricing, delivery, quality or quantities? Realize that you have certain core competencies that you are good at. Determine what these are and focus on them.

Think about marketing as using a rifle instead of a shotgun. With a shotgun we pull the trigger and many bb’s come out. Some hit the target and most don’t. With a rifle we take deliberate aim at our target before releasing our one bullet. Take careful aim at your intended customers. Let’s call this the rifle approach to marketing.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your existing customers “Can you help me? Why do you buy from us?” Most people love to share their opinions and beliefs. They will be happy to tell you why they buy from you. Set a certain percentage of your customer base with a time line to accomplish this task. Another very important question you may want to ask is “What ONE thing could we do better for you?” This will help you continue to develop your competitive strengths.

If you are not in business yet you can still accomplish this. Look at the industry you are getting into and research your competition. Look at their websites and catalogs. Call them and speak to them. Visit some of their locations. What are their strengths and weaknesses?  What areas are they missing or lacking in? This will allow you to formulate a plan of how to attract customers with unfulfilled needs. These will become your customers.

As the marketing manager of your business, remember to determine who your customers are by determining who your customers aren’t. Use the rifle approach to marketing. Ask questions and research to find out who your customers truly are.

Free and Confidential Counseling, SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 (616) 771-0305,, e-mail:

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