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choosing my target market

Show Me the Money: Choosing My Target Market

I thought I knew what I wanted…

All too often for me, that’s how my story begins.

And this product creation journey is no different.

choosing my target market

When I came up with the idea to do an experiment and journal my experience with the ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass, I thought I had the target market I wanted to pursue all worked out. But I guess not…

Target Market or Niche?

​Before we go any further, let me define a couple terms so we’re all working on an even playing field and because their definitions are different based on which textbook or website you look at. Here’s what the terms mean to me:

Target market

The overall segment of the population my niche is in. For example, small business owners or pet owners or people that like to barbeque.


A market inside the target market that I’m going to focus on. For example, women small business owners with brick and mortar businesses or owners of pets with skin allergies or BBQ cooks that use indoor grills.

When starting out, you’ll almost always be better off marketing to the smallest niche you can that has a proven desire for your product and an ability to pay for it. Once you figure out how to reach and service that niche successfully, you can expand by either:

  • duplicating your efforts in another similar niche, or
  • selling different products or services to that same niche.

Once I choose my target market, I’ll use these same steps to identify a profitable niche. The numbers will just be smaller (and harder to find). The first order of business, though, is choosing my target market.

Choosing My Target Market – Indecision or Opportunity?

I use ThriveThemes to run this site and a couple others. I’ve done a fair amount of customization of the sites. I can answer many routine questions people ask without too much struggle or research. So I thought I would develop a business and my first digital product around that niche.

​But the, as I was working on other things, I ran across the idea of imposter syndrome.

imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome intrigues me for several reasons.

  1. It seems to be almost universal. I even saw studies about college professors having it.
  2. I know from a number of mailing lists I’m on and people I’ve talked to on Facebook and in other forums that many people really struggle with it in relation to teaching online courses and developing online businesses or products.
  3. There’s a ton of academic and anecdotal research on it.
  4. There are a number of strategies to combat it that could be turned into products, courses, seminar, etc.

Then, a third shiny object came into my view.

For several weeks, I’ve been running some experiments using press releases to boost the search engine rankings of local businesses. I am beginning to see some real, trackable results in those efforts and continue to experiment.

I thought maybe I could do a combination of selling a service and teaching others how to do it.

If a businesses owner had more money than time (or interest), they could pay me to do it for them. And if they have more time than money, they could learn how to do it themselves.

How Will I Choose My Target Market?

​What started out as a simple process has now morphed into a decision that needs to be made before the masterclass starts next week.

​And a decision I don’t want to mess up. So how do I choose a market for my business?

​Well, I’ve learned a couple things from my past experience and online research.

  1. I need objective (i.e. numbers-based) measures to compare these markets against one another rather the subjective (i.e. what I or other people think) measures.
  2. I need to base my selection on business (i.e. likely revenue, ease of business market entry, likely expenses) reasons rather than personal reasons.

When we were running the numbers for our Zippy Shell business before we invested in the franchise, we did spreadsheet after spreadsheet figuring all different scenarios…none of which were ANYWHERE close to what actually happened.

Zippy Shell target market

The problem was we didn’t have any hard and fast numbers to determine growth from, so we estimated everything. Zippy Shell had only been franchising for a couple years when we came on board, so there were only a handful of franchisees that could share their numbers.

None of the franchises were over a year or 18 months old, and none of them were in markets similar to ours, so we estimated.

​And those estimates were way off.

​So how can I make sure that doesn’t happen again? Great question…but I don’t think there’s a great answer.

​But I have to start somewhere,, so I’ll do all the research I can and try to make the numbers as accurate as I can. At the end of the day, though, I’ll still have to make an educated guess…just like with Zippy Shell.

​How to Evaluate Potential Target Markets

​The trick to getting the most accurate and trustworthy information about potential target markets is to go straight to the people in the market. Find where they hang out online and off and go talk to them.

​I’ll go into these steps in depth in future posts, but here’s the outline…

​I’m going to go to Reddit.com, Quora.com, Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups. I’ll search Amazon book reviews and the comments on popular YouTube videos. The idea is to find out what real people are talking about, complaining about and asking for.

​If I can’t find anyone discussing any of these burning pains in relation to ThriveThemes, imposter syndrome or improving search engine rankings for local businesses, I’ll know I need to go back to the drawing board. Based on the preliminary research I’ve done already, though, I’m confident at least one or two of these will be a great target market.

​Once I know what’s being talked about online, I’ll start gathering as many market statistics as I can. Items such as number of potential customers, number of competitors and their offerings, and how much does the market spend annually on services I could provide. I’ll also look at competitors to determine common workable revenue models and holes in the market.

​Finally, I’ll find a handful of people in the market and talk to them either in person, on the phone or by Skype. My goal will be to get feedback from real people to see what they think about the markets. I hope to get them to identify three things:

  1. What they think the market should have but doesn’t.
  2. What solutions they would find interesting and would actually pay for.
  3. What they’ve tried in the past to address their problems.

Choosing My Target Market: Like Making an Amazing Stew

Once I’ve got all this information, the actual process of choosing my target market will be a process of mixing the empirical data and the interview data.

​Kind of like making a good stew, this is where judgment (and risk) come into the picture.

​I will be trying to determine:

  1. Which market has niches that will provide a number of profitable product or service offerings that interest me?
  2. Which market has the pain points I can serve most profitably?
  3. Which market has the greatest growth potential and is also stable?

What am I missing? Leave a comment and tell me!

​This is the first article in what I plan to be a seven part series on choosing a target market for your online business. The rest of the articles in the series are will show up below as they’re written.

​If you’re interested in more articles on this from someone else’s perspective, here are a few I’ve found useful:

choose business success

The 3 Real Reasons You Won’t Be a Business Success

Key Takeaways

Business success is hard. Most people that dream of starting businesses never do. And, of those that do, most fail. Here's why...

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Imposter syndrome
  3. They don't really want it

I turned left when I should’ve turned right.

Barely over a year ago, I shot this video. I was feeling confident as I sat in my car watching others practice the maneuvers we’d all be tested on the next day to get our commercial driver’s licenses. I wasn’t the top student in the class…probably somewhere toward the top of the middle performers…like I am in most stuff I’ve done in life.

Anyway, I knew what I was doing…or so I thought.

The next day, I failed my first attempt at the test. And so did four other guys in the class.

​Until now, though, no one that wasn’t involved that day knew I failed.

​If you just watch the video, you assume I passed the test. And I did…eventually.

Are You Scared of Failing?

​Do your friends talk about failure?

​Mine don’t. Matter of fact, I’d argue we all feel pressure to present our lives as perfect; especially to our friends and family online. And we feel this pressure even though we know our lives aren't perfect and we know that no one else’s life is perfect either.

We all fall down, we all get embarrassed, we all mess up things we shouldn’t.

​Letting any of these "failures" out into the wild on Facebook or other sites is rare; to be avoided like the plague. We’ll talk about fake failures (like, “I spend too much time at work”), but when it comes to the fears, doubts and insecurities that come with each one of our daily lives – i.e. the real failures – we try to act like they don’t – or shouldn’t - exist.

​Every time I write an article on this site, I think about what my friends and family are going to think about what I’ve written. For whatever reason, I seem to be most concerned about what the people I used to do business with in my Zippy Shell business will think.

​Even though most of them aren’t really a part of my life any more.

​Surely, I’m not the only weirdo that thinks about that kind of stuff, am I?

​I’ve written about how that business failed, but if you asked the majority of those people what happened, they’d most likely tell you I just decided to sell the business. Why is that?

It's ​because that’s the only part of the story I told them while it was going on…except for my accountant…she knew everything.

Reason #1 - Fear of Failure​

​Luckily, there’s no video of this event.

​But the video in my head is as real as if it happened yesterday and the weird thing is I watch from a spectator’s perspective rather than from my own.

business success

taken by MAJ Allen Hill licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike, unmodified

​Back when I was in the Air Force, I was on an intramural softball team. It was the first game of the season, I was brand new to the unit and I was up to bat.

​First pitch…ball one.

​Second pitch…down the middle…strike one.

​Third pitch…down the middle again…and I made good contact.

​The ball was on its way to deep left center and I was on my way to first.

​As I rounded first, the fielder was still chasing the ball so I put it in high gear thinking I could get a triple and maybe even a homer out of it.

​I round second and all of the sudden, my legs and my body got out of sync. It was like my legs were running away with me and my upper body just couldn't keep up.

​Before I know it, I’m sprawled out on the ground, halfway between second and third.

​By the time I get up and make it to third, they tag me out and what started out as a heroic triple or homer becomes the inning's disappointing third out.

​To make matters worse, when I get back to the dugout to get my glove, I look down at my right hand and my pinky is bent nearly 90 degrees to the right at the middle knuckle. I remember thinking, “Well, that doesn’t look right,” before I told the coach I had to go to the hospital.

​NONE of us likes to be embarrassed. But what I learned was my failure was MUCH bigger in my head than it was to anyone else. The only thing I remember being asked about later was whether my finger was okay…nobody even talked about how goofy I looked...at least not that I heard...

​So, like me, you want to create a digital product or online course. You want to build a mailing list. And your efforts aren’t gaining traction yet. So what?! Everyone has to start from somewhere and no one begins with a huge audience or successful products.

​It takes time and we all fail along the way. Most of us fail many times. But we don’t talk about that…at least not openly…not most of us.

​So when we launch our product and nothing happens or it takes us months to get over 100 subscribers on our list, we call ourselves failures and we quit. These “failures” that no one else even really noticed take up such a prominent place in our minds that we choose to quit instead of persevering.

​We’re so scared of what others will think that we allow that fear to paralyze us when it should motivate us. The successful online entrepreneur isn’t the one that succeeds astonishingly on their first effort; the true success is the “overnight business success” that worked at it for 6, 8 or 10 years before hitting it big.

​It’s easy to just let life happen instead of taking charge of it. It’s COMFORTABLE to do that; to be like 98% of the wantrepreneurs out there online. But if you want to succeed, you have to put that risk behind you…you have to choose reality over the self-pity in your mind.

Ramit Sethi

Which would you rather have? A safe life where nobody points at you…and you’re the same as everyone else? Or would you be willing to take a small risk — not a huge one, just a small one — and dip your toe in the waters of trying something new?” 

Thomas Edison

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Reason #2 - What if they see me as an imposter?

​Let’s be real…all of us feel like imposters sometimes.

​What if I’m a computer programmer and don’t have the right degree or the certifications? What if the others I’m competing with have more experience? What if someone pokes a hole in my beautiful theory?

​We all struggle with imposter syndrome. And it can easily stop us from even attempting our dreams. Or we overcorrect the other way and chase that ”right” certification or school or experience or personal network or…

​It’s like we think once we get this magical amount of whatever it is we feel insecure about, the universe will suddenly open up and business success will be easy. For several reasons, this is just plain wrong:

  1. ​What actually happens when you reach that college degree or whatever you’ve been striving for is you find another excuse (like an MBA or more experience) to allow yourself to delay a little more.
  2. There are many examples of people with no connections, no formal education, no training and no money that have made it to the top levels of nearly every endeavor you can imagine. Sure, having some of these things can improve your chances of business success, but not having them doesn’t preclude you.
  3. Once you grab this mythical Rosetta stone, you still have to work tremendously hard to be successful. Like we talked about above...there is no such thing as an overnight business success. If you’re going to have to put in 6 or 8 or 10 years to gain experience (like Cal Newton writes in So Good They Can’t Ignore You), wouldn’t you be better off to start now rather than delaying a few more months or years?


​The only gatekeeper to your business success is your own mind. Get out of your own way and put in the work and you will be a success.

​I’ll guarantee the success you reach won’t be the success you planned, but I’ll also guarantee it will be more satisfying than you thought it would be. With just a website, an email list and a little online business knowhow, you can take your digital products or online courses straight to the audience that will take you on this journey.

​But will you? Most won't, honestly...

Reason #3 - You don't want it badly enough to do it!​

​There’s a story I’ve heard that goes like this…

A hermit was meditating by a river when a young man interrupted him. "Master, I wish to become your disciple," said the man. "Why?" replied the hermit. The young man thought for a moment. "Because I want to find God."

The master jumped up, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, dragged him into the river, and plunged his head under water. After holding him there for a minute, with him kicking and struggling to free himself, the master finally pulled him up out of the river. The young man coughed up water and gasped to get his breath. When he eventually quieted down, the master spoke. "Tell me, what did you want most of all when you were under water."

"Air!" answered the man.

"Very well," said the master. "Go home and come back to me when you want God as much as you just wanted air."

Over the years, I’ve noticed something about myself. Just like the hermit in the story above, I say I want certain things; relationships, habits, possessions…lots of things.

​And I know what is required to get those things: time, focus, money, discipline. But I choose not to do those things. Or, at least, not do them regularly enough to produce my desired outcome.

​I’m sure you do that too…if you don’t think so, just ask your wife or your child.

​But what actually produces change in my life, time and again, is when I get fed up “enough” with something to actually get serious and disciplined and accountable to myself and – possibly – others about it.

​One small example of this is when I finally started flossing my teeth every day a few years ago…okay, actually I probably do it 5 or 6 days out of 7, but before this I never did it. I finally got a dentist I knew personally and felt like I’d be letting him down if I came in for checkups in worse shape than last time. But I also got fed up with myself and just decided to do it.

​Another, larger example, is how I developed a daily prayer and devotional practice.

​My point is the same, though, any change takes work. And if you don’t truly want it and aren’t truly motivated to do it, you will find reasons to sabotage yourself. You’ll continually find yourself on Facebook when you should be researching your market. You’ll spend whole evenings in front of the TV instead of designing your digital product or online course.

​And, even more tragically, you’ll come up with a bunch of reasons an online business won’t work for you. But it will work for you…if you work for it and make the daily choices you know you need to make.

​It’s funny, once I get started writing a blog post or reaching out to promote articles, I get into the groove and get things done. It’s getting started that’s the hard part. I find ways to delay and procrastinate.

It reminds me of going to a networking event or writing a paper in college. By the time I arrive at the event or start on the paper, I’ve imagined that it’s going to be 100 times worse than it actually will be. And when I look back on it, I ALWAYS think, “man, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

​It just goes to prove; yours fears will ALWAYS be there at the start. Ignore them and start anyway.

​The strategy I use to see if I want it bad enough:

I write down all my “invisible scripts” as Ramit Sethi calls them. All the limiting reasons I can think of why something won’t work. For example:

  • ​I don’t have the time for this
  • I don’t have the expertise for this
  • I don’t have enough money for this
  • What if I fail at it? What’s the worst case scenario I can imagine?
  • Do I believe this can work for me?

And then, I break these down by intentionally flipping the context. I think, “if I knew that whatever I did would succeed:”

  • How would I make time for this?
  • Am I really limited by expertise or money or is that just an excuse?
  • What would business success look like in my wildest dreams?

Then, if you honestly decide – after going through this exercise – that building a profitable digital product, online course or business isn’t for you, great.

That’s awesome! At least you made a conscious choice about your future. You should be proud of yourself.

But if you decide it is for you, take action. TODAY...right now!

To Do Today

  1. Go through the questions above and decide for yourself if what you say you want to do is actually what you want to do.
  2. If so, click here to follow my ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass experiment to watch and participate as I create my first digital product and start my road to online business success.​
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