Sunday, March 18, 2007

Landing Clients... It's All in the Bait.

A couple months ago, I told my husband I was going to revamp my business by defining a niche and a target market. My niche is writing. My target market – well, at the time, it was anyone or anything that needed writing or editing services. “Don’t you think you’ll be limiting yourself by concentrating JUST on writing?” he asked me with obvious concern. “No, not at all” I quickly responded. He looked at me puzzled. My husband loves stories so I knew a fishing analogy would help him see the light.

“You know how when we go fishing you use a lure and I use worms?” I asked him. “Yes,” he replied still visibly confused. “Well, what do I catch and what do you catch?” I asked with some sarcasm. “You catch a lot more fish than I do that’s for sure – but mine are bigger!” he said with a level of confidence reserved only for things he is passionate about – fishing being one of them. I knew he understood immediately. A fisherman always does – perhaps it’s all that time they have to contemplate the meaning of life as they wait for “the big one” to strike. Make no mistake about it – if you want to land a big one, you need the right bait. My husband understood the analogy right away because he knows when I fish with worms I catch all kinds of different fish, but most of them are small and I use a lot of bait.

I’ve always loved fishing with worms and even raised night crawlers when I was a teenager. I never really saw the merits of using a lure and certainly never thought a fish would be interested in a flashy piece of metal. When I fish, I carefully position my worm around the hook and cast everywhere that looks inviting and weed free. Then I sit and wait. The first few nibbles always excite me and I usually try and set the hook too soon. More times than not, the worm and hook are too big for the fish so I can’t catch the fish but I keep the worm for several casts. Sometimes however, when I cast out, the worm breaks free and lops off a few feet from where my hook hits the water and I get aggravated! So I normally spend the day feeding all the little fish in the lake.

Meanwhile, my husband is carefully choosing lures and trying different casting techniques in his quest to catch a fish. When I ask him why he keeps changing lures, why he doesn’t just stick with one and be done with it, he tells me that his choice of lure is dependent upon many factors. “Really” I wonder to myself – although he apparently sees the question in my eyes and feels the need to explain. Apparently the water clarity, time of day, depth, water temperature, type of water, and type of fish desired (among other things) determine the size, color, shape and texture of the appropriate lure. Wow, that seems like so much work! I thought fishing was supposed to be relaxing. Once he finally chooses a lure, he casts out and reels in and casts out and reels in and casts out and reels in. Good grief, I just throw my worm out and wait. Not him, he tries this spot and that spot until suddenly, bam, he hooks into a big ole bass. Then the excitement begins as he really wants to land the fish. It’s usually a big one – enough to feed both of us and make a tasty dinner. It’s hard work and it takes some time, but he almost always lands the fish. Content and proud, my husband displays the fish for the required “look at the monster I caught” photo and then cleans it. More often than not, I am very happy because if we had to eat the fish I caught, we would be cleaning fish for quite a while.

Defining a target market is like fishing with a lure. As a business owner, you increase your chances of successfully landing clients by careful defining your target market. How old are they? Where do they shop? How much money do they make? Where do they live? What are their hobbies? Where do they work? If you spend some time gathering this information, you’ll know where to cast your line and how to choose the most effective “lure” to attract the customers you desire.

You are not limiting yourself or your business by defining a target market; in reality, you are attracting a world of new and exciting possibilities.

Laurie Dart, owner of Writing Wisely, is the author of the Everyday Guide to Writing Wisely. She provides writing and editing services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Visit for info.

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