Anybody Who Pays?

The Cost of Doing Business

Feb 1, 2012 by

I was having a lovely lunch with some business colleagues when the talk veered to someone’s new business.

Me:  “So, who’s your target market for it?”

Businessman:  “Anybody who pays!”


In the Jurassic Era, “anybody who pays” is an excellent marketing strategy.  What do dinosaurs know about marketing anyway?  All they care about is not being devoured by the T-Rex.

In the 21st century, however, there is no “anybody who pays.”  If your marketing director is dispensing that sage advice, you should fire him.  Immediately.  If you continue listening to that drivel, you will be devoured by the modern day T-Rex – your competition.

I don’t need to tell you how saturated the market is with every product and service known to man and fungi.  There are products and services whose purpose in life we don’t know about nor will we ever know them.

Marketers are getting run over by buses in their hasty scramble to reach an untapped niche or market segment.  There is an untapped niche or target market?  Still?  Haven’t they all moved to Mars, our soon-to-be home planet once we’ve destroyed all the trees in this one?

CEOs proclaim that theirs is, naturally, the only product or service of its kind and marketers genuflect accordingly.  Never mind that someone else offers the same thing 5 doors down the road.  Ours is the only one of its kind and no one can tell me otherwise.  Okaaaaay.

The reality, children, is that whatever it is you’re offering, somebody else already beat you to it.  You just don’t know it yet because you have not checked their parents’ garages.

So!  The only issue that remains, really, is who sells it better to whom, where and how.

In that environment, there is no room for “anybody who pays” because people are always itching to find an excuse or reason to part with their hard-earned money.  ‘Tis human nature.  What you need to do is to convince them that their money is better wasted on your offerings, not your competitor’s.

And how do you do that?  By not selling to “anybody who pays.”  Why?  Because in marketing, there is no such thing as everything for everyone.  Therefore, “anybody who pays” is a fairy tale that will not have a happy ending.  You and your potential customers will not live happily ever after if you persist in this wretched thinking.

I cannot stress this enough:  Know your target market. 

What are their needs, wants, aspirations?  What are their apprehensions, fears, concerns?  How ready are they for you?  If they’re not ready, what will it take for them to get ready to receive your products and services?  What kind of messages appeals to them and where do they usually go to find it?  How much are they willing to pay for your product and how much do they really have?  Where can you find your target market and how do you find them?

Etc, etc, etc.  (For more of these, you would need to hire me so just be happy with the few questions I’ve included, ok?  Good.)

I realize that, in the light of social media, those are not sexy questions.  Unfortunately, business cannot be run through Twitter or Facebook only.  Even on social media, those are still the questions you must answer in order to gain “Likes” and followers.

Knowing your target market is a core marketing principle.  You cannot get away from it.  You may run but what’s the point of getting yourself exhausted over something that you cannot hide from?  Instead, be an adult and do your homework.

No, you cannot shortcut the process.

You don’t sit there and simply say, “My neighbor buys string beans at x amount every Tuesday at XYZ market.  Ergo, people in her demographic profile must be doing the same thing.”  Anobah.  Your neighbor, despite her 8 kids, does not a population make.  So, stop making her your barometer for your target market.

Oh, and please – cease and desist with your mother and children, ok?  Your mother’s preferences are not the standards by which the world lives by.  And while you may believe that your children are cute, many of us don’t feel the same way about them.  Therefore, we don’t like to be judged according to the bubble gum flavor that appeals to your kids.

Don’t be lazy.  Do your homework.  Know and understand your target market.  Stop finding a way to circumvent that process because you can’t and, what’s more, you shouldn’t.

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