Market Narrowly Deliver Broadly

One of my mantras is "market narrowly deliver broadly" (along with hire slowly, fire fast ... but that’s a story for another day). I stole it from someone way back when, and can’t remember from whom, so I can’t take the credit for it. The first part of the message is market narrowly. When we are starting out we don’t want to cut anyone out, so we market broadly. We cast the net wide. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Paradoxically, the more targeted and the narrower the marketing is, the more effective it is.


I made this mistake for years as a business coach - I was out to help small- to medium-sized businesses. I figured there were lots of them, I could help any of them, so why cut any out.

Problem is there are lots and lots of other people out to help SME’s. It doesn’t make me special.

If I was a business coach who specialised in helping bookkeepers grow their bookkeeping business, I would have been much more successful. 99% of prospects would have dismissed me as they weren’t bookkeepers ... but then they weren’t calling me anyway. However any bookkeeper looking at 50 ads for business coaches in the yellow pages would have called the one specialising in bookkeepers. A bookkeeper is much more likely to take a call from someone who is all about helping bookkeepers grow than a generic business coach. I would also get more referrals - people don’t say I know someone in business (even though everyone does) but if I tell people I specialise in helping bookkeepers, people will say I know a bookkeeper you should talk to. Just about everyone I come across who is starting out (and many who are a fair way down the track) doesn’t market narrowly enough.

Tathra makes the same mistake on her website. She says “Audacious leadership supports organisations to cultivate an authentic and lasting relationship with sustainability”. In this case the target market is simply organisations ...which is just about everybody. Not large organisations or small organisations, or organisations within a particular industry or geography, or particular people in an organisation, but all organisations. It would be more effective to have a much narrower market - as Michael Neaylon suggests, this could be as narrow as HR managers in the public sector.

The second part of my mantra is deliver broadly. That means you can deliver beyond the segment you market to. From my example earlier if I have been coaching a bookkeeper for a while, and she’s rapped with how it is going and says "by the way my sister is running a architect business and needs someone to help, can you talk to her?", I would say yes. I would then coach the architect, or anyone else who I came across who I could help. I just wouldn’t target them in my marketing.

In Tathra’s case if she did decide to target HR managers in the public sector, and someone from a private company rang up, of course she would still have a meeting and try and get a gig. She just wouldn’t be targeting them in her marketing.