In Praise of Small Ponds: Why Being Picky Is Good for Business

by | Mar 26, 2009

Who wouldn’t love to work exclusively with clients that fit “just right”?
But in a down economy, who can afford to be picky?
You can. In fact, you can’t afford not to be.
In any economic situation, the quickest way for a tiny business to fail is to:

  • Be as general as you can to attract the widest possible range of potential clients and customers.
  • Take care not to turn anyone off; tone down your personality.
  • Be careful not to scare people away by talking about price.
  • When you do discuss price, quote the lowest price possible.
  • This approach ensures that your tiny business will get lost in a very big pond.
    And, for small fish, the key to success is to make the pond smaller, not bigger.
    How to Shrink the Pond
    The key to standing out is to be very, very specific about the client that fits just-right. Rather than trying to promote what you do to the largest number of people, focus on addressing the concerns of the just-right client.
    Here’s how an image coach might shrink the pond for her business.
    First, she thinks about the women she’s worked with and realizes that she’s gotten the greatest delight and given the best work to women with cancer.
    So, she builds her Web site and brochure around those women. Instead of stuffing them full of dry credentials and desperate calls to action, she thinks about what a woman with cancer who is struggling with her changing body would want.
    She realizes that her just-right client needs validation and reassurance. She wants to know that the treatments, products, and resources she sees are safe for someone receiving chemotherapy or radiation. She may be feeling ill and have low energy, so she needs information in short, easily accessible forms. And she wants support and companionship.
    The coach chooses colors and imagery for her Web site and brochure that make her just-right client feel at home. She writes short, upbeat, articles that solve practical problems. She has an podcast where visitors can ask questions anonymously and receive an expert response within 24 hours.
    Once she begins to build her site around her just-right client, she is full of ideas that add value. The site becomes more and more attractive.
    It doesn’t matter if there are fewer women with cancer than women without. What matters is that the just-right client will be able to find the Web site and will know she’s home when she gets there.
    Think of your customers and clients. Which ones “light up” as a result of your work? Which ones are most engaging and interesting to work with? Look for the common denominators and start building your Web site around them. Tell their stories. Speak to their lives. Then no persuasion will be needed for you to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.