Stop Calling Your Customers “Targets”

I can’t stand hearing “target market” to refer to people we want to attract. “Target” has awful war-like connotations. And that leads us to make bad marketing decisions.

Just have a look at these images that marketers use to describe the “target market” concept and I think you’ll see the problem. It implies that guns and arrows are pointing at our customers. We are not at war with them. They are not the enemy! And yet that is what this phrase tells our brains. Yikes!

This “target” phrase comes from the old-school sales approach of pushing something or making people do something. Anyone want to buy from a classic “used car salesman” anymore? I didn’t think so.

I know you don’t want to be that pushy salesman, so stop talking like one. Our words effect our approach and our decisions whether we realize it or not.

This “target” concept also implies that the seller has all the power, as if we can make people do anything. You can’t. The customer has the power, now more than ever, thanks to social media and online reviews. If we don’t honor that, we’ll be wasting time and money, or worse, treading on thin ice.

Hint: A good sign that you’re still thinking “push” without realizing it, is if you hate promoting your services. If you hate promoting, stop and rethink.

The Problem in a Nutshell

In sum, here are the problems with “target market” wording:

  • Implies that the seller will make the customer do something. Who wants that?
  • Implies that the seller is in charge, which is false and leads to bad marketing decisions.
  • Implies that you have to go hunt them down. Leads to overdoing and poor results.
  • Pushy used car salesman approach. ‘nough said.
  • We need to focus on client attraction, so we should use words that match that.
  • Words effect our subconscious mind which tells our brain to do push marketing, even if we think we are not pushy.

Let’s Say “Ideal Customer” Instead

“Ideal client” or “ideal customer” makes much more sense than “target market.” When you use that wording, your brain will conjure up images of a happy match between you and your customers. It’s about resonance. And client attraction.

When you envision your ideal customer, you’ll be more likely to find out what they want and provide just that. No pushing required.

The right customers will resonate with your offerings. They’ll be naturally drawn to it. You’ll be happier, they’ll be happier, and your pocketbook will be happier too.

No one has to be pushed or targeted.

This idea of client attraction replacing pushy sales is not new. The best marketers are all advising that mindset as what works today. It is working. And it’s aligned with our values too. But our target wording has not caught up.

Key Takeaways

  1. Let’s stop targeting (pushing) in words and action. Stop saying “target market.” [Tweet that]
  2. Let’s say “ideal client,” “niche market,” “tribe,” or whatever helps you feel connected to who you serve.
  3. If you hate promoting your services, stop. You’re probably trying to push, and that doesn’t work. [Click to tweet]

Do you use another word for your client base that works for you? I’d love to hear about it, or any feedback about this idea, in the comments below.

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  • http://twitter.com/Verilliance Verilliance

    Val, great point about the language we use. As a business owner how we speak about and think about our clients matters to how we then communicate with them and treat them. It also affects how customers think about themselves in relation to the businesses they spend their money with. 

    “Ideal” client sometimes bothers me too however. As though they are “ideal” to me, as though they benefit only me. I can’t think of a better term at the moment, but I thought I would throw that out there. It should be something that really speaks to the mutual benefits for both the business and the client/customer. 

    • http://www.valnelson.com/ Val Nelson

       Great point Verilliance. Hmm, now you’ve got me rethinking “ideal client.”
      How about “ideal match”? I’ve heard someone use “soul-matched clients.”
      Maybe this is why some say “tribe.” Let me know if you come up with some ideas.

      • http://twitter.com/Verilliance Verilliance

        I’ve always liked tribe. :) I think the term used can be flexible, what matters is, like you said, how are you thinking about your customers? Is that positive or negative? Are they targets or are they people?