Getting specific on who you serve (and why)
It’s no secret that I love almost anything made by Patagonia.
Firstly, the product quality is just great. The things I own have endured over the years and they even fix things when they wear out, at no cost.
I also love that they are advocates for the environment. The CEO is famous for saying “Don’t Buy This Jacket” as part of their ad campaign; advocating for recycling, repairing, and reusing your clothes instead of buying new ones.
Paradoxically, this campaign resulted in a 40% increase in revenue within two years of running it. Good marketing, especially when it is based on values, resonates with your best customers.
Buyers outside of your core market will still buy
Patagonia is marketed to sports enthusiasts, specifically for climbers, skiers/snowboarders, surfers, fly fishers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. They even have ambassadors to personify their ideal target markets.
While I don’t identify as any of those archetypes, I do agree with their environmental principles. Their target market and I have shared values if not shared identities.
By marketing to specific groups of people with high needs and building their products to stand up to those tough requirements, I trust that they will be able to serve the more basic needs of a city person like me, too.
Much like the mattress example, you’ll want to market to and serve the needs of very specific groups of people who hold a high standard, such that everyone below that standard will still benefit from the quality of service you provide.
Patagonia’s website doesn’t talk about the everyday needs of city folk like me. They don’t talk about the VCs in San Francisco, who famously love to wear their vests, either. They talk about hikers, climbers, fishermen (and women), and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.
And yet, people like me (and the VCs in SF who are decidedly not like me), continue to buy Patagonia gear every day.
Shouldn’t they be worried about losing customers this way?
Why this happens
The answer is three-fold:
- When you deliver products and services to a high standard, you will also be valued by people who have far lower standards than the ones you set. You create a wide range of possible customers (members) by aiming high with your level of service.
- By focusing your marketing on a hard-to-please segment of the market, it makes you highly attractive to them AND those who are easier to please. People rightfully assume that if you can serve the needs of those with high standards, you could easily serve their needs as well.
- People buy based on shared values, not just shared identities. While I don’t identify with Patagonia’s outward target markets, I do identify with the values of buying products from a company that believes in environmental sustainability and other socially responsible practices.
Getting specific on who you serve and why doesn’t limit you. It will counter-intuitively help to attract a broader range of potential members based on shared needs, values, or identities.
Appealing to the general masses with a watered-down product is a recipe for going out of business fast–especially when you have competition.
If you’re struggling in your business to get profitable, chances are it’s a focus issue.
You don’t need to be better at everything for everyone. You just need to be the best for some people at some things.