I once took a very expensive training where the instructor adamantly taught that a business could not serve more than one type of customer. However I was actively serving 2 very different types of ideal customers at my business and I had come to the course wanting to learn how to market more effectively. She insisted that I would have to give one customer group up and niche solely to the other. It was a hard idea to follow and it didn’t seem right to give up an entire half of my successful business. But she claimed that my struggles in marketing were purely a result of my refusal to niche down to only one market.
She wasn’t completely incorrect. Imagine a restaurant that claimed to serve authentic Italian pizza alongside authentic Thai food and served good old American hamburgers on Monday nights. Would you believe they could make all those dishes yummy and truly authentic? Would you worry about food quality? You’d be wary. The same applies to business. Generally you DO want to niche down and get really good at serving one type of customer. It’s easier to please your customers if they all have similar needs and expectations.
However here’s the twist. Golden Corral and any other big buffet place goes against this rule. They serve food from Chinese to Italian and American to Indian. And people line up! So why do diners expect and accept something different from Golden Corral? The answer has to do with finding the needs that are shared with all your customers. Why are the customers showing up to that business? What is the unifying reason?
Authentic Italian Restaurant: Diners want high quality food and experience.
Golden Corral: Diners want to have a wide variety of foods and to stuff themselves.
I realized that to serve both types of customers in my business, I needed to look past their simple demographics and learn more about their core needs and what type of pain they were trying to solve by coming to my business. My busines is an upscale boutique hotel and the two guest segments I was serving were very different from each other. The first was long term stay business travelers traveling solo and the second type was short term stay families coming to the area for various reasons. It didn’t intuitively seem like I could serve both very well. Business travelers didn’t want to feel like they were living at a family resort, and families didn’t want to be a disturbance to long term tenants.
My huge breakthrough came when I realized that the unifying need for both groups was the desire for the freedom to create. Create memories. Create work. Create home-made meals. Create safety. So I got to work making my suites prepared to support them in that creativity. I made sure my kitchens were better stocked. I made sure that each suite had a comfortable desk area. And I focused on guest gifts that enhanced their creative experience (local treats and gifts). And both types of customers responded very positively!
So are you a hair stylist serving business men and stay at home moms? What is their unifying problem? Is it the need to stand out? Is it the need for a pampering experience to relieve the stress of their lives?
Are you a nurse practitioner serving baby boomers but you find that you also love serving new moms? Maybe the unifying need of your customer is your gentle bedside manner because they are all victims of past abuse.
So the bottom line is that you DO need to be sensitive to niching down. But instead of niching down to a customer segment/demographic, niche to a specifically defined pain or struggle that all of your ideal customers share. Once you have a clear understanding as to what’s driving your ideal customers to seek you out, you can focus all your marketing and customer experience efforts to cater to that unifying need. And THAT is how you create raving and loyal customers across multiple demographics.