3 Reasons to Stop Marketing to the General Public

The general public isn’t a demographic - it’s just a short-hand term for people we don’t know. The "general public" is a powerful temptress.  For every business owner with dreams of explosive growth, she represents the elusive masses who, if wooed correctly, can turn a small local company into an international powerhouse.  These dreams of world-wide fame (and billings) lead otherwise savvy business owners to make a classic marketing mistake – marketing directly to her.

Here’s the problem.  The general public isn’t a demographic – it’s just a short-hand term for people we don’t know. Attempting to influence people we don’t know is a good way to spend a lot of energy and a lot of cash for very little reward.  Here's why:

Building a customer base is like eating an elephant
The only way to get it done is one bite (read: customer) at a time.  Since “the general public” is not one customer, trying to swallow it leads to choking.  On the other hand, by tackling the job one bite at a time, business owners can follow in the footsteps of Joe Hachem, the World Series of Poker champion who won over $7 million following this advice.

More traffic doesn’t translate into more sales
Targeting the general public may get your message in front of more eyeballs, but profits aren’t based on the number of shoppers – they are based on the number of buyers.  While it may seem reasonable to assume more shoppers equals more buyers, that’s not how it works.  A small and engaged audience beats a large, vaguely interested one. Every. Single. Time.  

A narrow focus leads to an expanded customer base
It’s tempting to include the general public in a marketing plan because focusing on a niche feels like ignoring potential customers.  Turns out, the opposite is true.

Business owners who focus their efforts are not only more successful inside their niche, they also find themselves doing well in markets they’d never imagined.  For example, do you know why computer scientists would flock to a salon aimed at water skiers?  Neither did the owner of this salon, but by targeting one group she got both – and more business than she knew what to do with.

So if you have dreams of world domination (in the good way), avoid this common trap by focusing your efforts on wowing the customers you know best.  You'll achieve the growth you desire – in less time than you imagine – without spending your precious marketing dollars targeting a group that doesn't exist.

Maureen Carruthers helps nonprofit leaders use social media to expand their influence (without targeting the general public) at Low Hanging Fruit.  She is a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0.  You're invited to read more by Maureen Carruthers.

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