November 8, 2019

Lifeguard in the Sahara

Lots of readers have been sending in questions related to my recent message about niching down on a target market (Note: search your inbox for subject line “Everybody is the same as nobody” if you haven’t read it yet.)

All the questions fall into a short list of predictable categories. I’ve talked about all them at length previously, except for this one:

“What if I know who I want to niche down on as a target market, AND I know what their expensive problems are, BUT I don’t help with the kinds of expensive problems they have?

In other words, you don’t have the confidence you need to help your ideal clients with their big problems. You know you can help them with some problems, but not the big ones that are keeping your buyers up a night.

For example...

Let’s say Alice is a web developer who considers herself an expert at building lightning fast websites. She is passionate about serving environmental advocacy groups. Her XY Positioning Statement is:

“I help environmental advocacy groups cut their website page load time by half or more.”

Alice reports to me that in spite of having a nicely focused position, she’s having a hard time selling speed improvements to her desired target market. She wants to know what she can do about it.

I ask Alice:

“Okay, what are the biggest problems these folks are wrestling with?”

Alice replies:

“Every single one of them is obsessed with getting more donations. It’s a real struggle for them. Their web traffic is okay, but their conversation rates are dismal. Which is no surprise considering that the sites all look like they were designed in the 90s, they don’t work well on mobile, and don’t have any clear calls to action. 90% of donations are still handled with a phone call, which is inefficient and expensive to staff.”

Do you see the problem? Alice is passionate about creating lightning fast websites but the people she wants to help don’t care about faster websites. Not because a faster website wouldn’t be better for them, but because they are worried about a different problem.

She has been trying to solve a problem that her target market doesn’t currently care about, and missing the huge opportunity that is staring her in the face.

It’s a bit like trying to sell sunblock to someone who’s drowning:

“I see you’re drowning there... would you like to buy some sunblock in case someone ever comes along and drags you up onto the beach?”

Sure, sunblock is a great idea, but someone who’s drowning has other things on their mind.


Alice has a decision to make if she wants to level up her business:

It’s not rocket science. You just have to pick one.