Reasons Why Everyone Is Not Going to Be Your Small Business’s Customer

As a small business not everyone in a given marketplace is going to be your customer. While this might seem as obvious as the sun coming up in the morning, in reality it is often a very tough concept for a business to grasp. Your instincts are to sell something to everybody, to believe that everyone can be your customer.

Maybe once upon a time, when the old-fashioned general store was the only game in town everyone was a store’s potential customer. But in today’s highly competitive marketplace, for a variety of reasons there are certain products that any given individual is very unlikely to buy and certain places where he or she is very unlikely to ever do business. Here are six of those reasons:

Individual behavior patterns - An often overlooked factor that can determine what we will buy and where we will buy it is simply our individual day-to-day behavior patterns, behaviors that we usually don’t even think about.

For instance, you live and work on the west side of town. Even though you like oriental food and have heard good things about a new Thai restaurant “way over” on the east side of town, you have never eaten at that Thai restaurant and likely won’t, simply because it is out of your way from your daily routines, and because there are several oriental restaurants closer to home that you like, in other words, you have suitable substitutes.

Gender - Another factor that can determine what we’ll buy and where we’ll buy from is gender. Although that role is changing!

For example, it used to be that you would never expect to see a male in a beauty shop getting a haircut or at a jewelry shop buying an earring for himself. And you could not imagine a female working up a sweat in a fitness center, let alone riding her own Harley-Davidson around town. Yet I’m sure you’ve noticed both scenes have become quite common these days.

IncomeOf course, a key factor that can determine what people will buy and where they will buy it is income.

Let’s say you want to take your date to dinner, but you can’t afford the La Ritz, where the cheapest meal starts at $35. So, instead, you end up at Joe’s Bar and Grill, where you can both have a burger and a couple of beers for a total of $35. Or, you need a car, but the highest monthly payment you can make is $200, which means you are definitely not in the market for a new Lexus.

Lifestyle -Lifestyle, that is the images and/or behaviors we use to define ourselves to the world, can be a huge influence on what we buy and where we buy it.

For instance, someone who favors the California beach bum look — sandals, shorts and a t-shirt — won’t be terribly interested in shopping for clothes at your new men’s shop that specializes in business suits. And someone who is into hiking and backpacking isn’t likely to respond to a direct mail piece from your travel agency for a luxury Caribbean cruise line. That is, unless there are unusual circumstances that might change his or her perspective, for instance, he or she is getting married and might be looking for a special honeymoon trip.

Personal likes / dislikes – Our personal likes and dislikes definitely are a determinant in what we shop for and where we will shop.

For example, some people are die-hard Ford enthusiasts who think that anything General Motors makes is junk! And no amount of “reason” or “evidence” will shake their conviction. Or, have you ever tried to convince a dyed-in-the-wool Mac user that a PC is a better machine? Good luck.

I dislike rock music. Therefore, if I walk into a store or a restaurant and hear rock music blaring over the loudspeakers, I leave, even if I know that that store will likely have what I am looking for or I have heard good things about that restaurant’s food.

Self-perception – Self-perception, that is, how we think of ourselves is a huge factor in our buying habits.
The Charles Atlas “98-pound weakling” ads that were so popular in various boys magazines when I was a kid — I’m too skinny — as well as the more contemporary Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers ads — I’m too fat — are both examples of marketing based on self-image.

Automakers have understood this concept for decades. If buying a car or truck was simply about getting from point A to point B, we would only need a few basic models of cars and trucks. So why are there hundreds of brands of vehicles and literally thousands of models to choose from? Why do some people buy sleek red sports cars and others buy conservative four-door sedans? Because the vehicle we drive is as much a statement about who we are or who we want people to think we are as it is about transportation.

The point here, of course, is to that as a small business you need to know who your customers are or who you want them to be — or, more relevantly to this article, who they are not likely to be — so that you don’t waste limited marketing resources chasing those who are unlikely to be either.

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