Politicians are often accused of waffling between stances on issues in an attempt to broaden or redirect their appeal.

Well, I’ve run across a small business or two plenty guilty of the same.

In an attempt to broaden their market appeal they craft target market descriptions that leave room for just about anyone who pledges to pay the bill, eventually. Or, equally offending, it take 10-15 minutes to explain how they are different, you know, in a way that won’t turn any potential customers off.

Here’s the secret to success in good times and bad – stop waffling. Take a stand and make a marketing strategy commitment you can stick with.

Define your target market as narrowly as is humanly possible. Start by looking long and hard and what your profitable customers, the ones that already refer business to you, look like, think like, live like, value and fear. Now, eliminate all the jerks, cause you don’t have to work with them. Shake and not stir . . .

And now for a challenge: I dare you to write a paragraph and add it to every element of your marketing materials, including your website. Start your paragraph something like this – Here’s who has achieved the greatest success with our [product, system, process, tool, etc] – and then proceed to paint a detailed description of your new found narrowly defined ideal customer.

If you’ve done it right you will have to resist the urge to throw-up out of fear and anyone who reads it can either say, Yes, you are talking about me, you must know me – or, No, not for me. Either way your business just got better.

So now your job is to put everything behind attracting that ideal customer. Might I suggest some fresh strawberries and a hint of powdered sugar.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Great post!

    It’s so hard to avoid the waffle, but so essential to do so. I’ve seen it work well to draw this public focus and fail miserably to waffle.

  • Great post! I’ve included this link among others on a new column on my blog – in this new economic time (especially) as never before, businesses must take care of the BASICS first – and I consider this concept a crucial basic. Thanks!

  • Okay. I’ll take up the challenge – starting with my website tomorrow (because it’s the easiest to update). I like this idea: fit is important for both the client and for me. I’ll let you know how it works.

  • John Jantsch

    @Kris – awesome, send me the link I would love to keep this in mind for a follow-up when you feel you have some insights.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I often tell clients it takes courage to differentiate and focus on a niche because it means saying ‘no’ to certain potential clients. That’s a hard thing to do, but the most effective strategy in the long run. -Andrew

  • Waffle Maker Marketing has been around for a long time. It’s the kind of marketing that keeps your buying audience coming back time after time for more of what you fill the holes in your waffles with. How can you miss, if you fill up the holes with enticing, value ridden content that offers solutions your readers need. Give them what they want and they’ll come back for more!

  • This is an assignment I’ve often given to potential clients. The temptation for a business, store, clinic, etc. to say “Oh, we’ll sell to anyone” is overwhelming, but it’s incredibly damaging.

    I ask them to write two or three “profiles” of their potential buyers … age, gender, lifestyle, etc. etc. It’s (as you say) a very challenging assignment but it pays off in spades when it comes to designing a marketing campaign.

  • I love that you are persistent about writing about the niche. As you know, I consistenly follow your blog and I notice that you write about this topic at least monthly. I know, you do this because we all need to be reminded…again and again. We have to specialize if we are going to reach our target. We just can’t be everything to everyone because if we try, we end up confusing everyone and reaching nobody. I have to continue to remind myself to be targeted and to remind my clients of the same thing. Thanks John…keep telling me…Please! I need to hear it!
    @aaswartz on Twitter.

  • I work with a lot of big companies at my 9-5 job and its funny how they never want to take a stand. They are so scared of what the public will think or say that they end up fading into the background.

    If more companies would take a stand it would probably help to weed out all of the other mediocre businesses.

  • great post john,
    One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of our clients is that they teend to speak in ever-expanding and confusingly circling riddles, their website content, mission statements and press releases use a lot of big words to say next to nothing, I’ve found that this illicits a sense of mistrust from their public ‘cos it sounds as if they’re hiding something with their complete lack of straight-forward, direct communication

  • Obama never waffled! He took his one word core message and held on to it all year: “Change” That one word nobody could overcome. Not, the best known woman in the world or an experienced politician and war hero! Wow, if you own a word or phrase that truly is effective marketing!

  • David Chiles

    I’m wonder how the process of narrowly defining your market applies to a new business or a business in the planning stages? I’m referring to the case where you don’t, necessarily, have major customers to analyze. Anyone willing to share ideas on approaching this? Is primary and secondary research good enough? Just looking for ideas? Thanks.

  • Totally agree with this John – and as I say in my post “Are You Kissing Your Ass Goodbye?”, it’s absolutely vital!

    Bullseye John, yet again.

  • Go for the jugular in no uncertain terms. Makes good business sense to me!