Monday, May 13, 2013

The Importance of Knowing Your Target Customer

Recently, Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch made some "controversial" statements about the target market for his business. To paraphrase, he said he only wants thin people in his clothes (under size 10) and pretty people working in his store. And, the Internet. Goes. Wild. All of these open letters start popping up to basically say Dear Mr. Jeffries, you're a douche. The controversy. The outrage. The mean factor. The list goes on and on.

But, take a step back for a second and think about it. Did he REALLY tell you something that you didn't know? Have you ever been in an Abercrombie & Fitch? If you answered no to that question, you weren't his target market anyway. I've only been in there once with a friend of mine, but I could tell by walking about the store that it wasn't necessarily a place I would shop. Has A&F EVER carried anything over size 10? I don't think so. The people who work in the store look as if they came straight from the runway somewhere (or at least print modeling if they're short). The clothes have always been small and the employees have always been pretty. Why is it a big deal now? 

I think it's generally a big deal with people who don't understand the business of knowing your target demographic and casting all cares to the wind to stick to it. Maybe he could have said it nicer or something that could possible appease a portion of the masses, but it doesn't really matter. It is what it is and as an entrepreneur, I get it. You should to. Nobody is boycotting Lane Bryant for only carrying size 14 and up. Nobody is outraged that Louboutin only makes narrow shoes - what about all those wide-feet people who want to buy them? There is no outcry for companies like Louis Vuitton or Hermes because they don't make $2 purses so everyone can afford them. Off the top of my head, there are two companies that market to the masses and don't care who buys from them - Wal-Mart and McDonald's. We know how well that's turned out - have you ever been on this site?

EVERY BUSINESS should have a target market and every entrepreneur should be clear about who their target market is. We live in a society where people want everyone to be included and nobody to feel left out. It starts with the way they run children's sports now where they don't take score and everyone gets a trophy. On what planet does that resemble real life? 

When I first started talking about my business, The Millionaire's Assistant, I came under fire. People said it was off-putting when I said that I prefer to work with affluent males. They SAID they wanted to work with me because a name like The Millionaire's Assistant made them feel good about a status they aspire to have, but when it came to pricing, they couldn't really afford to work with me and then came the sob story - "I really want to work with you but I don't have the money right now." Again I ask, on what planet does that resemble real life? Would you work for a company that said they really want to hire you, but they can't afford to pay you? That would make you a volunteer or an intern. The name of my business (which I am currently re-branding) was the equivalent to the sign at the amusement parks - you must be THIS tall to ride this ride. It seemed pretty cut and dry - in my mind anyway. Yet, all the people who feigned outrage because of my target market were the ones who couldn't pay for my services, anyway. I think it's the same with A&F. All the people who are so hurt behind what Mr. Jeffries said weren't exactly beating down the doors or saving their pennies to shop at A&F in the first place.

Why affluent males, you ask? Let me state first that nothing is absolute, but, it's been my experience that affluent women tend to be more of the micromanaging type. They want to stand over your shoulder and watch everything that's going on and then they tend to nickel and dime you on the prices after the work is done. For example, I worked with an affluent women and originally, my pricing structure was perfect for her, but at the end of the 30-day trial, she said that she could only continue to pay me a portion of what I charge. I told her politely, "I understand, maybe I can help you find someone to work for what you can afford to pay." That's when all hell broke loose. Essentially, her message to me was that I should accept what she wanted to pay me instead of what I actually charge for service and be happy with it because she was happy working with me. I had never felt so disrespected in my business and I've NEVER had that type of discussion with an affluent male. They tend to live by the mantra "I don't care how you kill the cow, I just want my steak." This is kind of the case with most men. Have you ever watched a movie about a wedding - guys are generally tell me what to wear and what time to show up and I'll be there. (I've probably digressed, but stay with me)

In the beginning, I was shaken by the thought that my target market had offended some people. It made me feel bad, for about 2 seconds. Then reality set it for me, as I am sure it has for Mr. Jeffries and hopefully for you as well on your journey to be a great entrepreneur - the people keeping up the fuss weren't planning to shop with you anyway. They just want something to bitch about. At the end of the day, the pretty, thin people who shop at A&F are still making the cash registers ring. Affluent males are still patronizing my business and whomever your target market is will continue to work with you as long as you give them what they came for - a great product, attention to their needs and excellent customer service.