I just spent a handful of days on the Gulf Coast down in Texas (post about the place we stayed coming up). In case you’re like me and didn’t know this, Texas has over 600 miles of coastline, complete with every possible livelihood that comes from that. If you’ve never thought of it, a stretch of ocean provides you with:
- Transport (lots of our goods come across water channels on huge cargo ships).
- Oil (you can see rigs off the coast).
- Commercial fishing (both for food and also ingredients for other needs).
- Sport fishing.
- Recreational boating.
- Water sports.
- And much more, obviously.
For every single potential usage of the water above, there are whole industries that exist to serve it. There are resorts and beach front hotels for swimmers and leisure fishing people to stay in. There are people to teach Kiteboarding lessons, and people to rent kayaks. There are divers and haulers and a bazillion jobs around the oil rigs. It’s endless.
In thinking about that, I found myself realizing that a lot of businesses (most especially small and solo businesses) try very hard to supply all and every part of the ocean they serve. I hear web designers tell me all the time that they build sites for all and everybody. And yet, that makes it very difficult to sell into, doesn’t it? If you serve the same people who build oil rigs as well as the people who want to make a sand castle or two and sneak a shell home for their mantlepiece, this might be a bit tricky. Don’t you think? It requires bravery.
Which Part of the “Ocean” do You Serve?
Knowing your customer is a different kind of a challenge than it used to be when we all belonged to this or that company’s workforce, and I suspect that even then, it’s not always easy.
If you’re LEGO, do you serve the little kid who wants to create the world she plays in, or are you supporting the 30-something LEGO fanatic?
But one point is certain: you can capture some of the potential revenue from the ocean, but only if you commit to which part you’re serving. There aren’t very many successful commercial fisherman/paddleboard instructors. There aren’t many shops renting kayaks as well as offering deep sea net repairs.
Our Fear Keeps Our Net Cast Wide, Which Loses Us the Catch
I speak from experience in this case. As of the time I’m writing this post, my client base has been split between rather large companies and also solo- and small-sized entrepreneurs running non-traditional business practices. You can see that it’s a bit complex to talk the language of a big corporate giant as well as keep the attention of the rising star. But it’s fear that causes me to keep my net wide, and it’s fear that loses me some of my business opportunities.
Once you dare to declare your part of the ocean, and dare to seek specifically the market you intend to serve, everything gets easier. Everything gets better. You know how to start your day. You know where to spend your time. You know who to communicate with and who to serve better. It’s a gorgeous feeling.
Side note: even during the writing of this post, I received a quick email from someone saying they wanted to know how to engage my services for the coming year, only they represent a different part of the ocean. My reflex? To create something that would serve them. But then, I’d be doing the opposite of what I propose will win me success in this very post. So that big fish swims by.
What is Your Part of the Ocean?
If you’re currently selling to “everyone,” what’s the real answer to who you serve? I’m not asking you to narrowly define your niche. If you deliver lobsters for the commercial fishing industry, your customer is “every restaurant you can convince to sell lobsters.” That’s not very narrow, but it’s defined. What’s your answer?