Entrepreneurs

‘It’s Not For You’—Why The Best Brands Turn Customers Down

The idea of turning customers down can make business owners uncomfortable. Rather than exclude a potential buyer who isn’t quite right, they bend their business around this person’s every need. They make exceptions, agree to concessions and go above and beyond in an unsustainable way. For service-based businesses especially, it can be a nightmare. When it’s all signed, sealed and delivered, they are left exhausted, wondering if it was a good idea.

The best businesses unashamedly serve their target audience and that audience alone. This enables them to obsess about their customers, understand them completely, and see the world through their eyes. It means they can cater for their needs like other businesses can’t. Brilliant businesses do this without concern for alienating those potential customers on the periphery.

The more a business knows who its ideal customer is, the more it can afford to turn away those that don’t fit. This isn’t discrimination or prejudice; this is about being clear who you are there to serve. So why turn customers down? Here are five main reasons.

Wearing a badge

The clearer you are with who you are there to serve, the more relevant your brand is to its customers and the more they self-select as being members of your audience. Get this spot on and they will wear your brand like a badge. They see it as part of their identity. It’s the diehard fans with Harley Davidson tattoos. It’s the regular John Lewis shoppers who feel like the brand just gets them. It’s the people who are super proud, card-carrying customers of a specific company.

People like us do things like this,” as Seth Godin puts it. The best businesses aren’t serving the norms of the masses, they are building tribes with oodles in common with each other and your company.

The network effect

The more narrow you are with your focus, the more your customers have in common with each other. Your customer base independently developing relationships with each other puts your brand at the centre of a strong network, bringing benefits for longevity and brand power. An exclusive club with the proudest members.

Soon, you don’t need to be part of those conversations for them to be of value. Network members are forming circles and friendships and your brand is the common thread. At the top end it means peer support groups, regular meetups and a community of superfans.

Reducing headaches

Politely saying, “it’s not for you” reduces your headaches as the business owner, but also your customer’s headaches. You know who your product best serves. You know for whom it has been carefully crafted. You know who will benefit the most from your service. Serving the wrong people for your business will only bring you headaches and probably them too.

This gym doesn’t cater for powerlifters. This pastrami restaurant doesn’t offer a vegetarian option. This mountaineering club requires members to wear certain footwear. Bending yourself to fit anyone’s needs in a way that is unsustainable benefits no one and they would be far better being looked after elsewhere.

Confidence

Being able to say, “it’s not for you,” and stand by it, is a confident move. It shows that you know your company, who it serves, and what you want. Your core audience is all you need for a thriving business. It gives you the confidence that your brand will resonate amazingly with its ideal audience. When you deliver, when you create, you know for sure that it will work. No ideas, products or social media content fail to wow because you are confident in your offering.

This confidence carries over to planning your messaging and marketing and launching new products. You aren’t guessing your customers’ wants and needs because you have filtered those that don’t quite fit.

Big wide world

At a networking event, I once heard a man whose business sold hats telling the room that his target audience was, “anyone with a head.” Being too broad means you set yourself up for failure. Your business wasn’t created to be a free-for-all establishment, it was created to serve a specific set of people. Too often, business owners open their doors widely to the detriment of their biggest fans, and it’s a false economy. Narrow is good. Narrow is very good.

There are nearly eight billion people on the planet. Turning one person down doesn’t mean you won’t find another customer. Saying no, politely and respectfully, clears the way for people to whom the answer is a resounding yes. Instead of selling to more people, sell more to the core audience you really understand. Build tall instead of wide.

Average businesses try to serve everyone. With an abundance of choice for every consumer, there is always an option that will fit them like a glove. The more you communicate who you exist to serve, the more they will find you, and the stronger your brand and its network will be.

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