One of the biggest mistakes I see new freelance trainers make is trying to be all things to all people and offering training on anything under the sun.
Of course, I understand why people do this. They want to bring in as many new clients as they can and they think the only way is to be available to everyone.
But let’s look at things from a different perspective.
Aim for everyone and you’ll appeal to no one
Imagine walking into a large hall that’s packed full of a thousand people. You stand at the doorway and shout, “Hi! I’m looking for someone. Can anyone help me find them? I would love to work with them”.
The people that can hear you look confused and the ones across the other side of the room don’t pay you any attention. There’s a ripple of whispers across the room, “What did they say? Who is it that they’re looking for?”
Someone standing near you says, “Who are you looking for? Can you tell me a bit more about them?”
You shrug your shoulders. “Erm, I’m not really sure who I’m looking for. Anyone would do”.
There are more confused glances. The kind stranger says, “OK, but who are you and why are you looking for someone? You said you could work with them but doing what?”
“Er, well… I’m a trainer so I can help them.”
“Right, OK, but who can you help? That’s the bit I don’t understand.”
Maybe you get lucky. Maybe some random person near the door moves forward and says, “I’ve been looking for someone to help me learn how to use computers. Could you train me in that? I don’t have any money though but you said you want to help someone.”
You squirm. “Actually, that’s not the kind of training I offer.”
“Oh, but I thought you said you were looking for anyone. Not really true, is it?” And the disgruntled person moves away, telling the people they pass in the crowd that you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. There are some more curious glances in your direction but the chatter in the room moves on to new things.
That’s essentially what we do when we try to market to as many people as possible with a broad, generic message.
A clear message cuts through the noise
Now, let’s imagine this scenario instead.
You walk into that same noisy, crowded hall of a thousand people and shout, “Hello! I’m looking for people in here who run customer service departments in small businesses and would like some support to help their staff handle conflict and diffuse situations with angry customers.”
While that might not apply to anyone standing near you, people are able to spread your message throughout the room.
“Who did they say they’re looking for?” someone shouts from the back.
“People running customer service departments who need help learning how to cope with angry customers,” a helpful stranger shouts from nearby.
As the message spreads, a few hands start to go up. People step through the crowd. “I hear you can help me,” one person says. “I really hope you can because I keep losing staff and feel like we really need help with our customer service.”
And so, by cutting through the noise with a clear message, you reach your first clients. It might not be the thousand people in the hall but the ones who do step forward need and want the training you have to offer.
Fear often drives our biggest mistakes
I still come across people who know for sure they shouldn’t be marketing to everyone but I can’t convince them to change their approach. And the thing that stops them from doing it is fear. Fear that if they just focus on one particular market or one particular area of training, it will rule them out of a whole load of other stuff that they could potentially be doing.
But the fear is misplaced. In my experience, it’s getting specific that opens up new opportunities instead of closing them down.
As we’ve seen using the analogy above, it’s absolutely essential to identify as precisely as you can what you are going to be offering. The more specialist you can be the better. Resist the temptation of trying to do everything. Get known for providing one thing, be really good at doing it and you will find that people will begin to seek you out as an expert and you can charge more for your services.
And it’s equally important to identify as precisely as you can who you are going to be offering your services to. Your target market should be specific types of organisations or groups of people who want, need and can afford your services. Once you have identified both your service, product and target market your whole marketing strategy becomes a lot clearer.
Because you can create every pitch, ad, blog post, ebook, training session and more through the eyes of the people you want to reach. By knowing who they are and what you offer, you can get super targeted about your messaging and where you spend your marketing budget.
Honestly, it’s a gamechanger. It enables you to walk into crowded spaces (virtual or physical), find the right people and head out with them by your side.
Want to know more about niching?
I’ve written a number of articles about niching your training services and narrowing in on your ideal customers. If you want to know more about targeting your marketing, check out these blogs:
And before you go, make sure you grab your FREE copy of Marketing strategies that work in today’s environment
This blog was first published in July 2013 and updated in May 2021