There are two ways to start a business:
- Have a thing to sell, then find people to sell it to
- Find a target market to serve, then offer them things they need
The instinctive move we all make when we start out is to pick the first path.
I do marketing, who can I sell this to?
But if we pick an audience to serve first, it opens up our minds to all kinds of business models—whether in the field of marketing or otherwise.
You could sell done-for-you services, advisory services, coaching, subscriptions, memberships, knowledge products, software, and a whole range of other products and services not related to consulting.
The minute you pick a target market—ideally one you can relate to, have experience with, and have some built-in advantages with—your business opportunities open up significantly.
You’re less confined to the traditional ways of doing things. And that offers powerful potential for differentiation.
Over time, you can become “vertically integrated”, selling a whole suite of solutions to your target market as you get more familiar with their needs.
You become entrenched and ubiquitous in their world. You build a competitive moat that compounds over time.
I realize this is hard for most people to do. It’s not the quick and easy path relative to selling low-margin services to anybody with a heartbeat. It’s not what conventional teachings and stories may imply.
But it is a far better way to build an innovative and profitable business of any kind.