Worried your market isn't big enough? Think again.

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On Saturday night, my plane from San Francisco dropped down above the Phoenix metro area. I saw miles and miles of lights beneath me, stretching out over all corners of the valley.

We flew over the financial district, and I saw a row of big skyscrapers. The floors of each building were undoubtedly crammed with cubicles. If it were daytime, I would have been able to see tiny “SOS” signs peeking out from each window.

As I looked at this huge sea of humanity, I reflected on a conversation I had earlier in the day with a coach.

“I love the work that I do, but I am not sure how to distinguish myself from the sea of career coaches out there. Is there really a big enough market for my services?”

“Imagine two square blocks of your neighborhood,” I said. “Can you imagine that within the houses on those two square blocks (which are in the suburb of a large metropolitan city) there are some people who are struggling with issues in their career?”

“Yes!” she said.

“If you spent some serious effort connecting with just the people in your neighborhood, do you think you could develop a solid client base?”

A smile spread across her face.

We get extremely skewed views about the saturation of our markets because we spend too much dang time hanging out with each other in our tiny online enclaves.

You may worry that no one needs your expertise in social media marketing, because everyone these days is a social media consultant.

But try this experiment: walk down the main street of your town, go into the first business you find and say:

“Chris Brogan tweeted about me today!”

And watch their blank stares.

Chances are, 90% of the businesses in your town have no idea how to use The Twitter or The Facebook. And your expertise could help grow their real estate practice, or drive customers to their restaurant, or improve their relationship with their patients.

When I started this blog 5 years ago, I would never have imagined that some of my most loyal readers would be a hyper-smart software engineer in Malaysia, or a coach from the UK who was living in China, or a basketball player/hip hop artist/MBA candidate from Indonesia, or a photographer/activist from Uganda (and Texas, and the UK — he is always on the go) or a conference producer from Estonia.

This is a big, wide world.

Spend some time thinking of all the people who may need the goodness that you offer.

Your market is a lot bigger than the twenty peers you talk to all day on Facebook.

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27 Responses to “Worried your market isn't big enough? Think again.”

  1. So true. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Thanks for keeping me inspired, Pam!

  3. It is very true, having our heads constantly in this line of business we tend to fail to notice and big picture.
    Perhaps I am just lucky to live in a country like Italy where social media is still new(er) compared to the US and other countries, but I think there’s still a big room for developments overall.

  4. […] On Saturday night, my plane from San Francisco dropped down above the Phoenix metro area. I saw miles and miles of lights beneath me, stretching out over all corners of the valley.We flew over the financial district, and I saw a row of big skyscrapers. The floors of each building were undoubtedly crammed with cubicles. […] Original post […]

  5. […] Slim’s latest post, Worried your market isn’t big enough? Think again, hit so close to home that I have good reason to suspect that she’s been camping out in my […]

  6. Bill says:

    Another great post.

    Your blog is the first one I found and started reading when I decided I had to change. I have read it ever since.

    You give us the rest of us something to shoot for. Thanks.

  7. I think that there’s actually a fear of going beyond your own social circle when you’re trying to sell something. The typical real estate agent stays in business just long enough for his social circle to move once β€” once he’s found his family members and friends a new home, he’s on to a new job.

    It’s tough, but getting outside our social circle is an absolute necessity!

  8. Thanks – I needed to read this today!

  9. Again, another awesome & inspirational post Pam!

    By the way, I have just received my passport as I am now a citizen of the cubicle nation. LOL! Now I am your average, cubicle nation citizen/retired basketball player/hip hop artist/MBA (just graduated) from Indonesia, LOL. Keep in touch

  10. Hey Pam: Just what I needed…!!

  11. How easily we forget when we’re in our own little bubble! I admit I struggle to find anyone who understands what I do, but it’s a great reminder to stretch out of the bubble as much as you can. Even on the internet you can get browsing and discover a whole world of sites that are not powered by Thesis!! (I know, shocking but true) πŸ™‚ Great post Pam!

  12. Great post on perspective, Pam.
    In reading through the post and comments, I’m reminded of the “resources are plentiful” philosophy and there really is enough to go around – especially if we help each other realize such. Per Pam, there are hoards of people out there who don’t know how to use “The Twitter” or “The Facebook” (or here in Texas, Tweeter and Spacebook) as they will tell you. Just as there are hoards of people in this big, vast world who need much of what we all have to offer. It really is just a matter of seeking. We all know that. Why do we talk ourselves out of it?
    Perhaps it’s our “lizard brain” offering up a way to talk us out of dreaming. Taking the leap. Achieving success. Maybe it’s laziness and complacency (Hey, if I talk myself out of a viable market, I can remain in my comfortable, soul-killing office job. Yay.). Either way, I’m re-defining and re-examining my potential market in a new light. And I’m going to add that heaping teaspoon of perspective I just realized I had lost sight of. Thanks, Pam.

  13. Beto says:

    Loved this, specially this quote:

    “Your market is a lot bigger than the twenty peers you talk to all day on Facebook.”

    No wonder we sometimes feel like there’s no room for growth. How could it be if we keep talking to the same darn group of people who do the exact very same thing (well, more or less) than we do and also happen to be tech nerds as we do? We fall in this comfort zone way too easily. We tend to assume everyone else is as savvy on these things as us. And yet… there’s still millions of people out there who don’t really have a clue (or care) about what we do. But who have issues in their lives, work or career that maybe we could solve for them with our knowledge, and who would be more than happy to pay us for that. Those are the people we should seek.

  14. Laura Roeder says:

    Excellent post! I often talk to people who haven’t yet made an offering or launched something because “their list is too small”. Of course their list is MUCH larger than the # of spots they want to fill! If you need one client, you don’t need a list of 1,000 you need to connect with ONE person!

    I too am guilty of overlooking my local area. (Just hanging out on the internet feels so much eeeeeasier!) Next year I’m going to introduce some local workshops.

  15. Even the largest client bases are built one person at a time. When we think about getting a large number of clients, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. But when we think about connecting with individuals who are already within our physical or virtual networks, getting clients becomes much more doable.

    I also suggest people think about how many clients they want. Is it 15? 50? 5? When you are specific about the number of clients you actually want and need, you will realize that getting that there are more than enough prospective clients out there.

  16. Chris Mower says:

    It’s true. I presented at a social media conference over the weekend and asked by a show of hands who knew who Chris Brogan was. Only 1 person raised their hand… I couldn’t believe it. Apparently, social media is still newer than I thought.

  17. Once again, you’ve put things in perspective~ in one easy bite.

    Thank you! πŸ™‚

  18. I love this! The internet has opened the world to anyone that we can serve. Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. Patty K says:

    YES! You are so right. I’ve been attending local business networking meetup groups over the past few weeks and the experience has really altered my perspective. There aren’t that many bloggers and most of the people I’ve met are *not* on Twitter. In over a dozen meetings, I’ve met exactly *one* social media consultant (and that was at a “techie” meetup), no marketing consultants and only a couple business and life coaches. And lots of these people have shockingly bad websites. There’s lots of opportunity out there.

  20. LeelaSinha says:

    @Greg: YES! I had someone just the other day remind me that a tool I think of as obvious and ordinary is really neither and that I should give one away as a bonus on my site. The “blank stares” thing really matters–your peers and your clients are two different groups, often. I could say to someone, “I just helped write a Yes/No/Maybe list for Scarleteen!” and… Unless they were in my field, they wouldn’t get it at all.

    Time to write a yes/no/maybe list for my people. Time to find my people.


  21. Greg says:

    Tunnel vision. Because you’re so into either your industry or you’ve become an expert in your field you start to forget how much your common knowledge is not everyone’s knowledge and that what you know or know how to do can be very valuable to a wide group of people. And even though that information may be out there and readily available, not everyone has the know how or the ambition to seek it out.

  22. Felix Leong says:

    The getting blank stares part cracked me up!

    I can really relate to the coach and become paralysed by the “big world” we are in, and forget the opportunities that I’d be able to grab nearby. I’m still suffering that and am working to change that perception of mine :).

    Ps. Thanks for the link love, Pam :). I think I’d get my fair share of blank stares if I told others :LOL:

    • David Wang says:

      I’m following Felix now just coz you linked to him Pam. Hi Felix! I’m from Malaysia too!

      And thanks for sharing this post. It took me a few years before I figured this out myself, I wish someone had told me this sooner.

  23. Hiro Boga says:

    Yay, Pam! Our world offers itself to us every day, with its needs, its genius, its thirst. Thanks so much for reminding us to look and see what’s calling to us right here, right now. And where we can make a difference.

  24. Bravo, Pam, you’ve hit the nail on the head. We get so lost in our own industry that we disconnect from the masses of humanity who are NOT connected with our industry and who need our help, guidance and advice.

  25. CathyP says:

    Hi Pam,

    This is funny! I was talking to one of my friends recently who is a building contractor and he said “you know, I have absolutely no idea what you do!” A great reminder that the world does not revolve around the people we interact with every day.