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Your Target Market Is Not Always Who You Think It Is

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This is a guest post by John Hoff.

Like many bloggers out there, I’ve written an ebook and have a sales page (and mine in particular is on security for WordPress).

Since its release in March of 2010, I’ve learned quite a bit about who my real target market is and to be honest, in the beginning I was wrong and missed my target market.

You see, there’s a difference between who you know your audience should be and who your audience actually will end up being.

For my product, my ideal customer should be anyone who has a WordPress site, blogging or not. Blogs get hacked every single day and here’s a product which shows bloggers how to defend themselves.

I Thought I Had a Winner

Don’t get me wrong, I do make some sales, but I went into this thinking I could educate bloggers about the security risks out there and when they’d hear my story, they’d see the light of what I was telling them and I’d get a sale.

But it didn’t turn out that way. Turned out these were not my real target customers, but more on that in just a moment.

Another Example

So let’s think for a moment about a product and who you might think should be the target market for it, but in reality the assumption would be wrong.

Let’s say you’re going to sell clocks and you’re looking at who your target customers might be. The first thing you’d probably ask yourself is, “Who needs a clock? Everyone!”

Unfortunately for clock makers, that’s not so. The guy who’s been late for work four times this week and who’s about to lose his job if he’s late again needs a clock. Everyone else…they aren’t a target market.

Emotion sells, just like I mentioned in my Copyblogger post where I talked about using emotional writing to kick-start your sales.

My True Target Customer

Unfortunately, my true target customer (for my ebook) is the person who has already had their site hacked; in other words, they’ve been taught a lesson – and it doesn’t matter how emotional of a story or how well I put it, if the person is not in the right mindset and not looking for what I’m selling, forget it.

The people who have already gone through the horrible experience of being hacked are pretty easy sells for my ebook, which in turn taught me who my real target customers were… not “WordPress bloggers”, but “Hacked WordPress bloggers”.

It almost doesn’t matter how good my content is, if they’re:

  • not convinced.
  • haven’t experienced the problem.
  • have no desire to learn about the subject.

Unless my headline really pulls them in, they probably won’t spend more than 3 or 4 seconds on my site.

A while back I did a little testing which increased my ebook’s site traffic for a few days. In one day I went from 50 visits to 750 – and most of that traffic should have been WordPress bloggers.

And you know how many ebooks I sold?


Oh I had over 100 new mini-course sign ups, but sales, just 5.

Ideally, 95% of these people should of been my target customers (i.e. WordPress bloggers). Logically, yes. But buying is never a logical process.

In truth, they just haven’t been taught the lesson and are not looking for what I’m telling them. They hear my logic, but buying was never a logical process. They haven’t experienced the emotional trauma others have had when their blogs got hacked.

One guy wrote me an email and said how much he loved the emotional story my sales page conveyed and how it really brought him into the story. I asked him, “Yes but did it get you to buy the book?”

He said “No, because I’m not your target customer.”

I checked his website and noticed it was a WordPress blog and that the security options I mention to everyone were not being implemented. That means this person “should be” my target customer, he just doesn’t know it.

He doesn’t know it because he hasn’t yet been taught a lesson or educated himself in the real dangers and likelihood that his blog can be hacked.

It’s unfortunate because securing your blog before someone tries to hack it ideally should be a on a blogger’s top 5 to-do list. If one day their blog gets hacked and removed from Google’s search engine because it’s reported as a virus site, I bet I can guess what their #1 priority will be.

Care to take a guess?

Wrapping It Up

Like I said in the beginning, my original target customers were anyone who had a WordPress blog, but experience has taught me that people buy on emotion. I can educate them about the dangers of having their sites hacked all day long, but in the end, people who have gone through the horrible emotional experience of having their blogs hacked once before know that cold emotional feeling very well…

…and they don’t want to feel it again.

Those are the people who easily buy my product, and they’ll be the type that buy your product the easiest as well. They are the ones with an emotional attachment to a problem they have.

Don’t get me wrong, for my product, everyone who has a WordPress site and who hasn’t been hacked can still be convinced to buy – I just have to up the scare factor big time and create a sense of high fear.

But upping the scare factor to the point I’d need to go is usually not what most ethical people want to do. Ethical people want to explain the need and have people make informed decisions. That’s very doable, but it’s a much longer, harder road.

So the question I have for you then is, what about your product or service?

Have you really stopped to consider who your real target market is? If it’s sales you want, your best target market might not be the group you’re wanting to sell to, because they might be clueless even though you know they need it.

Your true target market will most likely be the ones who have already experienced the problem and they need that problem solved TODAY.

About the author: John Hoff blogs for a blog web hosting company and has written an ebook on WordPress security, which shows bloggers how to lockdown their blogs against unwanted intruders. He really, really, really hates malicious hackers.


  1. Heather Shaw says:

    Wow. I never really thought about it like this. You are exactly right though. I have no desire to buy a book on being hacked on wordpress. I’ve never been hacked on wordpress and pretty much have no fear of it happening to me (although maybe I should, LOL).
    BUT I was hacked on facebook. I am nervous it could happen again. I probably WOULD buy an ebook on that.
    Food for thought….

  2. Amy Pryor says:

    In my opinion, I think you go with the fear factor. Fear and Greed sells. Your product isn’t for the greedy, so it’s for the fearful. I’ve never been in a car accident (knock on wood), but I’m fearful of being in one, so I have car insurance. Yes, it’s the law, but I would anyway. I’ve never had my identity stolen, but I have LifeLock because I fear it could be.

    I haven’t read all your blogs, so forgive me if you’ve done this. Interviewing bloggers who have had their site hacked would be interesting to read. You don’t need to be unethical to get your point across. I’m new to blogging and I’m doing a great deal of research to make sure my blog and site are SEO optimized. I would cry if after all that work, my site got banned from a virus.

    Nice post. I enjoyed reading it.

    Amy Pryor

    1. Interviewing bloggers who have been hacked it a great idea Amy! Reading other peoples experiences on certain topics and how they overcame serious issues such as being hacked is always helpful.

      Not only do you learn how they dealt with the issue once it happened but you also learn what to do to prevent (as much as possible) it from happening to you!

      @David Very interesting article. This all stems from knowing who your target market is, creating your products on their wants and needs and then providing the solutions. It’s been preying on my mind A LOT lately as I’m working on my first online product.

      Currently most of the people I interact with are not necessary my target but that those within the same industry. More and more lately I’ve been thinking I really need to change my focus although I’ve created some amazing connections with some amazing bloggers. But maybe my marketing efforts should rely heavily on forum participation where people are dealing with issues such as these.

      Something to think about. 🙂

      1. OOPS I meant JOHN not David. Sorry John.. gotta give props where props is due! 😉

    2. John Hoff says:

      Hi Amy.

      Interviewing people who have been hacked is a great idea. I’ll put that down. About striking fear… I’ve tested a number of copies of content on my sales page, some more storytelling while others more logical and technical. I’ve tried scaring people by showing them hacker YouTube videos, myself hacking a dummy WordPress blog I have, scare content, and still my findings have been that many people just don’t care (enough).

  3. Dave Doolin says:

    John, please consider going for the long term. I’m selling an ebook as well, into a tightly defined subject area, but with the intention of building sales over the long term. I’ve had people purchase because they have seen me day in and day out for weeks, months, and really, over a year now practicing my craft and having the product available.

    I could well be a future customer of yours under these conditions!

    Hugh McLeod recently put out a tweet to the effect that one writes a book to stake a claim, not to make money. I agree with that, and I consider your claim, John, staked on WP security.

    For any of my audience overlapping David’s and reading here (you know who you are *Antti* cough), I’m pushing you hard to stake _your_ claim… so that I’ll have trusted sources in an ocean of mal-information.

    David, I hope that wasn’t poaching, but it’s something I feel very strongly about. Because when I really want to learn stuff fast… I invariably buy the information I need conveniently packaged into a book, from Amazon. I’d like to see our peers and colleagues develop deep, marketable expertise and authority in this blogging arena, whatever it may be.

    1. John Hoff says:

      Hi Dave and thank you for your comment.

      I have no plans on going anywhere. Actually, I have a feeling that as WP gets more popular (which it is), this topic will continue to grow.

      On the marketing end, many times it helps if you’re the 1st in a niche. I’m not sure who the first person was who wrote an ebook in my niche, but I do know I’m one of the first ones.

      If you can market.. “XYZ Company–The First One’s To Solve….”, that’s gold.

  4. Booklorn says:

    Well, I’m your original target market and I DID buy your ebook when it first launched. 🙂 I have NEVER been hacked on WordPress and I have been using it for more than 6 years. Between my host and my suspicious nature, my blog was less vulnerable than most but I still found a lot of things to implement from your book. Every few months I catch someone trying to hack into my blog now that I have the firewall plugin you recommend. They haven’t succeeded yet. Of course this was probably happening all along (people trying to get in) and I just didn’t know about it. For other WordPress bloggers reading this, the attacks on my blog are random (hackers just looking for a vulnerable blog) rather than targeted (me annoying some vengeful author with my book reviews). If I was on a less security-conscious host, I likely would have been hacked (and not known it since it’s possible to be hacked and not know it).

    1. John Hoff says:

      Hi Booklorn and thanks!

      Yep, it’s a better hack to use your blog than to ruin it. What use are you to them then?

  5. Kim says:

    If I had come across your security e-book sales page 5 months ago, I would have read it and kept on going. But then I got hacked, and kicked out of the google rankings for 2 weeks. I cried like a baby! Two years of hard work and search engine optimization almost gone. I was lucky that I was re-instated in 2 weeks.

    Needless to say, I read everything about security now, and always apply my updates. I’ll be checking out your ebook, too.

  6. So to sum up, no point in selling something to people who needs it until they experienced it. So I’m guessing because you’ve only managed to sell 5 out of 750, you’re gonna have a hacker hack those 745 people who didn’t buy your book because they havn’t learned their lesson? Just kidding. But then again, that might just work… Illegally, yes.

    1. John Hoff says:

      lol no I haven’t given up on the others. It is kind of a weird situation though because the people who I despise end up being the people who ultimately make me money.

      How’s that for a screwy way of making money?

      1. Wow! That’s very screwy indeed. I wonder if its the same situation with David with his Blog Master’s Club and anyone else. Though I find that difficult for the bigger companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google. Like there are plenty of lovers and haters of the brand that some may not buy it and go for its competitors instead. I wonder if that is also played out in the Blogosphere’s economy. Thoughts?

  7. I expected this post to be more about how to define and focus your market, not why you should worry about getting hacked, which, although important information, does not answer the target market question posed by the title of the post. Questions I would have liked answered: What are the signs that you’ve missed the market? How do you refocus your content if you have a new direction? How do you craft an emotional pull into a marketing message? What are some success stories of emotionally on-target messages?

    1. John Hoff says:

      Hi Blogshopsantafe,

      I see what you’re saying and it could have gone in that direction as well, sorry to disappoint.

      But instead of writing a “how to find and refocus your target market”, the main point of this article is to show how even though certain people technically “should be” your target market, in reality they aren’t always going to be. Instead, the people who “are” your target market are the ones with a problem. Instead of just stating it, I wrote the article from my story and experience.

      I think your questions and direction you were looking in would be a great follow up post. Perhaps David or myself might like to follow this post up by answering those excellent questions?

      1. David Risley says:

        Sure. I mean, I think John’s post kinda dealt with those questions by telling his story, so I think it is certainly pertinent. But, certainly, there would be room for more of a “how to” post on the topic.

        1. Scot says:

          There is nothing better to show how the target market is not right than explaining the real example. John has a great example that applies to many sites — you think your market is bigger than it really is and you miss marketing to the real, targeted market that will really make the money. I’ll take the real example to theory any day. (Nice to have John post here, too).

          1. John Hoff says:

            Scot… perfectly said!

          2. Stories do give flesh to theories, and we learn so much from them!

  8. This is sad but true. And especially when it comes to preventative measures I think we humans have a ‘it will never happen to us’ attitude. Popping over to buy right now!

    1. John Hoff says:

      Hi Cathy.

      Yes, we are totally a “reactive” kind of people, aren’t we? I actually talk about that in my mini course. I compare it to home invasions. Many people don’t buy house alarms until after their home has been robbed. And let me tell you, here in Las Vegas… it’s wise to have an alarm.

      1. David Risley says:

        I bet crime is going up in Vegas with the higher unemployment, huh?

        I know that’s off topic, but whatever… its my blog. 😉

        1. John Hoff says:

          Hey you better be careful there Mr. Risley, I’ll flag your comment! hehehe

          It’s the news man. Freaking depressing. Every time I turn on the local news it’s either politicians discrediting each other or how a man or woman has been found murdered. Sucks.

          So instead, we just watch reruns of Curious George all day (I have a 4 and 2 year old).

  9. That’s a fantastic idea John about Amazon! Great way to think out the box! 😉

  10. Mark Mobley says:

    My experience has been that the important thing is outflow of promotion. I find that I regularly outflow to who I think is my potential customer base and make few or no sales to that segment. But I get hit up side of the head by customers I did not expect.
    This has happened so many times now that I do outflow of promotion but am quickly ready to change my operating bases to those who are in need that respond. Then I economize my activities to find out more about that particular type of customer and where I can get more. I focus in on that particular type of customer.
    One problem is that people are afraid to promote sufficiently or consistently enough initially. Then they waste a lot of money advertising to people who are not their customers rather than focusing in on those that are. And their business goes under.

  11. Vincent says:

    I find myself asking this question alot, “who is my target market”. Somehow I believe I need more clarity and specificity. Maybe David would like to come out with a post on questions to ask to gain clarity and specificity about our target market?


  12. John has a great example that applies to many sites — you think your market is bigger than it really is and you miss marketing to the real, targeted market that will really make the money. 

    1. John Hoff says:

      Definitely. I’ve noticed my “true” target market is usually almost always smaller than I expect. There’s the “should be” target market and then there’s the “is” target market.

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