I live in Southern Oregon and you wouldn’t believe the excitement that was generated by the recent opening of Trader Joe’s. I’ve been a fan of TJ’s for awhile but after we moved here from Washington State nine years ago I had to learn to live without it. It wasn’t easy but I managed. I’d stock up on the only macaroni my kids will eat when we were out-of-town. One checker at the TJ’ in Eugene, Oregon raised his eyebrows and said, “Wow. You really like macaroni!”
I recently discovered even here in Medford there are many other fans of TJ’s. What is it about Trader Joe’s? So it was with interest that I read an article my husband’s grandmother – who also loves TJ’s – sent me that she cut out of Sunset magazine. It quoted the founder, Joe Coulombe, on why he created the store. It was such a great marketing lesson on clearly identifying your target market that I had to share what he said with you.
“TJ’s was conceived for people who were overeducated and underpaid, so they could have a certain richness on the table they otherwise could not – like brie, olive oil, French mustard, wild rice, and wine. The customers I had in mind were the Fulbright scholar who returns with no money; schoolteachers, above all; plus young lawyers, museum curators, and classical musicians. Many years later, I attributed Trader Joe’s basic objective – making good food affordable for schoolteachers – to Dorothy.” (Dorothy is Joe’s mother-in-law and she was the first one to introduce Joe to olive oil.)
So basically Joe demonstrated marketing genius! He had a very specific clientele in mind when he created his store. This rather narrow focus allowed him to understand exactly what their culinary “problem” was, enabling him to provide the perfect solution. And here’s the fabulous part – it appeals to a lot of other people too. I’m not a Fulbright scholar, lawyer or classical musician, neither is my husband’s grandmother, and neither is most of the population in Southern Oregon, yet we’re all fans of Trader Joe’s!
The lesson is you need to start your business and design your marketing message to appeal to a very specific client. And the good news is you won’t scare other potential clients away in the process! I frequently have this conversation with my clients. They worry about getting too specific in addressing their target market. They want to appeal to everyone. It doesn’t work that way.
Instead, learn from Joe Coulombe and figure out who your Dorothy is. Concentrate on how you can solve a problem for just one person. In that process you will probably find yourself appealing to many more people than you ever imagined.