Have you ever taken a child fishing for the first time?

When visiting my family in Canada last July, I watched with delight as my brother took his four-year-old son Sammy out for his first fishing experience.

When I asked Sammy what kind of fish he wanted to catch, he replied with great enthusiasm, "All of them!" When my brother looked through the tackle box to find a suitable lure, Sammy insisted on using a "pretty one."

As we strategically scanned the lake looking for the best fishing spots, Sammy excitedly flipped his small pole over the side of the boat (half the time the hook floating above the water) and kept watch with a hopeful look. Needless to say, he didn't catch anything, but he certainly had a lot of fun.

As I watched him, I couldn't help but think that his excited but haphazard approach to fishing is much like how many of us approach building a business. We often go "fishing" for new prospects without much advance planning or forethought, and despite our enthusiasm come home discouraged—and empty-handed!

Building Your Business Is like Fishing

When I ask my clients what kind of prospects are the best fit for their business, they often tell me, "All of them!"

While your business opportunity and products can certainly help different kinds of people, you need to know who your ideal prospects are or it's going to be very difficult for you to find them (to locate the specific "fishing holes" in which they hang out). Your shotgun approach will take up a lot of your time and produce mediocre results at best.

Once you stop attempting to sell and sponsor everyone and narrow your focus to a target market, everything changes. Entrepreneur.com defines the term target market as "a specific group of consumers at which a company aims its products and services."

When looking for new leads, focus your efforts on one (or just a few) super-qualified target markets, and you will be much more effective. Staying with the fishing metaphor, the shift looks like this: instead of jumping from pond to stream to lake, attempting to catch anything with gills, decide instead to focus on catching just one kind of fish—say, trout—then locate those streams teeming with trout and fish only in those spots. That kind of clarity and focus will make you much more successful.

Defining Your Target Market

What kind of prospect is the perfect fit for your business? This can depend on your own personality and background, the kind or products you sell, and how your business opportunity is structured.

Success leaves clues. Often the best place to start is your own company; look around and take note of the following:

By asking these questions, common threads will emerge. You might find that some of the most successful leaders are moms who want to make a great income and be home with their kids. Or perhaps you'll see baby boomers who love your products and are eager to generate extra income for their retirement. You may see healthcare professionals who value your products and also like the idea of building a residual income alongside their current business.

Narrowing the Field

After asking these questions you will have a short list of possible target markets, but let's get even more specific.  Take each one through this litmus test to see if you can narrow your choices down to just one or two groups.

 1. Is this kind of person motivated to change? 

Do people in this target market have an existing problem they want to resolve (health issue, money problem, lifestyle challenges, etc.)? You want to find people who have a strong why and who are already looking for the kind of solutions your products or business provides.

 2. Does this market have enough money, and will they spend it?

It's great to have a motivated prospect, but if he or she doesn't have money to invest in your product, service, or opportunity, you'll struggle to reach your business goals. There are enough people out there; go for those who will spend money for the solutions they want.

3. Are there plenty of prospects in this market? 

Be sure the target market you choose is specific but broad. An example is working moms: this is a specific group, and clearly there are enough working moms out there that you could focus only on prospecting in this one target market and never run out of leads.

4. Can you reach this market easily?

What kinds of clubs, networking groups, or professional associations might this prospect belong to? What conferences or tradeshows might he or she attend? Do a search on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see if you can find groups, pages, or forums where your target market is already spending time.

By going through this litmus test you'll be able to identify the exact kind of prospect who is perfect for your business, someone who is motivated and qualified to use your products or join your business. The next step is to create a simple plan for meeting and building relationships with as many of these prospects as possible—online and locally. The final step is to have a system that easily converts them into new customers or business builders.

From now on, when you go fishing for new prospects, don't try to catch everyone. Follow these simple steps, and you will not come home empty-handed.

SONIA STRINGER is a professional speaker,
business coach and author of
Savvy Women: Success
Strategies and Inspiring Stories of Top Female
Leaders in Network Marketing and Direct Sales.
Known as the Women's Business Coach,
Sonia helps women around the world build
successful businesses from home that give them
more money and more time to enjoy life.