Behind the Scenes: Using Negative Reactions to Refine Your Target Market

Slice of Life, Beth Hemmila

Trying to sell your product or message out to a wide range of people when you haven't got a handle on your target market might ultimately prove to be a useful tool.

One of the key ingredients of any business plan is to have a clear vision of your audience. Unfortunately, the target market thingie has always been hard for me to narrow down because I've got some personal hangups about likeability. Consequently, I tend to flounder for awhile trying to figure out who is drawn to my work and then create a picture from that point forward. According to business plan gurus, this appears to be the backwards approach.

Nevertheless, if you make this silly foible like me, clues are sprinkled along the way that help you get back on track. For example, in the early stages of launching Hint Jewelry I was puzzled by that fact that very few people in Portland purchased my work. However, by tracking my Etsy sales over the past three years, I figured out that the majority of my target market for Hint charms actually lives in California, the Southwest, and New England. So it's taken three years to figure this out. Hey, no big deal. I'm a person that learns by doing, making mistakes, and then correcting my course. I find this form of learning more of an adventure.

Another good example is when someone responds to your work with harsh criticism instead of constructive feedback. You can use key demographic information about this person and refine your target market by looking at the flip side.

Take for instance Subject Y...
Subject Y is a male in his late 60s, maybe retired, with a graduate degree in science who is spiritually content and quite happy with his life. He owns a Harley and is a hands-on person. Upon receiving my marketing message for Lemonade Mantras he may come back with a strong reaction because frankly he thinks it sounds like an arrogant waste of time. For him, it feels like eating cotton candy rather then a juicy steak on the grill -- fluffy stuff with no substance or value.

What might be the near opposite of Subject Y? 
A woman in their twenties, thirties, or forties who may be asking the question "Who am I?" Someone who enjoys self-help books over scientific theory and wants to learn more about their emotional reactions and the concept of love. Someone who is actively looking for ways to make their lives happier and starting a process of self-discovery. A person who enjoys keeping a journal, is drawn to written words as a form of self-expression, and wants to learn other ways to communicate.


So maybe you deliver your message at the wrong watering hole the first time around. The strong negative reactions of people in the form of criticism ultimately point the way to where you need to be hanging out. Try not to get emotionally sidetracked by biting statements made by others or no reactions at all. Instead embrace criticism and see what you may be able to learn from their reactions and non-reactions. See their negative reaction as the detour sign pointing you in the direction to where like-minded peeps are hanging out.

Lastly, if you want to go one step further, you can practice hearing and empathizing with the harsh criticism a person believed they were directing at you but is really a covert message meant for themselves. This technique for turning criticism around can be found in Chapter 14 of Lemonade Mantras, "Empathy for Others," Practice Hearing Another Person's Self-Judgment.

P.S. Another interesting thing that may happen when you first launch your business is that your message or product may not be something your close friends or family need as a solution to a problem. In fact, more than likely your friends and family ARE NOT your target market. If you notice close friends and family not being drawn to your work, begin to see that you are embracing a path that will expand your circle of connection even wider to human beings that relate most deeply to what is in your heart. Treasure their disconnection as an opportunity to expand outward into the world.


  1. insightful, meaningful, beautiful... you have a gift for looking at things in an objective way...

  2. Oh my, Miss Beth. How do you seem to cut me to the quick with your spot on observations?

    "The strong negative reactions of people in the form of criticism ultimately point the way to where you need to be hanging out."

    That statement is ringing loud and clear to me today. I am in a situation where the tides have seemed to turn against me, that there is a not so subtle shift to indicate that what I do creatively, while seen as artistic, is not considered as 'art' by a community that I am part of. This has blindsided me. But I am taking a step back and considering this a gift. Either I need to adapt what I do to suit the mold that has been formed in regards to art or I need to broaden my creative horizons. I believe that I am going to be doing both, but my faith in this community has been shaken. Thank you for helping me realize today that the lemons that I have been experiencing are really just waiting for me to turn them into a fabulous raspberry lemonade dessert bar. ;-)
    Enjoy the day!

  3. Erin and Mary Jane, thank you so much for finding connection with this post.

    Erin, knowing that you've experienced something similar in your creative business and this post is possibly opening your eyes to refine your direction. Wow, and I love turning lemons into a raspberry lemonade dessert bar. That sounds utterly delicious!

  4. What a great post. Thank you for the insight.


I'd love for you to share your ideas and stories on my blog! Please know that I may not always be able to e-mail you a direct response, so be sure to check back to my blog and continue the dialogue. Many blessings for connecting with me through word and image :)