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It’s OK Everyone Didn’t Like What You Made (at Work Today & for Dinner Tonight)

A supper-time snub is just more evidence that you need to narrow your target market expectations.

Assuming you don’t live alone or you never cook, you have inevitably faced the following situation:

It was your turn to make the meal (which might be your entire adulthood depending on your situation). You assessed what you had in stock and maybe even went to the store to acquire special ingredients. You researched or made up a recipe, putting some thought into it and saying to yourself: “This will be good, people will like it.” Then you spent time actually preparing the meal, and the moment of truth comes when you set down the plates in front of your fellow diners.

You might get a few different negative reactions. The first may come when one of the people at the table (almost universally a child) pushes the plate away and says “I don’t like it” without even taking a bite. Another might come after a few tentative bites and then another flat-out rejection. Alternatively, you may not get people refusing to eat, but you might get comments along the lines of “it was too spicy” or “too sweet” or “not my style” or “I wouldn’t make it again.”

Now, if the entire table gave you one of the above reactions, then maybe you’re a terrible cook, or maybe they are just not adventurous enough for your creative take on Serbian-Malaysian fusion cuisine. But a far more likely outcome is that a subset of your crowd gave it a negative review, while others thought it was pretty good or downright amazing.

So, Was That a Success or a Failure?

Well, this first depends on what your goal was. Were you trying to ensure that everyone loved dinner? Were you trying to expose your family or friends to something new and potentially delightful? Were you trying to avoid being forced to bring out some leftover mac-and-cheese for a less-than-adventurous small person?

In my house, I have given up on trying to make everyone happy every time. To me, it’s a success when a majority of the people like it, and it’s an unexpected victory if I get 100% approval. But this isn’t because I am setting the bar low, but rather because I am raising it.

If my goal was to make everyone happy all of the time, then things would get pretty boring. I would stick to making the same few things I knew everyone liked and not bother introducing new things to my family and my repertoire. For me, success is when I get most of the people at the table to like it.

From the Dining Room to the Board Room

This same mindset applies to business. Every company has a target market in mind. It might be “the Fortune 500,” it might be “the 18-35 male demographic,” it might be “suburban moms with a three-car garage,” or it could be “people who live in a 5-mile radius that like pizza.”

Regardless of how your target market is defined, no rational business plan would set a goal of meeting the needs and tastes of every single individual or company in that market. 100% market share is not going to happen for a whole host of reasons, so a company must instead raise the bar for the type of customer that they are seeking. You want customers that are both in your target market and want what you have to offer.

You won’t always know exactly who in that target market wants what, so you need to do your research first. After some surveys, interviews and secondary research, you should have an informed opinion that of the “people who live in a 5-mile radius who like pizza” there is a strong interest in delivery, or that among “suburban moms with a three-car garage” there is a desire in having built-in voice-activated GPS systems.

As you define and expand your offering, you may very well incorporate those services, but there will be some moms who couldn’t care less about GPS because they have lived in the same town their whole lives and some pizza eaters that prefer to eat out in kitschy restaurants with tchotchkes adorning the walls. Those folks aren’t going to like your offering (or at least not those specific aspects of your offering) and that’s OK, because you are matching the tastes of enough customers to make a go of it.

So the next time you have to slap together a PB&J because Junior wouldn’t eat any quinoa, don’t hang your head in defeat. You are just narrowing your focus and raising the bar for your true target market for this meal… the other three people happily asking for seconds.