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Star Wars Lessons: Going After Target Markets Requires a Plan

Glenn Polyn//October 1, 2020//

SMALL BUSINESS sketch on notebook

Star Wars Lessons: Going After Target Markets Requires a Plan

Glenn Polyn //October 1, 2020//

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In Star Wars: A New Hope, the Rebels are badly outgunned. The Death Star’s lasers and TIE Fighters are demolishing their ships. Their base is about to be destroyed.

Of course, they won last-minute. The Death Star gets blown up, Yavin is saved, and Darth Vader is forced to retreat. All thanks to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the Force, right?


The Rebels won because they knew that their target wasn’t the lasers, fighters, or Darth Vader. Their movement’s entire hope rested on the order to “stay on target” to hit a two-meter exhaust port while flying at top speed.

Hopefully, your small business doesn’t have to rely on X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon to survive. But just like the Rebels, you can’t get distracted from your target (market) to grow and succeed.

A Small Target (Market)

The Rebels had to hit a small target because they were in tiny ships that didn’t have much firepower. They were also outgunned 100 to 1. There was no margin for error.

Start-ups should likewise seek a defined, reachable target market—especially if you have lots of competition. Otherwise, you’re wasting marketing, sales, and financial firepower hitting diffuse targets—accomplishing very little even if you make a lot of noise. In the meantime, your competitors will pick off parts or all of your target market.

As your company grows, you can go after Star Destroyers—secondary targets which strengthen your business and weaken your competition. But first, you’ve got to hit that small target market which brings in revenue, teaches you about your customers’ goals and desires, and guides your company to set up successful internal structures.

Just like the Rebels, you’ve got to survive today to get to tomorrow.

Secondary Target Markets

Destroying a Death Star is hard. It’s much easier to go after small TIE Fighters. But defeating them when your Rebellion is small often takes as much effort, resources, and planning as destroying a Death Star… with far fewer results.

The same is true in business when seeking the proper target market. Customers with little money often require as many marketing resources as more profitable prospects. However, they expect more from you while paying less for your services or products. They are more easily reached and secured, but the profit margin just isn’t there.

The time to go after secondary target markets is once you’ve secured a profitable sector of your target market and set up your company’s infrastructure. At that point, however, you’ll be able to fine-tune your attacks on Star Destroyers—and leave the TIE Fighters to your smaller, less able competitors.

Avoid Tunnel Vision

One major risk with going after a Death Star-style target market is that it can deplete your resources quickly if revenue isn’t quickly obtained. Only four ships survived the Death Star assault; you want to leave have the flexibility to adjust to new ideas, knowledge, and opportunities.

Another risk of tunnel vision target marketing is thinking that a single big success will turn your company around. Yes, the Rebellion beat the Death Star, but they had to also survive Hoth and win at Endor to defeat the Emperor. Likewise, your company may get a big client—but how you use that contract to prepare for long-term success says a lot more about your acumen as a leader and owner than does getting the client.

A final risk of going for the big client is appearing desperate. The Rebels had to win; saying no and walking away from the negotiation table was not an option. Always leave yourself room to negotiate.

Don’t Become a Tarkin

The biggest risk a small business can take is going after a target market without being prepared. The Rebels were outgunned and outnumbered, but they knew their target and developed a plan to accomplish their goal. The Death Star’s commander, meanwhile, didn’t know that his ship had a major weakness until it was too late, and he didn’t use his resources to their full capacity.

As a small business owner, you have to know what your resources are and how to use them effectively. Tarkin didn’t, so he became a footnote while Luke Skywalker became a hero.