In the Trenches: The Upmarket Temptation

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on March 10, 2011
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“Who is your target market?”

It’s a common question that every small business owner has heard at one point or another. But sometimes it’s not easy to answer. We, for example, have never really pinned ourselves down one way or the other, but there are always pressures to move upmarket. So far, we’ve done what we could to resist them.

I figured that after a few months, I would see a pattern showing which types of clients were most common for our business. It turns out, there is no such thing. We’ve had small businesses that have several people traveling frequently. We’ve had individual road warriors. We’ve had college kids looking to travel on a dime. It hasn’t been uncommon for us to help seniors, families, rich people, poor people (OK, not that poor if they’re flying), and it’s been a lot of fun to watch it all develop.

Originally we didn’t care who we helped, because everyone paid us the same amount. But now that we also receive some commissions, it changes the math a little. When you get a commission, there comes a time where the temptation is there to really try to push the business upmarket. After all, the more people pay for a trip, the more money we receive in commission. Less work for more pay is usually a happy equation, right?

Yes, but it’s exactly that temptation I want to avoid. Don’t get me wrong. We would love to do more work for rich and famous people. It’s great money and we provide an excellent service. But other markets may very well represent more opportunity.

There are plenty of people out there clamoring for business from the wealthy, but very few service businesses really target travelers that are on a budget. There is opportunity there, and we’re very happy to serve it. Of course, with less money on the table, it’s important to operate as efficiently as possible. At some point, if you spend too much time with a client for not enough money, then it’s not sustainable. But that’s part of the learning curve.

That’s why we revisit our pricing regularly, and why we’re going to be rolling out some new pricing in the not-too-distant future. The point is trying to serve that middle market which doesn’t get nearly enough attention, and I remain convinced that we can do that well. We will certainly try to grow our top dollar market as well, but in terms of opportunity, the middle is where I see the most promise.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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