If I had a pound for every time a business owner has told me that they are targeting "everyone", I'd be writing this from a private yacht in the Seychelles. It's one of the biggest mistakes that business people make, and it is vitally important.
So why should you not target everyone? Surely that gives you more potential customers... why would you want to limit the possibilities?
Focus on the Best
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? 80% of your profit is likely to come from 20% of your customers, so it makes sense to concentrate on reaching more people who are similar to those in the top 20%. Why would you actively seek business from people who aren't going to spend much money with you? On the basis that marketing budgets are not infinite, you want to use them as effectively as possible. So focus on the types of customer you really want.
If you're targeting everybody, how can you craft a message that appeals to your next buyer. If you know exactly who you are aiming at, you can tell them a story that appeals directly to them. A message for everyone is going to end up being very bland and it won't actually resonate with anybody at all.
Think about it... even a product as universal as Coca Cola uses this approach, with very different messaging for Coca Cola, Diet Coke and Coca Cola Zero Sugar. That's because they understand their customers and target different products at different market segments.
For example, imagine you sell sofas. If you target everybody you'll have to talk about "Attractive, comfy sofas" but if you're foucsing on young families you could focus on, "Tough, easy to clean sofas" or if it's an older audience, "sofas with back support". Know what your audience is struggling with, and address it. You can stand out and be the company of choice for your chosen target audience, or you can be just another supplier for everybody.
You need to understand why your customers buy from you and appeal to what's making them tick - the particular problem they are experiencing which makes them think they need what you sell. And that's not going to be the same for everyone.
Where to Start
The best place to start is by creating buyer personas based on an in-depth understanding of your ideal customers and how they make decisions. If you don't know enough about them, look at the LinkedIn profiles of similar people, ask your sales team or interview some tame customers.
Please remember that it's not enough just to say, "I'm targeting Engineering Companies" or even, "I'm targeting MDs of Engineering Companies". You want to paint a detailed picture of a specific persona along with their goals, challenges and interests: what motivates them and what problems they are facing. And remember to give your persona a name.
When I ask you who you are targeting with your inbound marketing campaign, I want to hear, "I'm targeting people like Jane, who runs an engineering company in the transportation industry. She's in her 40's, degree educated, manages a team and always feels as if there aren't enough hours in the day. She loves to travel, she runs in her spare time and gets most of her news from Twitter."
Once you know who you want to be speaking to, it makes creating content and promotional material much more straightforward. Everything you create should be crafted with that persona in mind. It helps with the choice of imagery, your messaging, all your content and your choice of media channel to promote it. It's going to be much easier to write a blog post about Jane's challenges with time management than it is to write about time management challenges generally, and your content will hit the spot because it has been written specifically for a persona.
In summary, if you want to make the most of your marketing budget, focus on your ideal customers and make everything you do about helping them with their specific challenges.