When I ask my clients (or potential clients) the question “Who is your customer?” the answer is almost unanimously “everyone”—but that isn’t possible, even if you are Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is one of the most recognized brands in the world but it markets to specific buyer demographics.
At some point you’ll fall into the trap of wanting to reach everyone with your offer. Don’t worry we’ve all been there, trying to be all things to all people. For example, McDonald’s doesn’t target “everyone who’s hungry,” they simply target demographics based upon menu, location, convenience, and price—so you shouldn’t think a customer who likes widgets will want to buy everyone’s widgets. Their motivation regarding a widget is very specific. Does this particular widget solve their problem? And, what the problem is varies for everyone. Targeting your customer into one or more personas, or profiles, will help you better communicate and market to the people who value and need what you provide. Because focused targeting will help you hone in on your market, it will save you money on the front end and make you money on the back end.
Often times, a product or service is built based on a personal need or a passion to create it without giving consideration to whether there is an audience who actually wants it. Doesn’t that sound a little backwards? It is. You need to determine if there is a customer base interested enough to buy what you’re selling—and who are willing to tell all of their friends to do the same.
So how do you determine if that audience exists? Research. Define your target audience and then speak to them. Don’t freak out. Research is not a four-letter word. It can actually be quite fun. Let me show you how.
One of the “fun” things you can do is develop “personas” for your customer base. Personas are descriptions of your ideal buyer based upon certain criteria. You would be surprised how helpful it can be to give your customer(s) a persona. It will be so much easier to speak and sell to them. Before developing your customer personas, first narrow down your customers by target. You can start with broad strokes like the following categories:
- Demographics are the statistical data the census bureau collects about the population such as age, gender, income, education, etc. This category is overemphasized, so don’t stop here.
- Geographic segmentation involves where your target lives, but you need to go beyond their country or even state. Think about factors such as “urban vs. rural.” It might be helpful to drill down to their ZIP code. Your goal is to get to know your customers—this includes where they live and work.
- Psycho-graphic segment analysis explores consumer attitudes, aspirations, interests, beliefs, and personality. What do your consumers read? Are they more likely to be on LinkedIn or Facebook? What groups do they belong to? What are their favorite movies, TV shows, or music? The more you know about your customer the better you’ll be able to anticipate their needs.
- Consumption behavior is important to study once you’ve secured some customers. Who buys product A versus product B? Why? What is the profile of your retainer customer vs. the once-a-year “Quick, I need your help!” customer?
If you’re thinking you don’t have the time to figure this all out—and again, I’ve been there—I’m telling you there isn’t time not to do it. Knowing your customer helps you sell to your customer in a way that’s personal and relevant. Consumers are so savvy today that generic messages just aren’t going to cut the mustard.
Let me share a customer persona with you.
I have a client who is CEO of a hotel business and she absolutely knows what her client persona looks like. She even created a visual to refer to while she built the infrastructure of her business, and all of her messaging and positioning work. Everything she “built” was in the spirit of a persona she developed named “Chloe” and what Chloe would want. She shared with me how immensely helpful it was to put herself in the shoes of Chloe as she created products and services to sell to her audience. She even took it a step further and added her male (“Chase”) and female (“Chloe”) personas to her website.
Chloe’s description looks like this:
“Chloe is a 32 year old marketing director born in New York, but currently living in Portland, Oregon. She exemplifies the new ‘creative’ traveler.
“Educated on the sunny West Coast, Chloe became an avid outdoors gal with a large sense of adventure. She now holds an executive position at a large athletics company in the Pacific Northwest and spends half her time traveling to their other offices across the globe.
“Chloe is an eclectic spirit, loves her after work dance club as much as she appreciates the boardroom. She relies heavily on her ‘mobile’ device and while she prefers posting on her Pinterest page, it’s not unusual to see a few tweets and Facebook posts documenting her daily experiences.
“Chloe’s on the forefront of fashion, design, art and technology and can effortlessly blend a T-Shirt from Zara with a skirt from Tory Burch. She is comfortable with her look and style and is always craving an outlet for self-expression. She loves staying in boutique hotels and while she is often busy working in the communal spaces, [she] loves knowing there are like-minded individuals close by.
“Chloe likes to check out the local music scene and shopping when she can and enjoys connecting and sharing her experiences with her close friends when she returns home.”
Can you picture Chloe in your mind? Have you started to formulate your own customer personas? Give it a try and remember nothing is absolute. Allow these personas to be a bit fluid, meaning that you can add to them and change them as needed as your business grows and evolves.
So often you hear me say, “Know thy self.” Well, in this case, know thy customer. Preferably, to a T because if you know them as well as you know yourself, you will have sales a plenty.