One thing you know after your years in business is that not all customers are the right customers. You also know that not having the right customers can lead to lots of lost time, energy, and money. Are your customers difficult to satisfy? Are they returning products? Working with you once and not returning? You could offer the best products or services in your industry, but if the wrong people are buying them, there’s a disconnect that could be costing you.
Here, we’ve compiled a quick guide for bringing in more “perfect fit” customers while minimizing your exposure to the not-so-perfect ones.
But before we get there, there’s one overarching question to answer: do you have a picture of the best customer for your products or services and a clear understanding of what you have to provide to meet their needs?
Clarifying your ideal customer
If you don’t know whom you want to do business with, you could be doing a lot of business with customers you’d rather not have. Clearly defining your ideal customer may be one of the most important activities you can complete. It will allow you to shift the balance to the customers that are ideal for your business. Your “ideal customer profile” will drive everything you do. From the way you market and sell, to how you service that client, to the new features you add to your product, or potentially, the features you remove.
Creating the picture
The technology that holds this information may change and grow with the times, but for the most part, how you capture your ideal customer remains the same. At its core, you need to ask a range of detailed questions around the who, the what and the why – who they are, what they do, and why they want to buy your product or service – so there’s a uniform picture of them throughout your organization, from marketing and sales to manufacturing and distribution.
An older Entrepreneur Magazine article lists many of the questions you should be asking and answering in this exercise. It’s a great starting point, and includes questions like:
- What does your product/service look like from your customer’s point of view?
- What does it do for your ideal customer?
- What problems does it solve for your customer? What needs of your customer does it satisfy?
- How does it improve your customer’s life or work?
- What does the ideal customer look like for what you sell?
- What type of business?
- What stage of maturity are they in? Are they a start up or an established public company?
- What does their balance sheet look like?
- What is their current situation? How stable are they? What does the future look like for them?
- Where are they located?
- What are the benefits of this product/service that your ideal customer is looking for?
- Of all the benefits you offer, which are the most important to your ideal customer?
- What are the most pressing needs that your product or service satisfies?
- Why should your customer buy from you rather than from someone else?
Attracting the “Perfect Fit” Customers
Once you determine whom you want to attract and keep, the next step is developing your plan: the steps you need to follow to reach and retain these key customers.
Analyzing your customer database
Review the data you have on the customers who’ve bought from you, and you may see details that you didn’t capture in your ideal customer profile. Your regulars were once new customers; looking at them and their history will give you another view into what you’re doing right, while those single purchasers can tell you what you could be doing wrong.
What keeps your repeat buyers coming back? Is it your products, or your high level of customer service? Or is it that you’re marketing to them where they are and telling them what they need to hear? If you’ve done your homework, it’s a combination. Reviewing this data will add to the customer profile you’ve created.
Offering the right products and services
Yes, you are selling a quality product and delivering it with high levels of service. But, if it’s not what your ideal client is looking for, something has to change. Be sure that what you offer is actually meeting their needs and desires. If not, you’ll either need to change what you offer, or change your customer profile to those who will be interested in what you do offer.
Having a targeted marketing plan
A marketing plan will help clarify all of the key issues that you need to address with your ideal customers, including pricing, sales cycles, distribution channels, differentiators and messaging. It will also help you focus your spending where your customers are spending their time and their money. For example, if you advertise in USA Today and your ideal client only read the NY Times, they may never hear about you, regardless of whether you advertise, online or in print.
Improving your customers’ awareness and perception of you
The customers that you want to attract – what do they currently know about you? How aware are they of you and your offerings? Many experiences affect a customer’s perception, from advertising and PR to reviews and social media. Perceptions can be correct, or incorrect, but as they say, perception is reality for each person.
Are your customers’ and prospects’ perceptions correct? Developing a plan to highlight your company as the one that can meet their needs, and one they want to do business with, will go a long way.
Review and adjust as necessary
Keep in mind that the picture you have of your ideal customer, and how you reach them, may not be ideal for the long term. This picture needs to be as flexible, and as living and breathing, as the person or company you’re trying to attract. It’s important to review and adjust this picture, or as many as you have for the different products and services you offer, on a schedule that makes sense for your business cycle. For some it could be monthly and for others, maybe twice a year. And then, there will be those who only need to review the profile when they’re considering changing a product or service.
How you reach them may change as well, as technology, and the market for your products and services, continues to evolve. Reviewing as often as is necessary will help ensure that your plan is still on the right track, it continues to bring in the right customers and you have resources in the right places to continue what you’re doing, or adjust as needed.