Who’s buying what you’re selling?
When launching a business of your own, it can be easy to let the day-to-day operations of entrepreneurship get in the way. You lose sight of the fact that without a customer, you wouldn’t be able to keep those day-to-day operations running. You hope you do a good job of marketing—but beyond that, you’re not too concerned about the end-result of your product or service.
But businesses that have been around for longer than that know that the customer is the beating heart of what they do. Solving their problems is essential. And if you’re going to best solve the problems of your customers, you’re going to have to know who you’re selling to in the first place. Here’s how:
Discovery: How to Find Out Who Your Ideal Customer Is First
You can’t very well put together a complete profile of your ideal customer without knowing who you’re looking for. That means you’ll have to initiate the process of discovery: uncovering exactly who it is you should look for in the first place.
At this point, it’s tempting to do all of this work in your head. You might ask yourself questions like “what is our unique selling proposition” or “what kind of person is looking for our company?” That’s all well and good, but consider that you’re not selling to an icon on a computer here. You’re selling to real people with real needs. And there’s already a wide market out there that makes discovering these customers possible. Here are a few ideas:
- Run advertising tests to see which problems most resonate with your audience. Think of it like running an A/B test, except the variable you’re testing for here is all about the customer’s problem. Create different advertisements—each pointing to a different landing page—with each advertisement’s headline suggesting that your company solves a specific problem. Which one resonates most with people? What kind of demographics are showing you the most interest?
- Run analytics. Since this discovery process is all about finding those people in the real world who stand to benefit from what it is your business does, make sure that you run effective analytics to keep track of which customers are coming to you. Pay special attention to the intent behind the queries and the pages they’re most often exploring. What kinds of problems are they looking to solve? What are they most interested in? What are they discarding? The answers might surprise you.
- Throw out your old misconceptions. It’s easy to sit down with a checklist of what customers might be ideal for your business. You can develop a highly specific customer profile with the simple tools of a pen and a pad. But what if your experience in the market tells you otherwise? Try to throw out your old misconceptions about who should buy from you and pay attention to who is actually buying from you.
Strategy: Building a Customer Profile from the Ground Up
With those old misconceptions tossed aside, you’re ready to pool some of the data you’ve gathered and get a more accurate look at your ideal customer. But if you still don’t feel you have enough data, here are some tools you can leverage to build a more accurate picture:
- Surveys. Customers are perfectly willing to engage with you and be honest about what it is they need—but you have to provide an outlet for them to do so. Leverage a tool like SurveyMonkey to gather more feedback from those customers you already have and find out your blind spots. Yes, it’s important that you weigh what your customers say with what they actually do on your website, but that doesn’t mean you should discount their most immediate and direct feedback via surveys.
- CRM. Customer Relationship Management software should already be a point of focus for any company that has to deal with a large number of customers and/or clients. Services like BatchBook, for example, make it possible to organize that customer data and get a better overall snapshot of who your customer might be. Insightly is another favorite CRM tool that helps you organize a broad range of customers into something that you can turn into actionable data. Consider adding to your customer support tools with a service like Help Scout so you can find out the particular pain points that drive your customers.
- Customer retargeting. Although most people don’t associate customer profiles with a strategy like retargeting old customers, consider this: it’s difficult to find someone as precisely targeted to your business as someone who almost purchased from you and didn’t. The more you can learn about what these customers need, the better you’ll be able to help those new customers who come to your site for the first time.
Throwing Out the Old Assumptions about Customer Profiles
It’s easy to think of building a customer profile as an in-house event. But if you imagine the process as sitting around a conference room table and brainstorming with your team, you haven’t formed a complete picture of what your ideal customer may look like.
Instead, make sure that your customer profile is informed by the market. Here are some of the old assumptions about customer profiles you should toss out along the way:
- Assuming your ideal customer is static. As market conditions change, your ideal customer may change as well.
- Hoping that specificity will solve your problems. Specificity can be great for finding one type of person, but it has the downside of closing off your marketing outreach to other potential customers.
- Limiting yourself to one demographic. It’s great to know your demographics as best as possible, but keep in mind that there may be wider uses for your product or service you haven’t even imagined yet.
Building a complete customer profile of your ideal customer isn’t a one-way street. The more you can involve real customer feedback and behavior, the better an idea you’ll have of what your business should be.