The whole point of identifying who your ideal customer is, is so that you can gear everything towards delighting them. Delighting them starts with understanding what matters to them, what they’re looking for, what their problems and challenges are and what makes them smile. You have to get into their skin so that you can figure out ways to make them feel like your whole business is made just for them.
We also do this because we know that where there’s one, there’s usually more. Unless your instincts and research have been shockingly off-kilter, this ideal customer is going to be representative of traits and preferences shared by many of your customers. In fact, part of what makes them ideal is the fact that there’s lots of them, enough anyway that serving them is profitable.
The thing is that they all look, sound and act differently so you won’t always be able to tell who the ideal customer actually is. But you know that’s not the point, right? The point is that you treat all of your customers like they're your ideal customer - going out of your way to make them feel special, oozing pride in what you do and making sure they leave feeling better for having chosen to do business with you.
Knowing your ideal customer gives you a framework for delivering the very best products, service and experience for all of your customers. Your goal should be to use it to do the very best job you can for every single one of them because every single one of them has a million other options. Your competition is just a click away. Most businesses are no longer constrained by geographical borders, so if you’re not making your customers feel special and like you deserve to have their attention, then someone else will.
Targeting your ideal customer is probably something you already do instinctively, but it’s worth being more intentional and focused about because;
1. It's a practical thing that you can only know by trying.
Because target marketing, that is, defining and targeting your ideal target market is not an academic thing - it only means something if you implement it and test it out. One thing about business, both big and small business, is that it’s a constant process of iteration - of testing and tweaking to see what works, what lands. It’s an ongoing process.
Identifying your ideal customer or client isn’t something you land on and that’s it. It’s a constant process of trying, testing and of iteration and as I said above, you only learn these things by doing them. It can’t be a purely academic process - that won’t give you enough of what you need, in the same way that demographics aren’t enough. It’s only by putting things into action that learnings are uncovered and the next step is revealed. You really have to embrace that this is a journey, not just a final destination.
2. It’s subtle.
Just because you don’t land the right message or approach or promotion to your target market, does not mean the market is wrong. Don’t throw your hands up in the air and assume that either this whole ‘target marketing’ is rubbish OR that you just got yours wrong and have to go back and do the whole thing again.
Maybe you just have to tweak the message, the way you say things. Think of your kids - a good parallel example. How many times do you have to tell them, 1. to keep their room tidy and 2. why it matters? A gazillion, right? So does that mean your kids are the wrong target for your energies? Of course not. Does that mean that the message isn’t worth sharing or teaching? No way. It means you have to stick with it and tweak the way you say it, when you say and how you say it.
And also, this brings me to the 3rd point ...
3. Repetition and consistency of message is a brand and marketing fundamental … for a reason.
Well it is and for a good reason; it’s how we humans learn. No matter how smart we are, no matter how tailored, relevant and personally compelling the message is, we need to hear it multiple times and often in multiple ways for it to finally sink in. It’s just the way we are, and remember that for all the jargon and all the fancy terms, marketing is all about human psychology.
It’s for that reason that I can draw parallels between marketing messages to our target markets and trying to get our kids to hear our reasons and abide by our wisdom. It’s also for that reason that you know and understand more than you think you do about marketing, your target market and targeting that market. Marketing is not all that different to what everyday business people call ‘common sense’. Really.
4. Ask them!
If you already have customers or clients, ask them what they think. People love to give their opinion because it makes us feel like we matter and that we’re being listened to, so ask. Ask them how you’re going. Ask if there’s anything they’d like you to be doing differently, or better. Ask them about an idea you have, see how it lands with them. Be real, be genuine and be brave. You don’t have to take onboard everything that is offered in return, but you might just stumble on some valuable insights that make a difference to how you think and what you do. If nothing else, people are often delighted just to be asked.
5. I’ve already said this, but it deserves to be said again - you already know this, trust your instincts.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles out there on the web about marketing for small business and I have to say that even as someone who loves marketing and can happily geek out on this stuff for hours on end, it’s all pretty dry, boring, corporate and academic. I guess for many it’s disconcerting to mention ‘instinct’ and ‘gut feel’, to give permission to trust your heart and that some of the best decisions come from the soul, but if you’re anything like me, this is just as important as the science, theory and statistics.
Heart and soul and instincts matter because business and marketing is about human relationships. While figuring out your target market, market segmentation, differentiation and ideal customer may seem foreign and daunting, you’ve been a human all your life and actually you’re very good at figuring this stuff out because you’ve been doing it since you were born. Start with what you already know and use the academic stuff to focus and systematise for business.
You know more about marketing than you think you do. Think about who your ideal customer is and work out ways to delight them. Try it out, see what works, ask the question and build on what you learn. Your goal is to make them feel like they really matter and achieving this is the way to make your business matter to them.
Thanks as always for reading and please, if something resonates with you or makes you question something, I'd love to hear from you.
Have a great day,
Photo credit: "Welcome" by Ramesh NG via Flickr