A lot of marketing advice depends on businesses knowing who their target audience is. The problem is, it’s surprisingly difficult to define your customer base. Learn who’s likely to choose your business over and over, and you’re on your way to smarter marketing strategies.
Everyone: The customer every small business would be thrilled to have, and the only customer that is impossible to attract. Small business owners may believe that their products appeal to the general population at large, but aiming to please everyone can hurt marketing efforts and sales.
Take something as popular and ubiquitous as coffee. Almost two-thirds of adults drink at least one cup of coffee daily. You’d think all a cafe needed to do was waft the scent of a fresh brew to bring on a stampede of customers. But while millennials are less likely to have a regular coffee habit than older generations, they’re much more likely to buy brewed coffee from a coffee shop. The owners of the (imaginary) Latte Lovers Cafe would probably do better to learn how to attract a steady stream of millennial customers than aim generally at “adults.”
Putting together a portrait of your typical customer can make it easier to imagine how a successful marketing campaign might work. Creating a customer profile is a little different for B2B versus B2C companies.
B2B companies may describe clients in terms of:
B2C companies may look at more individual customer factors, such as:
It’s entirely possible that you’ll find several types of customers in your core customer base. The idea is to identify groups. A travel agency might notice that most customers fit one of the following profiles:
The other important note is that there may be a difference between your imagined “ideal” customer and the demographic that currently makes up your strongest customer base. Some businesses may hope to pursue a different target audience, perhaps to make larger or more long-term sales. Other businesses may need to rework their marketing campaign to strengthen loyalty among the customers they already have.
Listen to street vendors hawking their wares, and you’ll soon recognize a familiar refrain. “Best quality, best price,” merchants promise. It’s the essence of a marketing call — who could resist great quality at a can’t-beat-it price? But what exactly does “quality” mean? It’s often up to the customers to decide.
On Amazon, for example, a speedy and efficient shopping experience defines quality customer service. Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t put nearly as strong of a focus on speedy access to products. And customers don’t mind. They’ll line up for hours on end for products that deliver elegant design and innovative features.
Speed, craftsmanship, durability, innovativeness, and many other factors could be the top “quality” indicator, depending on the product or service, and what the customer hopes to achieve through the purchase. A pastry shop promising croissants “made with French butter” will attract a different clientele from a neighboring bakery advertising “better-for-you treats.”
Conducting basic market research yourself is surprisingly simple. It can be as easy as chatting with customers at the register about how they found you and what attracted them to your store. A brief survey to better know your customers (either a printed card or a website prompt) can also be a cheap and easy way to gather information. The downside is that answers are less reliable because of the opt-in nature and unpredictability of respondents. Other methods of conducting research yourself include face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, mail surveys and focus groups.
The other way to get valuable market information is by searching general market statistics and reports. The U.S. Department of Labor has researched American spending habits by generation. Other polls compare daily spending habits by age, as well as age of children. You may be able to develop a stronger customer profile by investigating broad trends that may affect your current customer base.
You can also use your own internal data to measure important aspects of the customer experience. Tracking sales and inventory tells you which full-price products are most popular, and when customers order certain products. Creating spending profiles for your top customers can help you predict when the next order will come in, and what additional products or services these customers might want to learn about.
Digging into website data can tell you how many pages of your site customers visit before purchasing something, and which pages attract the most traffic. Some research indicates half of customers make a purchase within 28 minutes of entering a website. Knowing data like how long website visitors stick around and what days of the week see highest traffic can help you plan online advertising strategies.
Who makes up your core customer base? Did you opt for simple or complex strategies to determine who your customer is? Let us know in the comments section below!