Principal and founder of Eilert Communications, a marketing strategy and communications firm based in Louisville, KY. [email protected]
Who is your ideal customer? Someone who will likely buy & rave about your products. Finding groups of people who can and will buy from you, and connecting with them is the basis of a solid marketing plan, and every successful business enterprise. The trick, of course, is finding these customers and discovering why they would be interested in buying your products or services in the first place.
Get started with the
For every business, large or small, there are two questions that drive effective marketing:
1) Who will buy your products?
2) Why would they buy?
The dilemma facing most small and mid-sized businesses is: how? Large companies, like the packaged goods giants I used to work for, spend enormous resources on keeping abreast of who their customers are and what matters to them. Three key tools they use are: Mapping, Research and Personas. Small and mid-sized businesses can use similar tools, even with a modest budget.
Start with a Customer Map
An easy first step is to map out on a whiteboard, sticky notes, or piece of paper who you think might be your ideal customer. Brainstorm and write down all the people you think would be interested – and could benefit from – your product or service. Then group them by clusters of similar people. Next, rank the groups by their likelihood to buy. For example: those who might buy in this quarter (time), or those who will buy the most volume (quantity). This helps prioritize the groups you will focus on reaching with marketing.
Tip: Customers may include people you sell directly to (e.g. wholesalers, distributors and retailers), and those who buy indirectly (who purchase from direct buyers, like a retail chain). Big consumer brands often focus a large portion of their budgets on their direct customer like the retail chains for a simple reason: if their products are not at the store, the end consumer may not have access to the products to purchase them.
The Success Secret of Big Companies
Every successful company I’ve worked for, and successful clients I’ve worked with, spends a great deal of time on market intelligence and customer research. Data diving may appeal to a limited few, yet it pays big dividends in the marketplace!
Two kinds of research matter: primary (direct contact with your potential customers) and secondary (market and industry reports). Even if you have a small to non-existent budget, this information is available. Some examples:
1) Direct In-home or focus groups – or “in the field” interception – asking people what they think. Let them try samples and give their opinions, phone surveys or on-line surveys. There are plenty of inexpensive on-line survey tools available. One free service I like is surveymonkey.com. (http://www.surveymonkey.com/)
2) Indirect Industry surveys, reports and demographics are available free at most libraries. Census data and reports (conveniently updated) have a wealth of information and are available online: (http://www.census.gov/). You may also choose to invest in special reports available through market research companies (e.g. Nielsen, Forrester) or professional associations.
Your goal is to identify market gaps that are underserved, determine how many potential customers there are, where they exist and how your product/service solves a problem for them or makes their life easier. Then you begin to know why they might buy from you, and the reason(s) why.
PERSONAS Make it Easier to Relate
Think of a persona as a character. This is a fictitious person who embodies key traits of the people likely to buy from you. The purpose is to guide you and your team in making decisions. For example, if you have a new organic beverage, you will have several types of people this might appeal to. Two examples might be:
1) Harry J. Buyer, Purchasing agent at a grocery
chain with an organic section
Family guy, worked at this company 23 years, loves to negotiate, home at 5, wants the best price, gets paid for high volume sales
1) Susan G. Freespirit, Artist
Passionate about the environment, earns $50,000 a year, buys brands with a “socially conscious” vibe and willing to pay 15% more for them, loves to create and style her environment, loves quirky & hand made items, eats out with friends at least once a week.
Personas typically include word descriptions and photos or illustrations. They distill research results into “personalities” your team can begin to personalize, and think of as they weigh marketing options and build their plan. What type of information source might Harry J. Buyer want to see? What brand message would appeal to Susan G. Freespirit?
Know Who Buys and Why
By knowing who will buy your products and services, and the reasons why, you can begin to build a highly focused and effective marketing plan that gets results. These three tools: Mapping, Research and Personas, will help narrow down who your marketing dollars should target, and provide greater sales return.
I spend analyze most of my time promoting myself and my writing.