Know Thy Customer

Never fails…

“What’s the big pain in your business?”

“I don’t have enough customers…”

“Who is your customer?”

“Well… I work with lots of people, mostly small businesses, some non-profits, this and that really; I don’t really have a niche. You know, I like to keep my options open. I don’t want to get too tied down to any one group.”

You Ain’t Coke

With a few billion dollars, everyone can be your customer. With a few thousand dollars, you gotta be specific.

How specific?

The more the better.

Let me tell you a little story about my company uGurus. We help web professionals build successful businesses. We’ve gone so far as to create a personified character we call “Richard” who is our ideal customer.

We know how much money Richard makes per year, his hobbies, interests, work hours, geographic location, age, his pet peeves, and top business and personal pains. Our entire team knows Richard. We talk about him, tell stories about him, and speak to him daily.

Richard doesn’t exist. I mean, he does in our minds, but he’s not a real customer. He is our ideal customer.

We ask ourselves questions like…

“Where can we find Richard?”

“What blogs does he read?”

“What podcasts does he listen to?”

“Who else sells to Richard?”

“What would Richard like to hear about today?”

Everything revolves around Richard.

When I write a blog post, I write it to him. When ad copy is drafted, it’s to him we speak. And when we design, layout, or build any part of our apps, website, or even credit card form, we say:

“Does this work for Richard?”

You see, I don’t have a whole lot of money to spend to reach my customer. I can’t waste money. I can’t spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars experimenting. Maybe a few hundred, but that’s it.

All good marketing starts with three key ideas:

  • Who’s your customer
  • What pain are you solving for them
  • How are you going to reach them

From there you can make a lot of mistakes and still have a thriving business. It’s when you fail to define who your customer is that you have a hard time reaching him.

Actually, you have a hard time even starting your marketing. I talk to entrepreneurs all the time that say things like:

“I don’t know what to blog about.”

“I am not sure where to advertise.”

“I’m not sure what events to go to.”

Maybe one day I will be like Coca-Cola and have limitless funds to blanket the world in snugly videos with polar bears about my business, but until then I need to focus.

The Wandering Traveler is Lost

Early on in my business I just went where the wind took me. I felt like that was the liberating or evolved way to think about business. Something like:

“If I get specific about who I want to target, I might not find that great opportunity just around the bend.”

Now I know that’s risky thinking. Perhaps I would get lucky from time to time and find a great client here and there.

But I don’t want hope and lucky for my business. I want great customers every damn time.

To be truly great at something you need a goal. A target. An Olympics. Do you think Shaun White just decided:

“I’ll let the wind take me where it may?”

Maybe when he was young. But at a certain point he got dead serious about winning competitions and gold medals. You can’t get to the Olympics if you don’t decide that you want to be there.

Targets give you steps and clarity.

Clarity Breads Momentum

Once I stopped thinking that everyone was my customer, and got real serious about serving a very specific one, opportunities started coming out of the woodwork. Not only that, but I found high leverage activities that never existed before.

People ask me to be on their podcasts. They ask me to write for their websites. They even offer to send emails to their lists on my behalf promoting my products.

It seems like at each turn there is more and more opportunity for our business.

A lot of that has to do with our team, our culture, and our passion for what we do. But I’m almost certain that without a clear target we would be treading water. I know because I’ve had a great team and great culture before without a clear understanding of who our customer was.

It was chaos. Frustrating. We rarely got that “big break.” Everything was based on hope and luck.

If you are struggling with getting focused around a specific customer segment or maybe you want to share some of the benefits of getting focused, let me know on Twitter.

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