What do you need to know about your prospective customers that you don’t already?

Stop the confusion, find out what you really need to know about prospective customers.

As proud as you are of what you do, the truth is, no-one will buy your product or service if they don’t understand why they need it in the first place. And, to understand what your customers need, you first have to know who they are. The more you know, the more targeted you can be with any marketing activity, and, the faster your business will grow.

Nevertheless, too many businesses still choose to skip this step, believing it to be difficult and time-consuming. However, the truth is, with a little research there is a wealth of information about your prospective customers just waiting to be uncovered. And, once you have this insight at your fingertips, your marketing activity will be propelled to the next level, leading to greater engagement and that all important ROI. For this reason, this year, before you look at marketing strategies and tactics, start by taking the time to find out who you are talking to.

So, just how do you go about defining your target audience in the first place?

Step one: figure out who YOU are

Before you establish what your customers look like, you have to know how you look to them. The more you know about who you are, the easier it will be to identify who you are likely to appeal to. Consider:

What is it you sell?

Think not only of products, features and service lines, but also the end benefits you provide. You might be selling accountancy services to sole traders or bubble bath to stressed mums, but ultimately, you are selling peace of mind and relaxation.

What is your Unique Selling Point (USP)?

What makes your product or service different from your competitors? Do you have separate USPs for various types of buyers? How much do you think this matters to your customers?

For more help, take a look at our post on how to nail your USP.

What do you sell the most?

Is this same as what you do best? Are there particular products/services that are not selling that you want to promote?

Where do you serve customers?

How easily can you supply to customers outside of this area? Does it make good business sense to do so?

Can you adapt your products/services to match your customers’ needs?

  1. Identify what these are.
  2. Does it make good business sense to do so?

The more you know about what you do, who you are and what you want to achieve, the easier it will be to establish what your customer's look for when making a buying decision.

Step two: understand your market

Before you drill-down into the particular needs and wants of your target audience, you first need to look at the bigger picture. Consider the size and location of your reachable market (the amount of available customers you can realistically compete for) and whether this market is growing or decreasing. Where possible, work out your current market share and your primary competitors in this space. And, importantly, identify any segments to establish which ones are the most attractive to you.

It may seem daunting, but much of this information is readily available online in the form of market reports and government studies. Invest in some desktop research and get to know your market inside and out.

Once you have completed this process, keep an eye on the main media channels to determine any political, economic, social or technological trends that might impact your potential customers. Not only with this knowledge afford you a greater insight into your market, it will also forewarn you of any future challenges it might face; putting you in prime position to solve them.

Step three: understand your current customers

Understanding your current customers is not only the key to delivering excellent service and repeat business, it is also the easiest way to figure out who else you should be targeting. Consider:

The demographics of your current customer base.

Interrogate existing data to find out as much as you can about your current customers. Include factors such as occupation, gender, age, income level, marital status, and location. If you provide B2B services, you should also factor in business type, annual turnover and the average number of employees; as well as any other useful information you hold.

The psychographics of your current customer base.

From attitudes and values to interests and lifestyle patterns, demographics define who your customers are, but psychographics explain why they buy from you. Whether you are in B2B or B2C, ultimately, you are selling to individuals. Get to know the likes and dislikes of your buyers.

Their current buying habits.

As well as understanding who your customers are, you also need to know what, how, when and how much they buy from you. Do they buy one particular product/service or multiple? How often do they renew this purchase and how do they do this (e.g. online or in store)? What is the length of the buying cycle? The deeper your understanding of the buying habits of your customers, the more you can use this information to target them in a manner that facilitates sales.

Why do they buy from you?

Do you provide a niche service that only you can provide, or do your customers return to you time and time again for another reason (quality, price, etc.)? Do people enjoy dealing with you or they do so because they do not have any other choice? What do they think about your competitors? Do they use them? And if so why? What is your market share when it comes to your existing buyers?

Why do they need you in the first place?

Does your product/service offer a solution to a problem that your customers have, and, if so, are you solving that problem? Do you appeal on an emotional level?

Use existing data, to figure out just who you currently appeal to and what matters to them. If you don't have this information readily available, look to employ customer surveys and interrogate social media to find out more. You can also learn a great deal about your customers by talking to them. But be prepared to listen to negative responses as well as positive ones!

Once you have identified your current customer base, you can then determine what they have in common, and any defined segments within this base. The more you know about who you already appeal to, and why, the easier it will be to identify and attract similar new customers.

Step four: map out what your ideal customer looks like

Now you understand the market available to you, and who you currently sell to, you can start to map out what your ideal customer looks like to you. Once done this will allow you to create highly targeted marketing campaigns that deliver that much sought after ROI.

Begin by using the data you have already gathered to create persona profiles for the different types of customers you want to attract. For B2B customers, segment this even further into buyers, influencers, managers, etc. within a company. With increased competition across media markets, customer identification and segmentation helps make sure we understand and meet the needs of all the different individuals within our target group.

Include information on demographics, psychographics and buying behaviour. Using the market research you conducted earlier, look to enhance these profiles by adding intelligence on their unique needs, motivations and challenges; and specifically, why they need you in the first place.

You will also need to supplement the data you have already gathered with additional desktop research. Examine your current website analytics to uncover which content, emails and offers people are engaging with and, which calls to action are generating the best response. In addition, interrogate web-browsing behaviour to track, not only what people are looking at, but also from where and how they are doing so. If you have access to enhanced web-tracking tools, be sure to use these to support this process. You can also use the Google AdWords ‘keyword planner’ tool to identify which keywords people use when searching for the services/products you provide.

Search for online reports that provide an insight into the consumption behaviours of different groups. For example, did you know that 60% of millennials rely on social media for keeping up to date with current affairs and news and 15% of those aged 50-59 watching a movie or a video on YouTube at least once a day?

Probe social media for additional insights into your ideal customer by looking at what they are posting, sharing and liking. And, monitor identified media channels and publications to determine any articles, blogs or forums that will help you establish what’s important to them.

Identifying and understanding your target market - who they are and what makes them tick - is essential to the long-term success of your business. It might seem overwhelming, but a properly defined audience is crucial to getting the right message, in front of the right person, at the right time, via the right channel. Let’s face it, even the most creative of marketing campaigns is as waste of time if it doesn’t reach your target audience.

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