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Customer Journey

How to Improve Your Customer’s Journey

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In today’s podcast, I want to talk with you about something I’ve been thinking about a lot. It’s actually one of the key elements in my next book. But first, let’s start with some back story.  In the 80s, there was a brand that became a cultural hit called Members Only. Yes, I had a Members Only jacket, there, I admit it. The tagline for the companies’ line of apparel was, “When you put it on, something happens.”

Later we can talk about how goofy this is but today here’s my point – what if you could come to think about your customer or clients or patients or whatever you call them – as members.

Now, I’m not merely suggesting you create a membership aspect to your business. However, that might be a great model for you; I’m suggesting that you think this way about them.

If you did, it might change how you innovate, iterate, and support every aspect of your business.

In a stable membership relationship, your goal is to help every member get the transformation they are seeking. So, naturally, you would care more about them getting a result than you getting a transaction. If that were so, you would have to ask yourself much harder (or at least different) questions.

Questions to answer during the podcast:

  1. Where are our customers now in terms of the results they want?
  2. What are the characteristics of customers in each of these stages?
  3. What milestones must they achieve to move to the next stage?
  4. What activities or action steps must they take to achieve each milestone?
  5. What systems must we create to ensure passage through the stages of the success journey?

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

 

Klaviyo logoThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. If you’re looking to grow your business there is only one way: by building real, quality customer relationships. That’s where Klaviyo comes in.

Klaviyo helps you build meaningful relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers, allowing you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages.

Want to learn more? Head to Klaviyo.com/ducttape to schedule a demo.

Ideal Client

Think Smaller to Innovate Today

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

Right now, at the beginning of May 2020, a lot of businesses are encouraging you to innovate. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer, bakeries are teaching online classes, and so on. This has many people asking; What should I do? How should I innovate? I love all these ideas that are happening right now but I’d caution that this level of pivoting doesn’t apply to everyone.

What if instead, you decided to think smaller? What if you decided to look at your business and tried to figure out who your ideal customers are? This group is typically your top 20% of all customers. How can you serve them better? 

Once you’ve figured out who they are, how to serve them better. What would happen if you created methods and systems to do that quicker, more systematically, with even better results?

Questions to answer during the podcast:

  1. Who are our best clients?
  2. What do we excel at doing?
  3. How can we do it better?
  4. How can we impact the entire ecosystem of our best clients?
  5. Can we create systems to do it?

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

 

Duct Tape Marketing Consultant NetworkThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by The Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.

Did you know that Duct Tape Marketing is more than a powerful system for marketing small businesses? It’s a network of independent marketing consultants who use the Duct Tape Marketing methodology to help small businesses to grow. Check it out at ducttape.me/123go

How to Build Your Ideal Client

If someone asked you right now who your ideal client was, would you be able to tell them? Having a clear picture of your ideal client is a critical part of growing your business. It’s nice to want to do business with everybody, but realistically, there are going to be some who are a better fit for your business than others.

When you get really clear about who you work best with, you can begin to seek out prospects who fit that perfect mold. And when you’re targeting the right prospects, you’re spending less time on folks who will never convert. Instead, you’re building up a base of clients who will be thrilled with your work and enthusiastic about referring you to others.

So how do you build your ideal client? These five steps will help you develop a crystal-clear, refined vision of just who they are.

Before We Dive In…

There are a lot of small business experts out there who are pushing the idea of zeroing in on your niche from day one. While we are firm believers in serving your ideal clients, we’d also caution strongly against settling into a niche too quickly.

When you start a business, you think you know who you want to serve. But sometimes, through the course of running your business, you discover that your ideal client is actually someone very different from the person you envisioned.

When you niche too early in the process, you cut yourself off from the possibility of discovering your ideal client organically. No, you can’t leave things open-ended forever, but it doesn’t serve you to come in with a rigid and narrow set of expectations from the start.

1. Begin With Profitability

Once you’ve been in business for a while, it’s time to develop a sketch of your ideal client. The first step is to consider profitability. No matter how awesome a client is personally if they’re not paying your bills, they should not be your main focus.

Take your full list of clients and rank them from most to least profitable. Are there any commonalities among those at the top?

These similarities might be demographic, behavioral, psychographic, or geographic. Perhaps clients in a certain age bracket are the most profitable. If yours is a B2B, there might be one industry that stands out.

When it comes to behavioral traits, are there certain purchasing habits or ways of interacting with your brand that these profitable clients have in common? Maybe you find that your best clients are very active on social media.

Psychographics are about people’s values, attitudes, interests, and motivations. Do your clients have similar beliefs or lifestyles?

Lastly, consider geography. Is there a certain geographic area where your best clients reside or work?

2. Who’s Referring You?

Your best customers aren’t just those who are giving you a lot of business themselves. Your top-tier clients are also referring you to others. Up next, take a look at which of your clients are referring you, how often they’re doing it, and how frequently those referrals result in new business. As with the profitability ranking, it’s helpful to chart this all out so that you can fully visualize where each client stands.

Paying attention to referrals isn’t just about making yourself feel good. Sure, it’s flattering to know that someone liked your product or service so much that they told their friends about it, but it’s bigger than that.

People who refer you to others are having a best-in-class experience with your business. And they’re having that experience not just because you strive to give everyone great service, but because what you offer aligns perfectly with their needs.

When you see them referring you to others—and those referrals also signing on as clients—you know you’ve honed in on a very narrow, specific segment who needs the solution you provide and loves the way you solve their problem. And that’s what an ideal client really is.

 

 

3. Go Straight to the Source

Analyzing profitability and referrals is a great place to start, but you can’t stop there. If you want to fully understand how your business’s solution relates to your ideal client’s needs, you’ve got to ask them. Now that you know who your top clients are, reach out and inquire if you might have a bit of their time.

Depending on your business, there are a number of ways to gather feedback. An email survey is often the quickest and easiest way to reach your ideal clients. But if possible, a call or in-person meeting can help you gain even more insight into their needs, wants, and behaviors.

These are the types of questions you should ask your customers:

  • What’s most important to you?
  • How do you define success?
  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • What’s a typical day for you?
  • What holds you back from making a purchase?
  • How do you research prior to buying?
  • How do you come to a final purchase decision?
  • What influences you? (i.e. publications you read, social media personalities you follow, etc.)

These questions help you to reinforce or reevaluate your earlier assessment of common traits. Sometimes these interviews unearth another shared trait to consider. Other times they help you understand the connection between two seemingly unrelated traits that kept appearing in your clients’ profiles.

4. Get Clear on the Must-Haves versus the Nice-to-Haves

By this point, you’ve developed a clear picture of the type of client you’d like to attract and have clearly defined their problem and how you solve it. Now it’s time for you to get clear on your dealbreakers. When it comes to your clients, what are the must-haves, what’s nice to have, and what’s an ideal quality?

By grouping the traits you’re looking for into these three buckets, you can quickly and easily evaluate each prospect that comes your way. If they’re missing a must-have trait, you shouldn’t do business with them. Nice-to-haves, on the other hand, are negotiable.

It’s always a good idea to start with your must-haves. Be realistic—it doesn’t pay to have a mile-long list of must-haves—but on the flip side, don’t omit qualities that really are your must-haves for the sake of being nice or easy-going. You’re not sharing this list with clients, so it’s okay to be honest about the traits you need your clients to possess.

From there, move onto your nice-to-haves. These are the traits or characteristics you’d really like to see, but you can still work with a client even if they don’t tick all these boxes. For example, as a marketing consultant, we find it’s nice to work with clients who have an internal marketing person. It makes it easier to execute on the strategic vision we outline for their business. However, we can still do great work with a business that doesn’t yet have an in-house marketing team, so we’re happy to talk with businesses that don’t have that capability yet.

Finally, you move onto your ideal traits. This is more about those psychographic and behavioral traits we talked about earlier. Do they share your core beliefs? For example, if you run a B2B and want to work with businesses that give back to their community, that goes on your ideal traits list. Sure, you’ll consider clients who don’t incorporate giving into their business model, but the business who shares a percentage of their profits with local environmental groups and helps plant trees in your community every spring is a business you aggressively target and pursue.

5. Create Buyer Personas

The last step in all of this hard work is making sure that you stay true to your convictions. You’re armed with all of this information about your ideal clients and the type of people you’re most excited to work with. Now it’s time to spell that out so it always guides your sales and marketing strategies.

Most businesses won’t have just one ideal client, and that’s why it’s helpful to create personas to represent the handful of clients you’d like to target. Personas are essentially sketches of each of your ideal clients.

These personas should include answers to the following questions:

  • What does this persona look like (demographics, psychographics)?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What behaviors help you identify them?
  • What objections must you overcome?
  • Where do they get their information—books, websites, social platforms, magazines, etc.?

Some businesses go so far as to create actual profiles for these personas, complete with a name, picture, and bio for each. Whether you take this more creative route or prefer to keep this information in a word document or spreadsheet, what matters is that you make it easily accessible for your reference.

Each new prospect that you encounter should be evaluated against your personas. Do they fit one of your profiles? If not, they’re likely not worth pursuing.

Business owners are sometimes afraid to get this specific in building their ideal client. They fear they’ll shut out prospects and miss a great opportunity. But the reality is, the more specific you can be in defining your ideal customer, the more likely you are to attract the right type of prospect. And in the end, it’s about quality, not quantity.

ideal client

Getting Started with Defining Your Ideal Client

If you loved this podcast and post check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch About Defining Your Ideal Client

Let me ask you this, if you have clients, and had the chance, right now, to chuck them all, and be able to go out there and say, “I can work with anyone I want to work with,” would you still be working with who you’re working with today?

Experience tells me that you would say, maybe some, but probably not all. That comes from the feeling that anybody who buys what you do, or anybody who needs the products that you make or sell is an ideal client.

What you have to do in order to get your marketing strategy started, is you have to think about how you can narrowly define your ideal client.

  • What do they look like?
  • What are their problems?
  • How do they want to be served?
  • What do they think value is?

I’m going to talk a little more about each of those, but you have to get to the point where you are so sure about how to describe that ideal client, that you are also defining who your ideal client is not.

Let’s say I wanted to refer business to you, whatever your business is. I’ve got friends, neighbors, and colleagues that need what you do, and so I came to you and said, “Hey, I want to send some folks your way, I really love what you’re doing.”

How would I spot your ideal client? Think about that. That is one of the greatest places to start when you’re thinking about how to narrowly define your ideal client is if somebody came to you and said, “Okay, how would I spot that person?”

Could you define and describe all the characteristics of your ideal client in a way that I’m going to say, “Oh, okay, yeah, I know a couple people like that.”

That’s what you’re really after.

Finding your ideal client

It’s really important that you develop the habit of understanding who it is that you’re going after, identifying them, and building your entire business around attracting them.

You may get lucky and be able to define them quickly, but what I’ve experienced is that you start with a hypothesis, and over time, if you pay attention, you’ll learn who you like working with.

Your ideal client will find you, partly because of how your business evolves, because of how your messaging gets tighter, and because of the results you’re getting for people like them.

If you’re just starting you don’t have to have the answer to who your ideal client is.

You have to have an idea, and you have to try to prove that hypothesis, but mainly you have to pay attention, because I know a lot of people that have decided that they love working in certain industries, or in a certain niche, and they had no idea they would, it just found them.

They started working with a couple clients like that, and they discovered what they really enjoyed doing.

So what if you do have clients and still haven’t defined this idea of an ideal client? Take a look at the stratifying of your current client base.

What I mean by that, is rank each client by profitability.

When I do this with people, I often help them discover that there is work that they’re doing, or segment that they’re serving or a product or service that they are still engaged in that maybe they did when they started, but it’s not something they focus on anymore because it’s not really profitable.

What I find happens, is that a lot of businesses don’t realize that there are certain segments of their market or their community or certain demographics that they do most of their business in.

That’s step number one.

Focusing on the customer experience

Step number two is this idea of actually looking at those folks that refer you today.

What I found is your most profitable clients who also refer you, typically do so because they were the right fit, they had the right problem, they went after the right service, they really engaged and they allowed you to do the work that you knew you needed to do.

Consequently, they were profitable. They’re also referring you because they like you, they like doing business with you, and they like your people.

Typically if people have a great experience, they’re going to be more inclined to refer you.

What are the common characteristics of your most profitable clients who also refer you today?

What I want you to do is think about more narrowly defining who makes an ideal client for you based on that discovery, or based on the fact that you did some analysis on your current customers.

This doesn’t mean you’re never going to serve anybody else, but it does need to become the filter where you go out, and you start prospecting and where you change your messaging to attract that ideal client, client niche, or those industries that you specialize in.

Because there is a real practical reason for this, you’ve already decided, or determined that they make an ideal client based on profitability and referral, but there’s also an expectation, that once you start narrowly defining who makes an ideal client for you, you can then go to work on more narrowly defining what their problem is, and your promise to solve that problem.

Solving your ideal client’s problems

People aren’t looking for our products and services, they’re looking to get their problems solved. The person who can define the problem the best quite often is not only the one that gets the business but in many cases is paid a premium as well.

This is a very practical reason to narrowly define your ideal client.

The primary reason people don’t do it, is that they fear that they’re going to turn potential business away, and I get that in the beginning certainly, but over time, you’re going to discover that turning that business away is the most profitable thing that you can do.

Narrowly defining your ideal client

Defining your ideal client starts with things like:

  • Demographics
  • Businesses
  • If you’re working with individuals
  • Age

Those are the kinds of things that a lot of people go towards when it comes down to narrowly defining their audience. Those are important, but I want you to think about three specific categories.

In regards to your clients, you’re going to have must-have, nice-to-have, and ideal. Those are your three categories.

The Must-Have

In my case, my must-have is a client has to be a small business owner. You must have the budget to afford what you sell, or what, in my case, what I sell. You must have the decision-making ability.

From there you can get into breaking down the types of businesses, and other requirements that you put into the must-have category.

The Nice-To-Have

The next one is nice-to-have. Again, in my world, if a business owner has a marketing person internally, they may not be a strategic marketing person, but if they at least have somebody that is doing Facebook for them or doing the newsletter for them, that is a great nice-to-have, because I can actually add even more value by helping them manage that person. Once I get through the must-haves, then I start looking at nice-to-haves.

The Ideal-To-Have

Ideal starts to get into more of behavior. For example, the owner participates in their industry, they are active on their board, and they are very interested in having other outside professionals other than marketing.

If I’m starting to describe my ideal client, those are the things I want to break it up into. Those must-haves are deal breakers. If they don’t fit in the must-haves you don’t talk to them.

The nice-to-haves are the ones that you’re going to put in a little extra effort to try to build a relationship or to try to get in front of, and then if you’ve got some of the ideal-to-have, then that’s somebody you want to go and really prospect, and you want to focus a lot of time and attention on, and give them value over and above any of what you might see as your normal marketing, because that’s somebody that’s going to be an ideal client.

Once you have that ideal client, you could start to move all of your targeting to that. If you’re building Facebook audiences, you could move to that narrowly defined ideal client. All of your ads should be speaking to that ideal client.

It’s okay to have multiple ideal clients, but once you have those, they need to really be the basis for all of your language, all of your website copy, all of the ads, so that you are clearly articulating the problem that that ideal client has, and how you’re uniquely suited to solve that problem.

When you do that and when you make the basis that strategy of defining an ideal client the basis of all of your marketing, guess what?

You get to choose who you want to work with. That will make life a whole lot better.

choose ideal client

Understanding, Narrowing, and Choosing Your Ideal Client

In marketing today it’s common to hear that you must know who your target audience is in order to be effective with your marketing. This mostly implies that you determine the makeup of a market that your business is most likely to attract.

What bothers me about this simple approach is that it has a lowest common denominator element to it – who can we attract?

Instead, I like to take the point of view of – whom do we deserve to work with?

This thought process led me to the idea of defining an ideal client which ties together both behavior and demographics. Identifying who this is from the beginning will save you tons of time going in circles trying to be all things to all people.

It really is a game changer and here’s how I recommend getting started.

Choosing your ideal client

Have you ever considered the following question? – What qualities would your ideal clients have? Thinking through this is quite a liberating feeling, no? Don’t you deserve to work with clients who appreciate the value you bring to them?

I know that might sound a bit egotistical, but it really isn’t. At the end of the day, if you want to work with the people you want, then you need to step up your game so that can deserve to do so.

I recommend getting started by exploring the types of clients you don’t want to work with. Until you know who you don’t want to work with, who you must work with, who you choose to work with, it’s easy to take work and clients that drag you away from the work you deserve to be doing (we’ve all been there and know what a headache it can be).

Who can you deliver the greatest value to, who do you enjoy working with, and who needs what you do most? Write a detailed description of your ideal client and include as much about them as possible including the problems they are trying to solve. Give some thought to how you might reach them and appeal to them. Use your best clients today to help you think about what makes them ideal for you. (Hint: they are profitable and perhaps they refer others to you right now.)

Consider following these steps to best identify them:

Step 1: What are the must-haves to be a client – this is stuff that naturally narrows your list – must be 18 years or older, must own a home – that kind of thing.

Step 2: What are the generally looked for attributes – no required, but preferred – perhaps it’s an age range, geographic location, or special interest.

Step 3: What makes them ideal – what are the attributes that make them your best prospects – perhaps they have a certain business model, unique problem, at a certain point in life or business.

Step 4: What behavior do they exhibit that allows you to identify them? Do they belong to industry associations, tend to sponsor charitable events, read certain publications?

I recommend starting with the smallest market possible. You must find a group of clients who think what you have to offer is special and can scale from there.

How to understand and speak to your ideal client

Now that you’ve narrowly defined who your ideal client is, you must spend ample amount of time understanding them in order to properly use them across the various strategic elements of your business. Knowing who makes an ideal client allows you to build your entire business, message, product, services, sales and support around attracting and serving this narrowly defined group.

Once you dig deep and profile the common characteristics you should also start asking yourself some questions about these folks.

  • What brings them joy?
  • What are they worried about?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • What do they hope to gain from us?
  • What goals are they striving to attain?
  • What experience thrills them?
  • Where do they get their information?
  • Who do they trust most?

Having answers to the questions will allow you to more fully address their wants and needs in every interaction and communication. Once you have this understanding, you can start tailoring your efforts to best speak to them.

Refocus your message

Matching your message to your ideal client is a must when it comes to marketing these days. A message that connects is one that clearly talks about what your ideal client wants more than anything else in the world – which is to solve their problems.

You must let them know that you understand what they really want. Let me let you in on a little secret: Nobody really wants what you sell – they want their problems solved – period.

I recommend making a list of the problems you solve for the clients you help the most. If you’re having trouble thinking about your client’s problems, think a bit about the things they tell you.

For example, a lot of our prospective clients might say things like – we just want the phone to ring more, so that’s what we tell them we can do for them (we don’t immediately dive into our SEO and marketing services).

That’s how you refocus your message so that it’s all about your amazing clients and the problems they want to be solved.

Create trigger phrases

Your clients don’t know how to solve their problems, but they usually know what their problems are. If you can get really good at demonstrating that what you sell is the answer to their problem they really don’t care what you call it.

Break down every solution you sell and every benefit you attribute to what you do, and map it back to a handful of “trigger phrases.”

These phrases can be questions or statements or even anecdotes, but they must come from the point of view of the client.

Write website headlines

What we mean by this is write a big, bold statement that might be the first thing anyone who visits your website will see. Now ask yourself – would this statement get your ideal client’s attention more than something like “welcome to our website?”

Want some help creating your new message? Pick out a handful of your ideal clients and go ask them – what problem did we solve for you? Test your headlines with them. Ask them to describe what you do better than anyone else.

Pro tip: If your business receives online reviews study them carefully. While it’s awesome to get 5-star reviews pay close attention to the words and common phrases your happiest clients are using – they will write your promise for you in some cases.

Until you are working towards defining, understanding and speaking to who you truly deserve to be working with, success will elude you. I can tell you that my experience suggests that you’re never really done with this exercise. As your business evolves, as you learn and grow, this model will evolve as well, but perhaps the continual process of discovery is just as important as what you discover.

If you liked this post, check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy.

9 Customer Loyalty Is Mostly About Choosing the Right Customers

I know the title of this post might raise some eyebrows, but it’s true – most businesses have the exact clients they’ve chosen.

photo credit: LexnGer via photopin cc

photo credit: LexnGer via photopin cc

Now, you may not exactly love the clients you’ve attracted, but that’s because you don’t realize the power you wield when it comes to “choosing” your clients. Far too many business owners feel powerless in this regard and subject themselves to serving “anyone with money” or worse “anyone they hope will pay.”

I recently asked a group of business owners to tell me some of the attributes of their ideal clients. After we got through the requisite “they have money” and “they aren’t a pain to work with,” we wandered into some much deeper and meaningful territory.

This was a group of dance and music studio owners and for many the most important attributes had to do with mindset and behavior – “They ask lots of detailed questions” and “they see art, music and dance as ways to support healthy children.”

Wow, all of a sudden we had stumbled upon something extremely valuable. See, while all agreed that the real benefits of their service were self-esteem, wellness and better study habits, few did anything to promote and amplify those messages.

Eventually, they discovered that in their ideal clients, this was the common thread and yet, they feared that if they led primarily with the mantra of “healthy children through art,” they would turn away the “let’s put Sally in every possible competition” people.

And, of course, I had to remind them, that’s precisely the point.

While the “let’s put Sally in every possible competition” people did indeed have the money, they were hard on the staff, frequently disruptive and gone as fast as they came.

The real message here is that in order to build a business that truly can thrive you must understand who you are equipped to serve best and you must do everything in your power to attract, serve and choose them over all else.

13 You Get All the Ideal Clients You Create

Recently, I conducted an all day workshop in the West Texas town of Coleman. The event was organized by the town’s Economic Development folks and championed by a long time Duct Tape reader Greg Martin.

During then event I outlined the Duct Tape Marketing System in great detail.

ideal client

photo credit: mallix via photopin cc

As any long time reader here knows one of the first steps in my system is to narrowly define who makes an ideal customer for your business. The endpoint involved in this step can be best summed by this statement – How would I spot your ideal customer?

The path to this endpoint involves lots of study focused on your most profitable customers that already refer – the maim reason to start here is that profitable client are usually profitable because they have the right problem or are the type we can serve well. Because of that fit they usually have the kind of experience that leads them to refer.

The trick of course is to understand why that is. Understand why they are profitable, why they are such a good fit, why they work so well, why they don’t come for low price, why they let us show them how to get value.

The reason to go to this amount of work dissecting and narrowing our focus is twofold. First off, we want to do what we can to attract more of those ideal folks. But, it’s just as important in terms of figuring out how to train, educate and work with every client in a way that makes them ideal.

When you better grasp what makes a great client great, you’re more equipped to create the intentional processes that can turn a not so ideal client into one that behaves like one.

The net effect of all of our marketing is that we get the clients we deserve or create based on how and what we communicate before, during and after the sale. Understanding that gives you complete control of the outcome.

Shortly after the Texas event I received the email below from event organizer Martin and I’ve reprinted it here as he sums this idea up as well as I could have.

I had an interesting discussion with one of our fellow Small Biz Workshop attendees a few days ago.  During our conversation, we got on the topic of the Ideal Customer.  He said something that started me thinking, and it was likely something that most of us are struggling with as we consider the ideas we heard in the Workshop.

“The Ideal Customer is a nice concept and I wish we could focus on just the best customers.  But, truth is, in our market, we have to pay attention to all of our customers.  In our world, our Ideal Customer is the next one to walk through that door.”

I knew that he was somehow not grasping the point John was trying to make.  I also knew that I didn’t have a better answer for him in that moment.  But, later that evening, I had an epiphany…

The Ideal Client is a concept worth considering and worth pursuing.  And, here’s why.  There is little doubt that the gentleman I was talking to could go over his client list and quickly point out the “great” clients or customers.  He knows exactly who they are, simply because he lives and breathes this business every day.  It’s quite likely that he could pick 4 or 5 and say “If I had 100 or 1000 customers just like this group, my business would run more smoothly, we would grow, and we would be more profitable.”

Here comes the epiphany part…

The probable reason those 4 or 5 are “Ideal” is because they pay on time, they are NOT especially price sensitive, they come in regularly instead of waiting until there is an “urgent” need, and because they refer others.  But, and here’s the big “but”…

The question to ask once you have identified this small group is; “Why do they pay on time, why are they not terribly concerned about price, why do they come in regularly, why do they refer your business to others, what do they say when the refer your business to others?”

For example, they may not be price sensitive because they Trust you and because they Value the service you provide.  Even if you are selling a retail product, there is still a service component in the way it’s delivered to you, the experience you have in the store, the availability you provide, the comfort level you have that you weren’t “sold” something you didn’t need, etc.  Same for the other aspects that make them great clients.  They understand the value you are providing.

And now, the “a-ha” moment.  Yes, you are in a limited market.  So, you DO need all the customers, not just the Ideal ones.  But,….  By understanding what makes your Ideal Client tick, you now have the opportunity to educate the “other” clients and move them along the path to becoming Ideal Clients.

Your clients that are less than ideal are not that way because they choose to be.  They just don’t know what your great clients know.  It’s possible that your great clients learned what they know from someone besides you and you are now reaping the benefits.  Maybe they did get the information from you, but it was by accident or it was because you have a closer “relationship” with those clients.

The point is, finding out “why” they behave in an Ideal Client manner is fantastic info for you.  Once you have that information, you can systematically begin making sure that all of your clients know as much about how to be good clients as that small group of Ideal Clients knows already.

Just my two cents.
Greg Martin

So, with this in mind let me ask you this – what kind of client do you deserve?

If you liked this post, check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy.

9 Who Would You Choose to Be Your Customers?

Much has been said in marketing circles about target markets, demographics, psychographics and other ways to define who and what makes an ideal customer.

personas

photo credit: Fulvio’s photos via photopin cc

The notion mostly implies that you determine the makeup of a market that your business seems suited to attract.

The thing that’s always bothered me about this simple approach is that it sort of has a lowest common denominator element to it – who can we attract?

What if you changed this point of view to something more like – whom do we deserve to work with?

Have you ever considered the following question? – What qualities would our ideal customers have?

I’ve spent the last few years evangelizing this idea of an ideal customer. For me the idea implies behavior as much as demographics.

And here’s the other thing, don’t you deserve to work with customers that appreciate your unique value?

Now some might suggest the idea of choosing your customers as somewhat egotistical, but it’s not at all. If you want to work with the leaders in your marketplace, then you better up your game so that can deserve to do so. It’s actually quite a humbling and centering idea.

I was talking about this very idea with a long time friend the other day. Eric Morgenstern’s firm, Morningstar Communications has experienced tremendous success and his roster of client reads like a “most desired” list.

Eric heard me share my thoughts on ideal customer during a presentation to a group of business owners and he later told me how behavior plays an extremely large part in the clients they seek out and, perhaps as importantly, those they don’t.

“Our clients are nice, smart and successful. Two out of three is not sustainable.”

“We’ve observed:

  • Companies that are “involved in the community” tend to value effective communications, and our high level of service.
  • Companies that are “lifelong learners” tend to value effective communications, and our high level of service.
  • Companies that are true leaders believe, “. . . an educated customer is a great customer.”

Those are correlations that help us assess each individual prospect.

So much is a gut feeling . . . about the organization and its leadership, based on expertise and experience.”

So, gather the troops and start asking about ideal customer behavior, traits and qualities that define success.

Begin by exploring personas that you don’t want to work with. Persona is a term that takes its meaning from the idea of a theatrical role. In marketing the term is used to describe the common characteristics of a customer group much like the make up of a character in a play.

A client of mine did this exercise for his design and consulting business and was able to complete sketches of the kinds of clients they did not want to work with in such a way that it made it much easier to define what ideal looked like.

He used personas with names like Lottery Winners and Destined to Be Small to frame qualities that made up red flag customers. He even went as far as to identify customers that he was no longer going to work with.

That’s the funny thing about getting some clarity around this idea – until you know who you must work with, who you choose to work with, it’s far too easy to take work and customers that drag you away from the work you deserve to be doing.

Saying it doesn’t make it so, but until you are working towards defining, understanding and nurturing who you truly deserve to be working with success will elude.

6 Chasing the Wrong Prospects Is the Basis of All Pricing Problems

The problem with casting a wide net and attempting to attract anyone that sort of needs what you do is that sometimes it works.

Look through your client roster and tell me about your most troubling clients. The ones that came to you based on price, left and came back for the same reason, beat your staff up and always wanted one more thing. These are the ones that demanded you lower your price to meet competition and of course you threw in some extra services and tolerated their demands for customized arrangements.

These clients that weren’t a good fit kept you from charging what you’re worth or having the confidence to turn away business based on price.

Chasing the wrong prospects is the basis of all pricing problems.

One of the most important components of any marketing strategy is the clear understanding of a narrowly defined ideal client – lacking this you will always struggle to compete on price.

Below are five elements that must be considered to properly remain focused on an ideal client for your business

Target ideal

Of course the first step is understand what ideal means to you. I always get to this quickly by asking clients to consider a client that they could honestly describe in these terms – “if I have ten more clients just like that, life would be great.” We all have dream clients and if you can stop and understand what it is about them that makes them so, you’re on your way to having the definition of the ideal client.

Everyone focuses on things like demographics and these elements are important, but the biggie for me is shared behavior. Is there a common behavior, such as leadership participation in their industry trade group that signals ideal over above things like business size and need.

Share the picture

Once you have the characteristics of an ideal client you need to create as detailed a sketch as you can and come up with a description you can use publicly to help attract prospects that see you are focused on them.

Create a test

Once you start casting for ideal clients you need additional ways to make certain you’ve done your job. I own a marketing company and sometimes people are attracted to what they think I do, but in reality they aren’t a fit at all. We use a qualifying process that helps us communicate how we work best while requiring prospects to submit to a process that demonstrates their commitment to getting the solution we offer.

In a way this process presents some friction that helps keep those that aren’t serious about working in a manner that we know works at a distance. If a prospect won’t sit still for a valuable initial process they probably won’t sit still as you try to get them a result.

Demand education

Your marketing process must be designed to educate, build trust, demonstrate how your approach is different and build value for your proposition. It’s important to demand that your prospects get this education.

I know this sounds a little harsh, but the quickest path to the wrong client is to create a client that doesn’t have the proper expectation about how you work, what you expect of them, and why what you do provides so much value. It’s your responsibility to create this education and your duty to make certain that your prospects get this education. The goal is mutual fit and that takes work

Raise your prices

Do everything I’ve mentioned above then start looking the ideal prospects directly in eye and charging what you’re worth – a rate I suspect is not what you’re charging today.

Get the right client, educate them properly and say goodbye to pricing problems.

11 How to Discover Your Perfect Target Customer in 5 Steps

One of the most important elements of a marketing strategy is the development of an ideal target customer profile. Effectively understand who makes an ideal customer allows you to build your entire business, message, product, services, sales and support around attracting and serving this narrowly defined customer group.

Image See-ming Lee SML via Flickr CC

When working with businesses that have an established customer base I can generally identify their ideal customer by finding the common characteristics found in their most profitable clients that also refer them to others. I’ve written about this kind of ideal client discovery here.

Today, however, I want to address the needs of the start-up or business with very little customer experience. Finding and serving an ideal customer is equally important for a business just getting started and establishing a focus on discovering a narrowly defined ideal client from the very beginning will save months of wandering in the dark trying to be all things to all people.

The 5 steps below can put you the path to discovering your ideal target customer.

1) Start with the Smallest Market Possible – This may feel counterintuitive to many just starting a business, but you have to find a group of customers that think what you have to offer is special. When you’re just getting started you may have very little to offer and in many cases very few resources with which to make sufficient noise in a market for generic solutions.

Your key is to find a very narrow group, with very specific demographics or a very specific problem or need and create raving fans out of this group. You can always expand your reach after you gain traction, but you can also become a big player in this smaller market as you grow.

2) Create an Initial Value Hypothesis – In the step above I mentioned the idea of finding a narrow group that finds what you have to offer special. Of course, this implies that you do indeed have something to offer that is special.

You must create a “why us” value proposition and use that as you hypothesis for why us. If this is starting to sound a little like science that’s because it is. You must always stay in test and refine mode in order to move forward.

Many people get caught up in trying to execute their business plan when the fact of the matter is the market doesn’t care about your business plan. The only thing that matters is what you discover and apply out there in the lab beyond your office.

3) Get reality in Discovery Test Sessions – Established, thriving businesses have the ability to learn a great deal every day from customer interaction. Since start-ups don’t have any customer interaction they have to create ways to test their theories initially and on the fly.

The key to both making and affirming your initial assumptions is to set-up what I call Discovery Test Sessions with prospects that might easily fit into your initial smallest market group. These are essentially staged one on one meetings.

This can be a little tricky since you have no relationship with said prospect. I often find that there are industry or trade groups that may contain your initial target market and by joining these you may have an easier time gaining access to this group.

Another possible option is to offer free sample products or beta test relationships to those willing to provide you with agreed upon feedback.

The main thing is that you start talking to prospects about what they need, what they think, what works, what doesn’t and what don’t have now. This is how you evolve your business, your features and your assumptions based on serving a narrowly defined target.

4) Draw an Ideal Customer Sketch – Once you’ve trotted out your hypothesis and tested it with your narrow group, you’ve got to go to work on discovering and defining everything you can about your ideal target group.

Some of this information will be commonly understood, such as demographics, but much of it will be discovered in your test sessions and though some additional research in more behavioral oriented places such as social media.

This is a great time to start your CRM thinking by building custom profiles that include much richer information than most people capture. I wrote about the new breed of CRM that is making this easier to do than ever.

5) Add Strategy Model Components – the final step is to apply this new ideal customer approach to other elements of your strategy.

The thing is, when you discover your initial ideal client it should impact the thinking about your basic business model and overall business strategy. All great business models are customer focused and now that you have a picture of this customer it’s time to consider how this alters the other aspects of your business.

Consider now how this discovery might impact your offerings, your revenue streams, distribution channels and even pricing.

Consider how you can reach this market, who you can partner with and what resources you either have or need to have in order to make an impact in this market.

I can tell you that my experience suggests that you’re never really done with this exercise. As your business evolves, as you learn and grow, this model will evolve as well, but perhaps the continual process of discovery is just as important as what you discover.

If you liked this post, check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy.