Who is your customer? Before you answer, if you are going to say “small business owners,” STOP. You can’t build a business foundation trying to read 25 million minds at once. Small business owners is not a niche it’s a population.
In my presentation at SOBCon07, I had a single slide that said
Choose your customers.
I didn’t spend nearly enough time talking about those three words.
The key to a successful business is truly connecting with the ideal customers for the service or product we offer. The process starts by doing what we love, because doing what we love makes good business sense. The next step is to find the folks who love what we do.
How do we do that?
Look to your past successes. Who has come to you in the past for what you love doing and then loved what you provided?
Make a list of the people who have already loved what businesslike thing you love doing for them. Now you have some idea of who your ideal customer might be. Use this model to see who on that list passes the Ideal Customer Test.
Ideal Customer Test
- The ideal customer is part of a group. You don’t really want customers who are loners. Let someone else sell to the hermits and the recluses.
- The ideal customer’s group is relational. They don’t have to sing kum-ba-yah by the campfire. Lawyers are relational. They talk to each other and ask what works. Even corporate clients check out the competition and do horse trading.
- The ideal customer wants to be better . . . to keep up with the folks at the front of the group.
- The ideal customer has money and the potential to make more.
- YOUR ideal customer looks a lot like YOU.
It’s true none of us are a field test or focus group, BUT, pay attention to that last point. If you are looking for the folks who love what you do . . .
Your ideal customer is likely to think, act, and respond like you, because it’s human nature to think people who think like we do are brilliantly smart.
That’s how our customers look like us.
That’s why they love what we do.
Skeptical — huh?
Try it this way It’s unlikely that an information geek is going to feel comfortable working with me. I’m just not linear. I’d send him to my friend. Greg Balanko-Dickson the Remote Control CEO. He’s a self-proclaimed information geek. The chart at the top of his blog shows the difference immediately. Greg does what he loves and the information geek would love what he does.
Do what you love in service to those who love what you do. —Steve Farber
Who loves what you do?
Next: Questions to Describe Your Ideal Customer
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Is your business stuck? Check out the Start-up Strategy Package. Work with Liz!!
To follow the entire series: Liz Strauss’ Inside-Out Thinking to Building a Solid Business, see the Successful Series Page.
Jesse Petersen says
I think that is why I am attracted to building blogs and making business cards for my business. People want them, and I love creating them.
ME Strauss says
And Jesse, people love what you do. 🙂
Greg Balanko-Dickson says
I have found two groups of people, those who you rightly assert are just like me – a bit toward the analytical side i.e. an information geek.
The second are those who realize the value of process, information, and know they could improve if they had the right information, structure, and focus.
Thanks for the recommendation Liz!
ME Strauss says
And look how ready you are with the right information. 🙂
Good on you!!
Awesome post Liz. I guess I am your ideal customer since I can resonate with your post 😉
The problem with some entrepreneurs is that they try to be all things to everyone. They become successful by offering a niche service. And then they go out and be all things to everyone. That’s when they get into trouble. While expansion is not bad in itself, doing so without a customer definition is disastrous.
ME Strauss says
I so agree with you. We can’t be all things to anyone. I call that worse than “sit-com business.” People who come by see something to diluted they cannot find themselves. . . . They’re looking for the ONE place that knows who they are. 🙂
This series is fantastic! The sequence, the content, the examples; you at your finest.
Thank you. So much.
Who loves what I do? Creative, bright women who want to make it happen. 🙂 (Liz has been working with me, and I am getting a bit more clear on this each day.) Yippee!?! (kicking up heels!)
Liz, I love what you said: “Theyâ€™re looking for the ONE place that knows who they are.” (And maybe, just maybe, our ideal customers will find us, instead of us having to track them down? Now there’s a thought!) 😉
Thank you for all your help, Liz. I don’t say it often enough, but I feel like shouting it from the rooftop. (Do blogs have rooftops? I think yours does.)
ME Strauss says
You are a creative, bright woman who is making it happen! I can see why women like that would be attracted to you.
Ha!! the law of attraction . . . hmmm where have I heard that. Maybe it’s so popular because it is common sense. 🙂
Alina Popescu says
Very interesting approach to the ideal customer. If the ideal customer is indeed like me, I am in trouble, cause he/she is way complicated 😛 Kidding 😛
My company’s customers however, are indeed from the small business to large companies and ISPs range, as we have targeted solution for startups, medium and large businesses. But that is not what defines them, you are right, there are other more important traits.
ME Strauss says
If you think about it, you and your customer have to agree on values. Big corporation or small business, they have to love what you provide; you have to love them to know them well enough to serve their needs. In that relationship you’ll find that you are alike in the core of the values around the product or service you provide. 🙂
It can’t NOT BE. If you weren’t alike, they wouldn’t buy from you. They wouldn’t like your service. They wouldn’t like you. 🙂
Which is not to say that you can’t be different in other ways. Then, my closest friend and I are so the same and so different. The father the customer gets from being one person, obviously the more removed this idea feels. Yet still at the core values . . . you are alike. Take a company that provides stationery on recycled paper. The business and the customers agree on the core value of recycling . . . they also share a care for the trees and the rainforest, writing, probably relationships. They are probably of a certain age group that predates computers growing up or at least values a time and a lifestyle that includes writing by hand — that lifestyle includes more than stationery.
Liz, you said two things in different comments that I really like:
–[Customers are] looking for the ONE place that knows who they are.
–Big corporation or small business, they have to love what you provide; you have to love them to know them well enough to serve their needs.
When you find that synergy, it’s downright intoxicating. Overwhelming. Spine-tingling. Maybe even life affirming. It’s important, though, to stay focused on the BUSINESS at hand — the intersection of your expertise with their needs. As with anything that’s “intoxicating” or “overwhelming”, it’s easy to lose your head, your focus. In the business sense, that can result in things like under-charging (in your zeal to make sure you don’t lose the deal) and other things.
When you keep your focus (and your head) while still leveraging the enthusiasm over the newfound synergy, your authenticity becomes even more apparent. Your passion becomes contagious. You become someone that others really want to have around.
ME Strauss says
Well said. Well said indeed. Once we know what we love and who we’re doing it for. The we can partner with our cusomters to look at the work together. It’s the service or product that is the center of the relationship. That’s the place where your interests lie and come together. 🙂
You’re so right. Looking too much at ourselves or too much at the customer is out of focus, out of balance and takes away from the work that we have in common. 🙂