It might seem like a rather obvious question, but you would be amazed how many startups and small / medium businesses neglect to find out who their customer actually is.
Many will have a mental perception of who they imagine their ‘average customer’ to be, without much thought given to how accurate this perception is.
Whilst it is true, there are businesses whose products and services are so generally appealing, that it becomes impossible to conceive a notion of what their ‘average’ customer is, but in the vast majority of cases, there are usually distinguishing patterns.
Who is your customer?
“Probably not who you think it is”… well not exactly at any rate.
This is where the word ‘average’ becomes rather problematic.
There is no idealised and ‘average’ version of your customer, because there will always be variables which distinguish them from one another.
Let’s say you have discovered that 35% of your customers enjoy reading comic books - the largest common interest that you have been able to find amongst them. It may well be that the other 65% detest comic books, but in your quest to create an idealistically simplified version of your customer base, you will now assume that your ‘average’ customer likes comic books… which is not true.
(OKAY that was a rather laboured example, but you get the drift)
A more sensible approach would be, to identify common threads which can be found in a significant proportion of your customers, ignore the temptation to apply the threads to each and every one of them, but use it is a starting point to better understand some of the factors which make someone more likely to be drawn to your product / services.
These threads could be as simple e.g. age, gender, location or more complex like; internet habits, interests and employment status.
Why is it important to know?
Knowing common threads which can be found amongst your customer base, will allow you to market your business in a way which gives you the most value for your time, effort and money.
The concept is incredibly simple- people who share one or a number of the qualities of your current customers, have the potential to become customers themselves. Therefore at least some of your marketing should be made appealing to these people.
It can also allow you to assess how your customer base compares generally with your pre-startup expectations of it. Is there a demographic which you thought your products or services would appeal to but haven't? If your market research suggested this then what steps can you take to increase your custom from this group?
How can you identify these common threads?
In the Biz they would call this “capturing customer data”- which is a tad too stuffy for us, but the two are one and the same.
Without intimate knowledge of individual businesses, it is impossible to suggest a foolproof and water right way for you to identify some of the common threads in your customer base. The amount and quality of information that you are able to collect depends on a number of factors including; the level of interaction between you and your customer, whether you hold any personal data on them and whether your engagement with them takes place online / face to face / over the phone.
Generally though, there are some methods which can come in quite handy when trying to discover information about your customers, here’s a few of them.
Use the information that you already have including; addresses from deliveries, telephone numbers (which can indicate location) and any data that you hold about your customers including age, gender etc.
If you have a website, use web analytics to gather a wealth of information about the people visiting your site and your customers. It can also be worth taking a look at some social media analytics tools like Twitter analytics.
Take in as much as you can about customers during any face to face contact
Create a survey for your customers to complete (but be sure to offer them a little incentive). This could take many forms including a paper questionnaire, an email or an online survey via a professional survey business.
Hopefully we have given you a little inspiration to reexamine the way you think about your customers! Why not take a little look at some of these marketing tips and advice posts to out your findings into action.