Ideal Customers – What Do They Look Like?

It's such an easy question to ask: "Who's your ideal customer?" And it can be so challenging to answer! I was working with one investment firm as a client to one of my partner consulting companies to help them increase the ROI of their advertising when we ran into this problem head on. The ONLY thing they knew about their customer base was that they were wealthy.

As we dug into the conversation more, and more, their answers were enlighteningly similar - all they knew was that their customers were rich. And the reason that's all they knew about their customers is that they didn't realize that they needed to know more. In fact they fought the idea at first.

When we dug into their CRM we found that 70% of their clients were doctors. When we asked them about it, it turns out that they never tried targeting doctors because they believed that ALL rich people were their target audience so targeting a subset of that didn't seem to make sense to them at the time. When we targeted the local doctor networks in that month's local medical magazine and got them millions of dollars in new business by doing that, suddenly the lights came on and everything we had been talking to them about made sense.

Another example from my investment management client portfolio comes from a company and their website. They'd just spent over $140 million upgrading their websites around the world to help them grow their client-base. My job was to teach them how to review the traffic data through Google Analytics. On our first day of class, though it became apparent that their website suffered from a critical flaw that they hadn't understood. The flaw was that it didn't stand any chance of doing what they thought it would.

Their objective with the new website was to increase sales, so they built all their metrics around leads acquired and sales conversions from new visitors to the site, and already their upper brass were grumbling that the site wasn't living up to their plans based on the metrics for the site.

I asked them a few questions then about their ideal client and the conversation went something like this:

1) So what's the average size of sale for your client base?
Answer: Between $2 and 8 billion.
2) What's the average length of a sales cycle to close those accounts from first point of contact?
Answer: Minimum 6 months, often several years.
3) Your metrics are set for tracking new visitor sales, click throughs, and dolars per visitor, right?
Answer: Yes.
4) Your website is equipped to complete the sale automatically. How does it process the the ecommerce transactions?
Answer: We use our merchant account to process their credit cards.
5) So basically what you're saying is that you're measuring how many times a complete stranger that has never heard of your firm before is willing to drop between $2 and 8 billion on your site via a credit card transaction and you're wondering why measuring those results isn't showing exciting numbers?
Answer: Well, when you put it that way...

If you don't understand your ideal customer, you can't sell to them very effectively.

My point is that not all customers are created equal. You must research and identify who is the right customer for you. If you are lucky, they'll find you. Being a little more realistic and responsible, you have to actively seek them out. When you find them or reach them you must:

* identify the problem they have that you can solve, and
* sell them on your solution.

Before you determine your ideal client you must assess all possible clients in the broader niche you are in. Some prospective clients will be too expensive to serve. Some will be too expensive to sell. Some will never be satisfied. Then again, some others will be ideal clients.

So what will an ideal client look like? One or more of the following must be true:

- They find your product/service offering to be valuable.
- You offer a solution to at least one of their important problems.
- You create opportunity for them.
- Purchasing from you is a good investment for them.

Do you know who these customers are? Without them your business plan has no validity. Without them your marketing strategy will fall flat. Without them your vision of success is like a hot-air balloon that runs out of gas before it catches a thermal current to help it soar.

To sell well you must know your target market. Know what they want and what they need. If you don't know, or you aren't sure, find out.

Concurrently check in with your own business vision and mission. Why? Because, if you pick an ideal customer niche and you sign up to deliver a solution to their problem it had better be:

* something you are passionate about
* something you can be the best in the world at
* something extremely profitable for you