If you’re running an online business, you’ll most likely want to attract visitors to your website or landing page, introduce them to your brand, products, or services, and eventually make them an offer whereby they’ll become loyal paying customers. Well if this was always the case, wouldn’t it make sense that the more visitors you got to your website, the more customers you should have? Not necessarily.
To be successful online and continue to grow, you need to get clear on a key ingredient to your company’s business model - Your Ideal Customer.
Without knowing who your ideal customer is, your business will likely turn into “everything for everyone” or “[insert product here] for everyone“ and will lack focus. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, it’s much more effective to target the best type(s) of customers by understanding who they are, what they want, and why they would be a great fit to buy your products and services.
Ask Yourself Why?
Most businesses know what they sell. Some businesses even know how they created what it is that they sell. However, very few can truly say why they are selling it.
Some founders go into business because they have a passion for something or have mastered a set of skills that they can use to provide value to people. Other times, entrepreneurs may see a problem or trend in the market and aim to solve it by gathering experts and building a new innovative solution. For example, when the founders of Airbnb saw the need for affordable housing in San Francisco, they went into the business of building a technology platform to solve this problem which went on to become a $10 billion dollar company.
Whatever the case may be for your business, in order to truly find your ideal customers, you need to ask yourself why you’re creating this business to begin with. Are you solving an existing problem in a innovative way? Do your products provide a delightful experience to someone’s day? Are you helping people grow their business? Or, does your company have a tool that allows customers to work more efficiently? Identify your Why and make sure you have a strong mission statement.
Identify Your Customer’s Location and Demographics
Before you can actually learn about your customers, you need to find out where they are and their demographics. Are they in a city or suburb? Where do they hang out? How old are they? Are they male or female? What nationality?
Keep in mind that this can also be places online. Think of the internet as a digital ecosystem of places and communities.
Here are some awesome tools available to help you find out where your customers are coming from.
With Google Trends, you can search for key terms and see which locations around the world are searching for those terms. For example, when I search for “Soylent”, I can see that the top city that is searching that term is San Francisco. This gives me a good idea of a city that my avatar might be from.
Few people know about Twitter’s advanced search capability - which is incredibly powerful. With it you can search for key terms, people, and places that will help you gauge the location and demographics of your ideal customers. If I were to search for “Soylent” in San Francisco, I can see that a writer at @producthunt is tweeting about it:
After doing a few searches on Twitter, I can start to get an idea of what types of people are tweeting about this product and where they are from.
You can also find out where customers are from and what they’re saying by looking around in other online communities:
- Facebook Groups
- LinkedIn Groups
Create a Customer P.L.A.N.
After you’ve determined where your customers are “hanging out” and having conversations, you’ll want to observe them closely and collect the essential information that will help you distinguish between those who are an “Ideal Fit” and those who wouldn’t be interested.
In Pat Flynn’s book Will It Fly, he talks about creating a customer P.L.A.N. This allows you to identify your customer’s Problems, Language, Anecdotes, and Needs which will give you a very clear picture of their current situation. From that information, you’ll be able to evaluate if your solution offers something of value and who would be the “Ideal Customer” that would resonate with what you have to offer.
To assist you in this exercise, we’ve created a Customer P.L.A.N PDF Worksheet that you can download for free.
Every person has some sort of pain or problem that they’re currently trying to solve. It’s essential that you understand your customer’s problems to better help them get to a solution.
A great question to ask a prospect is:
What’s your #1 biggest challenge with X right now?
As mentioned above, you can do some research online to find out which problems people may be facing, or you can simply reach out and ask them. A few other good questions would be:
- What don’t you like about your current situation?
- What frustrates you about X?
- What would your ideal version of X look like?
- What problems are costing you the most money right now?
- Do you use anything to solve X currently?
Language can say a lot about a customer’s situation - literally.
What are the questions, complaints, and keywords that can be extracted from your customer’s language? Are they using phrases like ”How do I..”, “I need help..”, or “I hate when..”.
You can find these types of phrases across the locations that your customers are hanging out. You might find them in blog comments, competitor product reviews, or Facebook group posts.
A challenging depth to unveil in business is Why? Why did someone buy? What was their deep desire? With anecdotes and stories you can start to pull back the curtains and gain context into a buyer’s decisions. With stories, you gather details of their history. It’s one of the best ways to empathize with someone’s life. If you know where they’ve been, how they found your products or services, and what motivated them to make a purchase, you’ll have a golden case to validate your business.
Look for places where deep conversations are forming. Quora is a great place to engage in discussions around questions people are having. This helps you explore the stories behind the questions and begin to empathize with people about their situation.
You can also simply ask people, “Tell me more about a time when X happened..”. People love to talk about themselves. If you can prompt them to tell a story, they’ll gladly share their experiences with you.
Most people don’t buy the “Nice to Haves”. They buy the “Needs and Desires”. The reason Airbnb was able to scale to the $10 billion dollar mark was because they were providing a service that people actually needed.
In much of the same way that you can identify someone’s pains and language, you can determine what someone needs by simply watching what they ask for. If they are asking for an affordable room to rent, you know that this is likely a need. If they are asking for a warm sweater for winter, that again would be a need.
While it could be tangible, it might also be a need for the intangible. Someone may need to feel loved, look professional, or feel focused.
People have all sorts of needs and when considering your “Ideal Customer”, you’ll want to get clear on which needs are the most important ones that your products or services can fulfill.
Write Their Ideal Story
Once you’ve gathered the data for your Customer P.L.A.N., you’ll want to write a story about their current situation and describe the ideal scenario where they would choose your products or services to achieve their desired goals.
In your story, you should give your customer a name and include where they are from. They should have existing problems or needs that they are currently, either solving or desiring to fulfill. They have a story about how they got to this place, and they speak in a language that highlights the details.
If you can understand and describe your customer’s needs, problems, and desires better than they do, they will begin to trust you as the expert and will consider what you have to be the solution. This is an essential exercise for effective marketing.
Knowing who your “Ideal” customers are is a critical piece of running a successful business. By searching for their Location and Demographics, you’ll know where your customers hang out and what type of people they are. With a Customer P.L.A.N, you can empathize and learn about your customer’s current situation. Finally, when you ask Ask Yourself Why?, you’ll be able to define your Ideal Customer’s Story and refine how you offer your products and services to best fit these people.
When you clearly know who your “Ideal” customers are, you’ll be able to successfully position your business toward those people and make an offer that they can’t refuse.