Most business owners start their business with an idea and a dream to make it big.
We take our passion, spend hours designing a business card, a website, or the inside of a store. We buy all the supplies and inventory we can think of, and then tell our Facebook friends and family about our new venture hoping for a flood of eager customers.
However, the majority of business owners don’t spend nearly enough time on critical aspects of their business that will attract the right customer.
While there are numerous other tasks and planning that need to be taken care of (like a business plan, financial planning, developing a brand, etc.), the one thing that is overlooked by nearly every business, and in my opinion is THE most important aspect, is…
Clearly identifying one’s customer.
Whether just starting in business or having been around for awhile, knowing who your customer is, deserves as much thought and time as anything else. It will bring necessary clarity and focus to your work.
Most business owners overlook this critical issue because we assume we already know who our customer is.
In reality, it’s a faint idea.
IF YOU BUILD IT THEY MAY OR MAY NOT COME.
Lacking a specific concept of our customer means we are hoping that someone, anyone, will buy from us or hire our services. Making the assumption that, “if you build it they will come” can be disastrous for any business in any industry.
Consider this example…
You want to open a boutique for women. Is it enough to know that you want a shop for women? Is the store for older women, younger women, moms, professionals, upper income, lower income, religious, athletic, whimsical women, girly, modern – you get the idea. They think differently. Boutique shoppers, especially, want to shop somewhere that they can relate to.
You need to identify who you want to walk in your front door.
Not knowing who you are in business FOR causes a lack of focus and confusion in what products to offer, or how to market your services. It makes your business unrelatable.
If you want people to come knocking on your door, then they need to know that you are in business for them.
WHO ARE YOU DOING BUSINESS FOR?
It’s not enough to want to be a photographer, sell jeans, bake cookies, or to help people with their taxes. For those of us in business, we need to ask ourselves who we are in business for.
- As a photographer, are you in business for first-time parents who want original photos of their newborns in pumpkins and baskets?
- Is your boutique going to carry jeans that 20-somethings will be drawn to, or would a middle-aged mother of a teenager be the one to find that perfect pair from you?
- As an accountant, will you specialize in helping small business owners with their taxes or are you going to relate better to individuals who are investors and have complicated returns?
Can you take photos of other people, sell something other than jeans, do taxes for folks who are neither a business owner or an investor?
The idea is to find your identity and do business while operating within that identity.
Individuals outside of your target market will come to you, but they will not be the core of your business.
IDENTIFYING YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
It may sound silly, but when it comes to identifying your ideal customer, it’s like creating a character for a book or movie.
Keeping in mind that more folks outside of your ideal client will do business with you – sit down and create a conceptual person that you imagine walking in your door or calling you on the phone for business.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when identifying your target customer. These are just some ideas of questions to ask yourself to help you define this person. You may think this is not relevant to your business…but it is! Close your eyes and visualize your customer walking down the street – tell me everything about them. Once you answer some questions, write a paragraph describing your customer and put it in your business plan.
Potential questions to define your ideal customer:
- What is their gender?
- Name? (Yes, give them a name! Like Suzy or Sam….)
- Relationship status.
- Do they work? What do they do?
- How much money do they make?
- What’s important to them?
- Hobbies and interests?
- Rent or own?
- What do they drive?
- Where do they live?
These are just some ideas to help you imagine who your customer is. Consider other aspects that are relevant to your business. Such as, for a photographer, how important are images to your client? Maybe they are budget-conscious when it comes to photos, or maybe they plop down a disproportionate amount of their income for a great portrait. Do they like formal, indoor images, or do they like outdoor pictures?
Paint a picture of “Suzy” or “Sam” (or whatever name you pick) and keep that picture clear in your mind. When you answer the phone, send an email, purchase merchandise, design a business card, anything you do – do it with them in mind.
If you are not doing business FOR someone, you are doing business for NO ONE.
When you identify your target customer and start doing business FOR them, you will begin to see your business grow and change.