The secret of how to attract and retain customers is to give your ideal customer their ideal customer experience.  Here I provide some methods for doing just that.

Starting up a business

Getting customers to buy your products or services is fundamental to a viable business.  And fundamental to getting customers is understanding who they are, what they need, and how, specifically, you fulfil that need.  Once you understand this, you can use that understanding to find and engage people that will want to be served by you.  You can also use this understanding to maintain engagement with them beyond a simple transaction.  You can create and retain loyal customers for as long as you continue to understand them and provide what they need.

In this article then I’m going to give you a process for understanding your customers AND for using this understanding to attract, serve and retain loyal customers.  There are essentially two steps:

  • Define your ideal customer
  • Define your ideal customer journey

So let’s get started with…

Defining your ideal customer

Your Ideal customer is the one that you serve best.  It’s the customer that you target your marketing toward.  Of course this doesn’t mean that you will only serve your ideal customer.  But, by targeting them in your marketing you are more likely to attract and retain enough high quality customers for your business to remain viable.  Existing businesses will usually identify their ideal customer using their existing customer base.  New businesses though need to start from scratch.     

Start with your Why

In the second article of this series I challenged you to understand your Why.  Your Why was broken it down into three areas:

  • Your values
  • Your desired lifestyle
  • Your purpose

So what do each of these elements of your Why tell you about who your customers and/or what they might be looking for?

In the first instance, they are likely to be people who share some or all of your Values.  If one of your values is Continuous learning for continuous evolution, then your ideal customers are likely to be people seeking opportunities for self-development.  Alternatively if one of your highest values is maintaining tradition into modernity then it’s more likely that your ideal customers are people seeking consistency and conservatism.

What about your desired Lifestyle?  Well, if you are targeting a lifestyle where you get to spend as much time as possible outdoors, then your customers are likely to be seeking some form of outdoor pursuit or a product or service that is delivered out or doors.  On the other hand if you are targeting a lifestyle where you have lots of free time during the day, then your ideal customer might be someone looking for a product or service that is delivered in the evening (unless you have an internet business in which case it might not matter very much!)

Then we come to Purpose.  Your purpose can tell you a lot about your ideal customer.  What can we gather from Ikea’s stated purpose “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”?  Firstly, they are concerned with the many not the few, so they’re ideal customer is not one of the elite.  They are concerned with everyday life, so they’re ideal customer is someone who is looking for a solution that has everyday applications, not something for special occasions.  Finally, they are concerned with betterment, not just replacement.  So their ideal customer then is ’the woman (or man) on the street’  who is looking to make an improvement in their everyday life.  What does your purpose tell you about your ideal customer?

Consider your What

I’m assuming that you already know, or at least have a good idea of, what product(s) and/or service(s) you plan to offer?  What does this tell you anything about your ideal customer – beyond simply that they would benefit from your product or service?  Are you offering an conventional product for a conservative customer?  Or perhaps you are offering something radical and new for a client that’s firmly future focussed?  However you intend to solve your customers’ problem tells you something about who your ideal customer is.

Create an Avatar

No, I don’t mean one of those big blue aliens from the movie.  An avatar, or persona, is a character description representing your ideal customer.  If builds on and fleshes out the generalised information that you’ve discerned from the previous steps.  And, it acts as the ‘person’ you are talking to in all your marketing content (and all your content is marketing content!)

Start by giving them a name –  a name is a great way to being the anthropomorphic process.  Then describe their physical attributes: Gender; age; height; weight; musculature; hair and eye colour; do they have freckles?  Can you see them yet?

What about their situation?  Relationship status; dependents; finances; employment

What are their interests and hobbies?  How do they spend their free time?  

What do they read, and how do they read it? 

What charities do they support?  Do they volunteer?

What is their psychology? worries and fears; passions; what makes them mad, sad, or bad?

This is not an exhaustive list of questions.  Be as creative and detailed as you can.  The more detail you add, the better.  Not all of it will be relevant, but you might be surprised by what turns out to be relevant!  And remember, this isn’t your ONLY customer, it’s your ideal customer.

If you’ve read this and are thinking ‘but I sell business to business’ then remember, you are ultimately still selling to a person. Businesses are an abstraction.  The person is concrete.  So, in addition to obvious details about the company (size, type, sector, etc.) you also need to describe the person you are selling to within that company so that you can target them in your marketing. As you do think about them in terms of both representing their company’s needs, but also their own, personal needs.

Now that you’ve defined your idea customer, you can get on with…

Defining your customer journey

Customer journey’s are discussed a lot in the context of digital or online offerings.  However, they are just as relevant when it comes to bricks and mortar or hybrid businesses.  A customer journey describes how the customer feels, thinks, and acts at each stage of the journey involving your product or service.  Importantly it describes how your business supports that journey.  The stages of a customer can vary according to the specifics of your business, but in general terms they follow the following structure: 

Customer Journey as a cycle

Awareness

This is stage at which the ideal customer we defined earlier becomes aware of their need which your product or service will meet.  I heard this stage described recently as the ‘moment just before they want to speak to you’.  So you will want to describe how your ideal customer arrives at this moment.  What is it that triggers this awareness?  Does your business facilitate this awareness through advertising, PR, or through some other means?  How will they be feeling, thinking this moment?  And what will they do as a result of this thinking and feeling?  What do you want them to do that will take them to the next stage?  Is there anything you can do as a business to get them to take that action?

Discovery

This is the stage, sometimes called Search, at which they discover your product or service.  Your ideal customer having become aware of a need takes action to find a way to fulfil that need.  How might they do that based on what you know about them?  What are they thinking and feeling as they go through this discovery phase?  What does your business do to support them in finding your product or service at this stage and including it for consideration in the next phase? 

Decision

This is the stage, sometimes called Conversion, at which your customer compares the options that they found in the Discovery phase.  Now your customer is going to make a decision on how, or even if, they are going to fulfil their need.  How do you want them to think and feel as they go through this stage?  What actions will they be taking?  What actions do you want them to take, and what can your business do to encourage them to take those actions?  What can your business do to encourage them to decide to buy your product or service?

Purchase

This is where your customer actually spends money with you.  They will take delivery of your product, or consume your service.  Since purchases are often an emotional decision, creating an elevating experience at this point can be a key factor in turning customers into raving fans.  How should your customer feel, think and act as  a result of buying from you?  What will do to promote this?

After-Sales

Purchasing is a transaction.  To retain customers you need to maintain the relationship you have built up with them up to this point.  After-sales might include servicing, warranties, loyalty programmes, user groups.  Anything, in fact, that helps to develop loyalty and, ultimately, advocacy. The ideal after-sales experiences will help your customer to retain their awareness of your AND raise their awareness of other ways that you can help them. What can you do to ensure this happens?

The secret to attracting and retaining customers is to define your ideal client and the journey that they will go through with pinpoint precision.  In this article I provided some pointers on how to do this.  One of the challenges though is to avoid embedding our own biases which our ideal customers might not share.  They might share our values, and be aligned with our purpose, but they are not us!  To find out how a business coach can help your to avoid this pitfall, get in touch or book a no-obligation discovery call now.

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