The second rule of marketing: really know your customer.
I can’t emphasise it enough. No amount of flashy marketing will help your business if you’re not targeting it at the right people. And the only way to make sure you’re reaching the right people with the right messages is to know who you need to speak to in the first place. Marketing is, after all, about satisfying a customer need. It may sound really obvious, but it’s often overlooked – an expensive mistake to make.
What should you know about your customer?
The specifics of what you need to know about your customer will vary slightly depending on the type of business you’re running, but here are some suggestions:
Where are they? If you’re a plumber, for example, you may well be targeting a local area. But how wide should your target market be? If you’re offering a wider service, is it national or international? Are most of your customers focused in certain areas?
What are they looking for? If you’re a pub, for example, are most of your customers (or potential customers) looking for somewhere to have a quiet drink? Or are they after some food, or somewhere they can bring the kids? What’s important to your customers?
What would motivate them to choose you? Is price the most important factor, or is it quality? Is it where your goods come from? Is a personal service important to them?
Where would they start if they were looking for your goods or service? Would they search online? Or ask a friend? Or might they simply be driving by and like what they see?
How much are they willing to pay for your goods or service? How affluent are your customers? Are you pricing yourself correctly? Would customers like to see different pricing options for your service (e.g. for different delivery times)?
How can you find out?
As a small business, you might not be in the position to commission an extensive piece of market research to find out more about your customers. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps you can take yourself to get to know your customers better.
1) Speak to them. You don’t need to grill every customer that comes your way, but it’s helpful to ask, for example, how they heard about you.
2) Analyse the data you already have. What can you already tell about your customers from any previous sales? Can you begin to define their geographic location? What are most people ordering or buying and what is the average spend?
3) Use social media. Never before has it been so easy to have a conversation with your customers. Building up a business network on social media can take time, but you could even use your personal Facebook account. Ask your friends to imagine they were looking for your business and tell you where they’d start and what they’d look for.
4) Run a short online survey. You can create a simple online survey for free using an online tool like survemonkey.com. It’s really simple and it collects all your results so you can see them easily. Let people know about it on your invoice/receipt/menu and offer an incentive to get them to complete it. This is also a great way to collect testimonials that you can use on your website and marketing literature (just make it clear on the survey that you might use any quotes in this way).
5) Run a focus group. There is an art to running a great focus group, but getting a few of your target market into a room and asking them a few questions could still give you some valuable feedback. Just remember they are only a small sample and may not be representative of all your customers.
6) Use free tools like Google Analytics. If you have a website, you should have Google Analytics running behind the scenes. This will give you lots of data about your site visitors to help build up a picture of who they are and what they want from you.
Once you’ve built up a pretty good picture of who your customers are and what motivates them, you can use this information to plan some really targeted marketing to help you grow your business.
For example, if most of your customers say they would start trying to find you by searching online, you need to make sure your website looks great and that it ranks well in Google (we’ll talk more about optimising for search engines in a future post). If customers say they’re mainly motivated by price, you could try running a special offer for a short time to attract new customers. If you’d like to expand your geographic reach, find out where your customers are at the moment, then target the next town or village out with a leaflet drop, local advert or event.
The one thing you can be sure of is that being clear who your customer is, or indeed who you want them to be if you’re just getting started, will help you plan your marketing more effectively. Good marketing always starts with the customer.