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I’ve talked quite a bit over the last few months about our recommendation (and subtle Google hack) of targeting the ideal customer for your business. We’ve gone over parts of this in our early #StrategyStreams, but today I want to pull back the curtain a little bit. One of the most valuable things we do for our small business clients is creating customized ideal buyer personas for them. This article won’t give the same depth and specificity as our paid clients get, but will hopefully give you a clearer picture of what it entails.

Why do you want buyer personas? And why focus on a small group of potential customers? Isn’t the goal to reach as many people as possible? Of course, we want to maximize the possibilities – but we all have limited resources. And here at Grow the Dream, we agree with Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell and several other business leaders – the riches are in the niches.

But First, Let’s Review

Finding your ideal customers and targeting them will bring you the most bang for your buck – and will also attract those on the outskirts. As you expand, and your resources grow along with your client base, you can start targeting larger and larger groups. Remember, even Coca Cola started out with one drink, and stayed in that position for a while before they expanded into a million variations. And even they only control about 50% of the soft drink market, and maybe 10% of the overall drink market.

You’ll also want to take into account how serving a smaller group of customers can benefit you and your approach. When you’re focused on one smaller group, you can service them easier. You know specifically what their pain points, challenges and fears are. Therefore, you can assist them with the things you absolutely KNOW they need help with.

It’s easier to speak their language. There is jargon and particular industry speak for just about every profession out there. It can even vary amongst jobs and industries that are closely aligned. By knowing your customers, you know how to speak to them without any confusion. And you can stand out by knowing and properly speaking on their terms.

You also build a unique rapport with these customers. That leads to not only trust, but establishing yourself as the expert in your field. Anyone can sell digital marketing, but by focusing on small businesses, we know we lead the way in that field for those people. And our clients and regular readers know that already. I don’t even need to mention that we’ve been preaching what the bigger SEO and digital marketing firms are now pivoting to for nearly 20 years. It’s inherent in our company’s DNA.

1. Who Are Your Target Customers?

This is often classified as demographics. When I started in television and Nielsen ratings mattered, advertisers would usually want to target the 25-34 age range. Those people have the most consistent spending, as well as the income to do so. Younger people often have more disposable income, but different things they spend it on – movies and temporary items, for example. Older tend to have a larger family, often more cutting corners on cost – going for the bargain instead of the premium. And older than that has income, but more focused on luxury items. At least, this is how the thinking went.

But those are general terms. You want to know the specifics for your ideal customers. And, again, you want to be as specific as possible. We’re aiming for the bullseye. So sex, age range, income, decision making power, family status, you get the picture.

2. What Is Their Lifestyle?

This is the first step for customer psychographics. Psychographics will come up again. It’s an aspect many businesses have only vague notions about. If they pay attention to it at all. But it’s key to really targeting things.

How do your ideal customers spend their free time? What are their hobbies? How do their weekends look?

What media do they consume? Which magazines do they read and subscribe to? Online or print editions? What books do they read or listen to?

What TV do they watch? Do they have cable or satellite? Are they a cord-cutter? Do they pay for Netflix, HBO MAX, HULU? Are they sharing someone else’s passwords?

What kind of music do they listen to? Radio stations? Sirius or Spotify? Do they devour podcasts – which ones and how often?

Do they still own mostly physical DVD’s, books and CD’s or have they gone primarily digital? And how do they feel about that decision and/or shift?

Are they on social media? If so, what platform are they on the most? Many people have Facebook, but check it rarely. They might have signed up for Twitter, Snapchat or Tik Tok when they first came out, and have never really gone back.

What websites are always open on their computer? On their phone? What apps do they use? What is bookmarked? Do they check Rotten Tomatoes and Yelp or Google reviews before heading out?

What kinds of foods do they like? Fast food, or sit down? Home cooked – because they like it or just can’t afford to dine out? Do they bring home leftovers? Mexican, Italian or French cuisine?

Are they Amazon Prime members? Do they prefer to support local businesses? Has their behavior significantly changed since the pandemic?

Be Specific. Specifics are important.

3. What Are Their Purchasing Habits?

What do your ideal customers buy on a regular basis? Are they willing to pay extra? If so, what for and why? How much research do they do before buying – and where? Are they influenced by TV ads? Billboards? Social Media posts? Podcast sponsorships?

Do they typically go for the bargain, are willing to pay for higher quality, or only look at the very best? Do they shop at the dollar store? Walmart? Targét? Are they focused on champagne dreams and caviar or beer and chips?

Is your product or service something they use at home, in the car, on vacation? Are they willing to splurge a little bit more when on holiday or maybe once a month when they feel like being pampered? Do you provide something they see as a necessity, a necessary evil or a satisfying reward? Is there a particular place they associate with your product or service? Can there be?

Do they always buy brand new, or do refurbished and/or gently loved items also have a place? Are they impulse buyers? And if so, how impulsive do they get?

Here’s one most small businesses neglect to consider – what is your product or service usually bought with or as an add-on? If they couldn’t buy from you, where would they go? And would they come back later?

Where do they learn or prefer to learn about changes and updates? Email? Text messages? Facebook Messenger? Twitter? Monthly newsletter? Direct mail? Are they okay with you contacting them when there aren’t new things to discuss? Do they want a relationship or just a one night stand with your company?

4. How Do They Want to FEEL About Buying?

I’ve talked at length about how buying is tied to emotions. Decisions are always emotionally made and then mentally justified. Fear, love, FOMO, desire for status and more all play into why we buy things. But why do your customers buy your thing? And how do you generate that emotion in your potential buyer?

Does buying your product or service make your customers proud? Do they feel good about buying from you and why? Does it make them feel more a part of their community or social group? Does it elevate them to a new one? Or at least appear to?

What values or causes do your customers want to support? Will they pay more to know that your company is morally oriented or that your products are ethically sourced? Are you different from your competition because you care about the environment, or give a portion of your profits to charities?

Here’s a hint from our research – try to avoid fear and hate as emotional triggers. They work too well for politics and the news, as we’ve seen amplified in recent years. But eliciting negative emotions in your buyers can reflect negatively on you. And negativity tends to be the one area where specificity will absolutely cut you off from buyers on the outskirts of your bullseye.

5. Why Do They Buy?

This is an area that you might have already thought you took into account, but I placed it in the hierarchy here, because the “Why” is to closely tied to the emotion. A lot of business plans and marketing approaches look at the who and the why, but ignore the connective tissue. We want to create a fully formed, three dimensional profile of your ideal customer. And you’re probably tired of reading this, but the greater the specificity, the better and more cost-effective your approach will be.

So what are their pain points? What problem are you solving for your customer? If you’re thinking, wait, that’s also where content blog post ideas come from, you are correct! Hence the beauty of our integrated strategic approach. What “need state” are your customers at right before they buy? Are their brakes screeching, damaging the wheel, or are they coming in as soon as they hear the slightest squeak? And is there a way you can anticipate that need state?

Consider – how comfortable do they need to be before they buy? Is there a certain level of trust that must be established? How much credibility do they require? Remember, the emotions are causing the decision, but they still want and need to justify it. So knowing what helps them rationalize works to your advantage, if you can provide it.

Are they typically loyal and consistent, or do they shop around every time? Will they provide referrals? Will they sing your praises regardless, or just remember to recommend you if someone expresses a similar need? Both are valuable.

Strategy + Specificity = Small Business Success

The more you know about your ideal customer, the better you can reach and serve them. The two go hand in hand for true business success on any level – and especially for the entrepreneur small business owner.

I highly recommend going through this process and identifying, as best you can, your ideal customer. You can ask existing customers, do surveys, even a casual, ‘how did you find us’ to walk in clients, can help calculate and hone a profile of your perfect purchaser. And the deeper you dig, the better you can target that very center bullseye, and hit enough of the surrounding area to build a profitable business.

One final note – we’ve found that all of our clients start with 2-3 buyer persona profiles, prioritized. That way it’s not overwhelming, but you can expand focus if you have the resources.

I hope this information is valuable – but it’s only useful if you do just this – USE IT. It is essential for your ongoing success. Of course, with as many hats as most small business owners wear, you may struggle to find time to execute this. Which is where we come in. If you don’t have the time or resources to do this on your own, please reach out. This is what we’ve been doing and teaching small businesses to do for nearly 20 years now.

We can teach you or we can do it all for you. Or some hybrid in between. Those are the three personas we’ve developed, knowing our ideal clients’ needs. And as we see ourselves as a “teaching hospital,” yes, we do focus on one more than the others. We’re here to serve small businesses. Let’s Grow the Dream together!