Let me tell you the story of my first ever ideal customer.
In December 2012 I founded my first company, J strateJy, a strategic consultancy for pharmaceutical companies.
As a proud mamma of my baby business, not only had I hand-glued 150 Christmas candies on 150 hand-written Christmas cards, I sent them to all my old customers (from previous jobs) to let them know that I had decided to fly solo.
At 8 am on 18th January 2013, I received a call from one of my old customers. She had received my candy card, loved my branding and invited me to a pitch opportunity for her new product launch. I took that call in my swimming gear, all wet and cold, at the local pool, and when I hung up, I couldn’t stop myself from doing a victory dance in front of the old ladies who were swimming.
I pitched, I won, and they worked with us over 5 years. They helped us expand into other business units. That particular client of mine moved to another company and brought me more business… She was my ideal customer.
What made her support my business that much and become my ideal customer?
Here is an idea: the reason why she was my ideal customer is because I was her ideal partner. We were the perfect match.
That thought process changed my way of looking at this “ideal customer” concept.
For years I have asked this question “Who is your ideal customer?” and the answers were always a bit of a marketing babble: female, 30-40, middle class, stay at home mum; male, +50, with family, sports lover; small businesses in creative sectors…
How much clarity does all that generic description give us?
As a solopreneur, or microbusiness owner, whether you sell a one-off product, or a continuous service, we are all in the business of relationship building. We have to build strong customer relationships to grow our companies, because the lifetime value of a customer is much more important to us than to a bigger company who “can afford” to lose customers, as they have stronger marketing and sales activities, allowing them to acquire new customers more regularly.
So, my suggestion is this: how about turning the question of “ideal customer” upside down?
How about asking “what made me her ideal consultancy that she kept returning to me?”, and “what made our customer/provider relationship so strong that she helped me grow my business?”
My definition of the ideal customer is a customer who will get incredible value from your service or product, thus who feels strongly positive about your business and in return, will add value to your business. That exchange of value and support is, for me, the key for successfully profiling your ideal customer.
Here is my check list for the ideal customer relationship:
Rule number 1: Painless Start
What does a painless start mean? A painless start from a business point of view means low acquisition cost, and from the customer’s point of view means efficient and easy access to your services.
From your perspective, acquisition cost implies the money, energy and time that you put into acquiring that particular customer. The ore niche your audience, the more you understand their problem from their perspective, the more you adapt your messaging to them, the lower your acquisition cost will be.
My rule of thumb is: if you find yourself trying to sell “the problem” or the “category of solution” to a potential customer, it means that you have a funnelling and quality of lead issue.
For instance, let’s say you are an interior designer and you are speaking to a person who has just purchased a house. If you find yourself trying to convince that person on the different challenges of designing a house by oneself, you are putting too much effort into converting that person to a lead.
On the other hand, if you find yourself promoting what a fantastic job an interior designer does to make things look fabulous in a shorter amount of time, for less budget, again you are not in front of the right person.
As a solopreneur or microbusiness owner, to lower your acquisition cost you need to hone your marketing to a very specific audience who:
- Is aware of their problem
- Is highly motivated and has the ability to change their problem.
- must be bought in the category of solution (similar to yours)
This way, your only job is to differentiate from your competitors and convince them that you are the best fit solution.
From the customers perspective, for experience and ease, you need to ensure that their journey from becoming a lead to becoming a customer is as hurdle-free and as simple as possible. The secret of this is managing the expectations as much and as often as possible. At each step of that journey make sure to sign-post, communicate, and educate them on their journey, so that they feel that they are in good hands from the beginning.
Rule number 2: Positive Collaboration
This means a low maintenance, trust-based relationship from both ends.
From a business perspective, you need a customer that should be satisfied with what you give as per your agreement; they should be able to communicate clearly, respect their own brief and pay on time.
From their end, they have the right to expect a reliable, credible and trustworthy partner who provides the solution that they expected when they were buying.
Here are 7 deadly sins that can kill a positive collaboration:
- An unclear brief
- Not respecting deadlines
- Lack of flexibility
- Lack of communication and more written communication
- Lack of expectation management
- Missed or delayed payments
Rule number 3: Supportive Relationship
I see the end of the one-time collaboration as the start of a long-term relationship. After a positive collaboration, both parties, you and your customer, can support each other in many ways.
An ideal customer will naturally become an advocate for your brand and support you in growing your business by referrals and word of mouth.
As solopreneurs and microbusiness owners, we are in relationship-building businesses. Therefore, as an ideal partner, our job is to follow-up regularly and make sure that our customers are happy with the post-sale stage, by keeping them updated with relevant information and news, helping them with any related problems.
Funnily enough, although this is a two-way relationship, the business always has much more responsibility to choose the right clients and nurture the relationship so that they become ideal customers.
To profile your ideal customer, all you need to do is to look at these 3 stages and define which are the key characteristics of your current ideal customers:
- At the start, which customers were the easiest to convert?
- During the collaboration, which ones were easiest to communicate with and less hassle for you?
- Finally, after the sale, look at your brand advocates, and try to understand how they became one?
Gaining clarity on your ideal customer will not only help you better target your potential customers, but also better nurture the relationship so that you can increase the lifetime value of each customer.