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What are the expectations of your ideal target customer?

I’ve been having discussions with my friend and colleague, the Sexy Grammarian, about target market. It’s a difficult construct for small business owners to embrace.

Sexy G believes it’s a scarcity issue. I agree. Entrepreneurs looking for business don’t want to eliminate anyone as a potential target. We need the money, and we’ll take it wherever we can get it.

This often seems like a good strategy in the short-term when you are concerned with making ends meet, but it’s unlikely to help you achieve your long-term business goals, and it’s not the best strategy if you have a vision of greatness you wish to achieve for your business.

Recently I stopped talking to my clients about target market. It misses the point. Instead, I ask my clients to describe their ideal target customer.

Ay there's the rub...

Here’s why:

Your brand is your promise.Your promiseis one of your most valuable business assets. It anchors you and secures your position in an ever-changing marketplace. It also gets people talking.

And here’s the rub: When you make a promise, you don’t make a promise to a group of people (unless you’re a politician). You make a promise to an individual; a real, living person. You make a promise to the busy professional who buys lunch in your café and expects a quality experience; you make a promise to the avid runner who buys shoes in your store based on your recommendation; you make a promise to the small business owner who hires your firm to build a website that will lead to more business. These people have expectations, they are paying you with their hard-earned cash, and they expect value in return. They expect you to deliver.

As a business owner, it’s your job to meet customer expectations by satisfying one person at a time.

Eventually, these satisfied people begin having conversations about you. The conversations – online and offline – revolve around whether or not you are keeping your promise.

Word-of-mouth marketing is and has always been the most effective marketing tool for small businesses.

It is therefore vitally important for you to reach your ideal customers – the customers who not only appreciate the value you offer but who also will engage enthusiastically in conversations with other people like themselves about how well you keep your promise. (It’s also important to get these people talking and sharing the right messages – but that’s another part of the story.)

Your brand’s value is determined by the conversations people are having about you in the marketplace. Real people. Real conversations. One conversation at a time.

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Comments 3

Guest - Kristy Lin Billuni on Thursday, 14 June 2012 04:08

You've got a great conversation starter here, Ken! I love the idea of linking the specific ideal target customer to what it is we promise to deliver as a company. A promise, after all, is intimate, and how can we get intimate with a million customers at a time?

You've got a great conversation starter here, Ken! I love the idea of linking the specific ideal target customer to what it is we promise to deliver as a company. A promise, after all, is intimate, and how can we get intimate with a million customers at a time?
Guest - Ken on Friday, 15 June 2012 11:01

Thanks for the feedback, Kristy! Your comment brings to mind a description of marketing by David Maister (davidmaister.com). “The seduction or courtship that marketing should be requires a planned, organized, sequence of events, gently drawing the client into an ever deeper interest in you and your organization.” Indeed, it's not easy to seduce or court more than one person at a time.

Thanks for the feedback, Kristy! Your comment brings to mind a description of marketing by David Maister (davidmaister.com). “The seduction or courtship that marketing should be requires a planned, organized, sequence of events, gently drawing the client into an ever deeper interest in you and your organization.” Indeed, it's not easy to seduce or court more than one person at a time.
Guest - Kerr on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 15:27

I particularly like this comment:
"Recently I stopped talking to my clients about target market. It misses the point. Instead, I ask my clients to describe their ideal target customer."

You hit the nail on the head! Small businesses often do not feel they have the luxury to turn away a paying customer. So this is really a much easier way to put it in order to help them (us) visualize.

I particularly like this comment: "Recently I stopped talking to my clients about target market. It misses the point. Instead, I ask my clients to describe their ideal target customer." You hit the nail on the head! Small businesses often do not feel they have the luxury to turn away a paying customer. So this is really a much easier way to put it in order to help them (us) visualize.
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