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#2  How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

 Probably not as well as you think.  If there is one mistake business owners make more often than any other, it is probably in assuming they are their customer, therefore their customers are like themselves.  Well, they may be their customer, but their customers may not fit that assumed profile. 

 To market successfully to any prospect, a company must know what the values of that prospect are and how to appeal to them.  And to market successfully and cost effectively, one must decide which prospects have the highest probability of becoming customers.  That means you have two sets of data to acquire.  And one is ultimately dependent upon the other. 

 The simplest way to gather the information you need is to start with a set of assumptions and, then, test them.  To establish those initial assumptions, you need to start with your existing customer base.  Make a list of your 20-50 most valuable and prized customers.  Be sure you clearly identify why each one is valuable and prized.  For example, identify those who provide the highest profit, those with the highest volume, those who pay their bills within terms, those who require the least handholding, those who have been the most loyal, and so on.

 Create a folder for each one and rate the customer.  Then ask your sales people (and yourself, if you also sell directly) and/or you customer service people – anyone who actually comes in contact, personally, with a customer or client to write a brief description of the company and/or individual with whom they deal in each customer.

Gather demographic data (age, sex, marital status, socio-economic background, what kind of car they drive, favorite types of music, ethnic background, special interests and hobbies, etc.) about each one.  Get this information from anyone in the company who has had direct contact with the customer. 

Also gather from them any psychographic information they have gleaned from their contacts.  Psychographic data includes such things as their ambitions, their dreams, what is important to them in their life, what their relationship is to their company – to their boss, and anything else that is hard to describe.  For example, are they bucking for a promotion and need to look good to higher ups?  Are they anxious to please whomever they encounter?  Are they trying to prove something, and to whom?  And so on.

If you think this stuff isn’t important, just think about automobile makers.  Why you choose the automobile you buy tells far more about you than about the vehicle itself.  Think not?  How old and in what condition was your old car when you bought your most recent one?  If it was still running and in reasonable condition, then your purchase was strictly emotional even though you may have justified it otherwise. 

Even when you have to make a purchase, your choice of brand or maker is determined by emotional factors.  (Price, although most often quoted as an issue, when actually ranked, comes far down the list – in B2B situations 8 or below).  It is the criteria that stimulate the emotional response that you need to know.

Once you have your data, you still need to know why your customers do business with you.  If you haven’t asked them lately, you need to.  It doesn’t take a professional questionnaire, it simply takes a few phone calls from you.  By the way, what better way to let a customer know that you appreciate their business than a phone call from the top dog. 

If you analyze the data you have gathered, you should be able to discern some patterns.  For example, do a preponderance of your customers prefer speaking with human beings when they call rather than punching buttons on the phone?  Are they weighted toward family rather than career?  Are they disorganized and tend to wait until the last minute to call and require quick response?  Do they hate dealing with novices and want answers to questions instantly? 

Whatever their needs, you now have an idea of what is important to them.  With that you can begin to build a profile of your high-probability target market.  And you can create messages to reach them. 

Always remember, none of us buy what we need.  We buy what we want and convince ourselves that we need it.  Similarly, in business, we choose our suppliers based on whom we want to deal with, then we justify that action.  Successful businesses don’t waste time and money trying to get every prospect; they focus their attention on those whose wants are well-matched to the company selling to them.  




Test Your Marketing Savvy


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Revised: July 04, 2008 .