Banish fuzzy thinking
Andy (Parkinson, our CEO) and I sat down yesterday over lunch at Paco’s Tacos to talk about the best market for one of our new services (more on that in a future post).
At Andy’s suggestion, we first made a list of qualities a good target market for this service must have. It’s not a long list. Clients need money to spend on marketing. They need a sufficient amount of traffic to their website. They need a product or service to sell. And it helps if they are not technologically savvy or the do-it-yourself types.
In less than 20 minutes, while eating lunch, we identified and rejected a half dozen potential markets, finally hitting on two that offered the most promise. Ten minutes later we had a plan for finding and creating customers. The bill came and we were done.
That thirty-minute exercise gave us focus and kept us from wasting money and time chasing after the wrong targets – or worse – having no target at all. It’s essential when you’re expanding your markets and / or your product offering; but I suggest taking a good look at your ideal prospects before jumping into any marketing program even when you’re not introducing anything new.
After all, markets change and it’s easier than you might think to be chasing the wrong prospects. I’ve seen it happen with some of our best clients.
Look around you
Your existing client base holds a wealth of information about who makes a good target prospect. If you take the time to identify the customers who are most profitable and easiest to work with and figure out what they have in common, you’ll have a remarkably accurate portrait of your best prospects.
Not surprisingly, it’s better to do this with data – not just with anecdotal evidence from your sales force or account management teams. Really. Take the time to pull the data and analyze it.
If you’ve never actually done this exercise before, you might be in for a surprise. I’ve had a client tell me their customer base was primarily Fortune 1000 pharmaceutical or oil & gas companies only to find when the numbers were run that the bulk of their business was coming from regional insurance companies. And a client who believed their sweet spot was companies with more than 5000 employees when in reality their best customers have 500 to 2500 employees. And a client who thought corporations provide the bulk of their business when actually academic institutions do. And so on.
These clients weren’t lying to me. They just hadn’t taken a real close, objective look at the customer base lately. Things change, and when you’re involved in it day-to-day the changes are often not so noticeable.
It’s important to look at the numbers, identify your most profitable customers and find out what they have in common – industry, annual revenue, number of employees, geographic location, number of purchase orders they write a month – whatever is appropriate to your product or service.
Now you’ve got a good, clear idea of what types of companies make your best customers and you’ve taken the first step towards describing your ideal prospect. You’ve also probably found some good places to target a marketing effort.
But don’t stop here.
Our buyers are individuals, not companies.
Now that you know the types of companies that make up your ideal customer pool, take a look at the individuals to whom you sell.
Again, what do they have in common with each other? Here’s a quick checklist of things to consider:
- Job title
- Number of years of experience
- Primary language
- Resistance to risk
- Decision-making style
- Professional challenges
Roll all of this together to create a profile of your ideal customer. That’s a pretty good place to start to describe your ideal prospect. Doesn’t it just make sense to go after more of the people who make you most successful today?