Sales: Who Is Your Ideal Customer?


I am always on the lookout for ways to develop a stronger team and to create outlets where we put technology away and learn from human interaction. One team-building activity is to create a simple brand-building session. Let your team help define or redefine who your ideal customer is.

Defining your ideal customer can be rewarding if you take the profile of your ideal customer and put a plan in place to focus on that type of customer. Taking a shotgun approach and targeting mass markets has long-term challenges. Attempting to tap into the mass market where most of the money and attention are has other implications: it’s expensive, ambiguous, competitive and often, a race to the bottom.

Here some factors to help your team define your ideal customer:

  1. Industries
  2. Geography
  3. Size
  4. Long-term value/budget
  5. Buyer personas
  6. Buyer roles and job titles
  7. Problems they need solved/pain points
  8. Potential for account penetration
  9. Open to your insight
  10. Ability to measure your work
  11. Decision-making factors
  12. Reputation
  13. Organized and focused versus last-minute and distracted

Marketing expert Seth Godin says that we should find our minimal viable audience (MVA). The goal is to harness the energy of the smallest number of buyers willing to invest in you and yet, retain a sustainable business.

Godin says to be “mindfully specific versus a wandering generality.” In doing so, we can influence our market, serve and nurture a customer community, and likely get a premium for our work. There is wisdom in creating an audience who knows you for being the very best at (fill in the blank for your company). What can your organization be known for in a sea of sameness? If you discover what your team’s hopes and dreams are, you might just unveil an opportunity to pivot your organization.

The greatest outcome of specificity is likely creating a community that loves you and tells others about you. I believe the most valuable marketing is authentic, third-party advocacy

Go deep versus wide. Invest in a very targeted vertical market. This will help you develop vast experience in that space. You will be able to speak your customers’ language and truly understand their business.

Don’t look for customers for your products. Create products for your customers.

I was inspired to write this after reading an excerpt in Brand Fuel’s employee training guide. It’s clear that we have lots of work to do, but we are on our way.

[They are] buyers of promotional products, custom apparel and online merchandising technology that will help our clients meet their goals. Customers are primarily creative, marketing folks who are juggling a myriad of responsibilities: print, digital, design, event planning, data analytics, filling the sales funnel, bringing new products and services to life, brand development and more. (Note: we work with procurement departments but steer clear of “sort by price” race-to-the-bottom RFPs that waste our collective time.)

We have corporate clients in all major verticals. This gives a deep bench of experience and avoids an “all-eggs-in-one-basket” scenario. However, our experience is concentrated in health care and technology. Selling specific products and services to these verticals is what our Boston office says is “smaaaaaht.”

We do not typically sell to kindergartens, small sports teams or hairdressers, or supply matches for your sister’s wedding. Great clients pay on time, are low hassle and work with us, not against us, when problems arise—and problems will arise. They don’t shop us because they value our ideas and strategic thinking. They love when we challenge them and ask, “why?” They invite us to be an extension of their marketing departments. They introduce us to other buyers within their organization. They are active at events and trade shows where they are hungry for unique ways to get in front of prospects.

They recognize and reward employees as well as thank clients for their business. They have sales and injury-free workplace contests. They are brave and willing to battle the mundane by daring to be different. They love their brand and protect it with their lives. They are beer-worthy. Again, they trust us. They appreciate that we are forward thinking, fun to work with, caring, customer- service savvy, knowledgeable, committed, responsive, creative, the cat’s meow …

Remember: not every deal, client or sale is good. Divas and price-chasers aren’t worth it. Deliver value and know what you are worth. You are worth it.

So, who is your ideal customer? And how will you reshape your sales and marketing strategy?  

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Danny Rosin, CAS, is co-president of Morrisville, North Carolina-based distributor Brand Fuel.

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