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Who is your ideal client? 

I ask this question almost every day as I chat with business owners about their marketing, web design and social media. I am always surprised at how many can’t answer, don’t want to answer or sort of define their ideal customer so broadly, it isn’t a definition at all. This is no way to run a business.

Marketing segmentation matters

  1. With a broadly defined customer, you end up with a less than optimal product. As you try to be all things to all people you have to make compromises in the final design. Maybe you sacrifice quality to drive cost down or raise prices to add a feature only a small percentage of your customers use. Compromise too often and you end up delivering a product that doesn’t please anyone.  
  2. When you don’t know who you are talking to, you don’t know what to say. While you may sell to many people, your marketing will be most effective when you focus one message to one specific audience. Imagine trying to sell a product to women.  All women are not alike. Even when you are talking about products we all use, we have vastly different needs and wishes. When you generalize, we assume you are talking to someone else and we ignore your message. 

Don’t limit who you sell to

Whenever I suggest that a customer define a target, I get push back because they are afraid of missing a market. If that’s how you are feeling right now, please read points one and two above again and again. When you try to please everyone you won’t delight anyone. Picking a segment doesn’t mean you will turn away others if they show up with cash in hand. It just means you are going to focus your energy and resources on specific market segments. 

Lava soap, for example, is the only product which will get WD-40 and other greases off your hands. This is a product targeted at men, 18 – 50, employed in blue collar occupations. Let’s look at their advertising, They are the official soap of NASCAR. It is pretty clear who they are talking to. By focusing on a very specific demographic they have created a product and marketing which allows them to dominate the category.  

In most cases, women will ignore the advertising, but if they have a need, they know what product to buy. When you focus on a niche, you’ll still capture the fringe audience when they need you because you own the category. 

Marketing Segmentation Techniques

Describe the segments

There are lots of ways to slice and dice your market. So where do you start? One of the best places is with your existing customers. Ask yourself what your best customers have in common. This will work for both B2B and B2C companies. Look for the patterns among customers you have enjoyed working with in the past—and which have been profitable. Figure out what drew them to you as you start building your profile of an ideal client. 

Consider both demographics (the observable characteristics like age, income, gender) and psychographics (lifestyle and values). And yes, there are demographics for B2B transactions too. They include factors such as the size of the company, the industry they are involved in and the number of years they have been in business. The psychographics, in this case, might include whether the business is looking to expand or if they prefer to shop with local firms. 

Compare the segments

It is entirely possible that you may come up with more than one attractive segment. If you have unlimited marketing funds (like Coca Cola) you simply invent another product (Diet Coke, Cherry Coke or Fanta) and create a separate marketing campaign. If, however, you have limits on resources, then you need to pick the most attractive segments to focus on. Factors which can make a segment attractive include: 

  • Size of the market – Are there enough prospects to support your business? How often will they buy? 
  • Amount of competition – Is this a crowded market with lots of companies competing for a small piece of the pie, or is this a segment ignored by most other firms which do what you do?
  • Accessibility – How easy is it for you to reach these customers? How long is the buying cycle?

Once you have compared the segments it will be easier to set priorities and select one or two market segments to focus on.  As you do, you will build credibility as a specialist in that industry and be more likely to attract more of the clients you want to work with.  

Looking for more specifics on how to apply this process to your business? Download our guide to finding your target client.

Target Customer