Your Market Is a Person

Target Market as defined by Wikipedia: A ‘target market or target Audience is the market segment which a particular product is marketed to.

peopleThe concept of defining a target market is a bedrock kind of tool for any business. My experience, however, is that the clinical approach often taught in marketing courses seems to negate the fact that markets, whether B2B or B2C, are people. This rather obvious fact becomes even more relevant as social technology helps put a face on even the most virtual of client relationships.

Understanding the persona of your ideal client is the first step to creating a marketing strategy that will allow you to effectively carve out a market to build the kind of marketing momentum that can only be described as attraction. When you view your market as a real live image of a personality you can begin to speak to that person in a language that builds trust on the most personal level. But first you must know their story!

Demographics are a start

Look at your current customers. What are the common demographic characteristics shared by your most profitable, referral generating customers. Why this select group? Because there’s probably something very right about how you attracted this group that leads them to the emotional connection required to make referrals. Understand and catalog what you can demographically as a starting point for getting a clearer picture.

Narrowing your sights

Once you start to get a better view of your profitable customers, it’s time to take a good, hard look at the other 70%. You know, the ones you took on because you couldn’t say no or because it had been a slow month or that you’ve done some business with for years, but you don’t really do that kind of work any more. Every organization has those and I’m suggesting you purge them, (well, maybe some) but I do know that in order for your ideal customer approach to become a strategy, you need a very clear picture of the clients you don’t want and you need to start saying no.

Social media adds focus

Getting psychographic and behavioral data on a market is a common practice for marketers as it adds much richer information than statistical data can. Collecting this kind of information used to be expensive and more aggregate than personal. Social media adoption has altered this piece of the puzzle in interesting ways. People joke about people talking about what they had for dinner on Twitter, but that kind of information, while seemingly inane, is marketing gold. Append your entire customer list with everything you can know through social media and you will discover more about what motivates and drives your customers than years of research could ever tell – including which ones wield influence and love to connect and refer.

Visualize real people

Once you’ve done the research above on your ideal client it’s time to start getting visual. Write out a description of a real ideal client that you would love ten more of. Write everything you can think of – What they look like, what they think, what they want, what they fear, what they think fun, risk, and passion look like. Use photos of real people to help you create this total persona and then hang it on the wall for all to absorb. Maybe you need to do this a couple times and develop several distinct ideal client personality types, but imagine if you put this these images and descriptions on the wall and referred to them as you made sales calls, wrote web copy or brainstormed about a product innovation. It’s like having them in the meeting with you. In fact, go a bit over the top and create life size ideal client cut outs and invite Bill and Mary and Tom into your meetings. At least, it will add some fun to the meeting.

A database for your customer

Once you start to get a feel for accessing this level of personal understanding you can begin to change your concept of the client database. Instead of looking at it as a tool for you, flip it and make it a tool for them. In other words, start building a database that contains everything you can know about your customers and use it to make them feel special. Use it to note when significant things have happened, listen to what they are saying in social media and engage on a personal level, send them a birthday gift, or remind them that it’s their anniversary. Every once in a while, sit down with them and ask them to share. It might start with them sharing something about your products and services but, ultimately, if you take this practice to heart, it will turn to them sharing how you can help them achieve their goals.

I don’t know, it just seems like it’s way more fun to work with people who know you’re a person too.

Image credit: /cesco

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  • Social Media Manager

    How would you recommend doing this sort of analysis/database for a company that whose sales are high turnover or one time purchases?

  • Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi John,
    Think you are spot on. After all, an IT system doesn't buy. At the end of every system is a human being and I think it's important to remember that.


  • JayTurn

    Great advice John. It is surprising to see so many people forgetting that real individuals are behind the computers. It does take extra effort to outline the ideal and typical customers which is probably the reason why some people avoid it.

    An interesting phenomenon is the way some businesses SEO their website but when it is read by potential customers, it just doesn't gel. They manage to get folks to the site but they lose sales because they just don't connect with them.

  • Lloyd Burrell

    # “In other words, start building a database that contains everything you can know about your customers and use it to make them feel special.”

    This is so true. People generally forget that, just like products, clients change themselves, their needs and interests in real time. Keeping yourself updated is for your own benefit. Their lives outside work should be relevant too, even if this is more difficult to achieve.

    However, what I liked in this post is the idea to manage a database with this information. It may prove humanizing over time in the same way an old client or business partner provides not only confidence to you and your business, but also peace of mind.

    Lloyd Burrell

  • Alan – Small Business Coach

    Great article, John.

    I'm amazed, sometimes, at business owners who are still “selling to the world” and not narrowing on a niche. And of those that do attempt to narrow to a niche, they don't know how to find them or describe them.

    Knowing who they are, where they are, and what they struggle with, want and need, along with the emotional triggers will help develop a marketing message that has your marketing excited rather than just ho-hum that'd be nice responses.

  • Stephen Eugene Adams

    Great article. Couple of comments.

    Years ago, I got rid of a few customers that were bogging up my operation and distracting from the profitable work. As you can imagine, I would really like to get some of this work back. Its interesting what a change in the economy does with your perspective.

    Second, we have been doing what we call demographic profiling of our clients' best customers for a few years and it is one of the most successful services that we sell. We analyse our clients customer lists and run them through 25 filters. This gives our clients a good view of who they should focus their future marketing towards. We reduced the volume of mailings and digital contacts while, at the same time, improving response rates through personalized contacts with targeted prospects.

  • SEO India

    Great Post

  • VBP OutSourcing

    This is a great post. Every company knows what demographic they would like to target, but few understand the personality behind it. Prospective customers are much more likely to be receptive to companies that treat them like real people and cater to the individual and corporate personality. Business owners should take a moment to stray their focus from the quantity of clients they are serving, and spend a little time developing quality business relationships.

  • ducttape

    Many small businesses could simply take stock of the kinds of companies and people they like to work with. That notion alone could be a tremendous insight.

  • ducttape

    Sure, it's a tough choice made tougher during slow times, but long term I'm guessing you are better off without them if you've focused your attention fully on attracting the right customers.

  • Mike

    Here i will like to add repeat business, if you are getting ur client repeat orders, it means you have actually marketed the correct person with your services