Last Update: March 4, 2015
Have you ever considered who powers your business?
While your business is an act of self-expression, guided by your unique vision, it exists in partnership with your most valued customers.
When your business draws energy from your customers, it no longer requires your constant support. You can then empower your employees to draw their inspiration from your customers; and create tools that empower your customers to help themselves.
But how do you find your ideal “most valued” customers?
Unfortunately, most teachings about your “ideal customer” are:
They assume that customers don’t have lives outside of waiting for your company’s next offer.
2. Lacking insights.
They don’t account for ways to reach real people that are multifaceted; customers that may read Sunset Magazine, shop at REI, and buy a lot of Colombia clothing.
3. Missing deep empathy.
They don’t consider what customers think and feel, along with the mindset and internal scripts that guide them.
Now that you know what is missing from the “usual advice” on finding your “ideal customer,” let’s reconstruct some fresh ideas about who these people are and how they can power your business.
Attracting Ideal Customers
As a small business owner, both you and your customer play equal roles in attracting each other. Just like you can’t stalk the subject of your deepest affections, you can’t chase after customers if they are not interested in what you are offering.
You may meet your ideal customer, but they may not be interested in–or ready for–what your company has to offer. Therefore it is important for you to communicate with them but also develop a clear strategy for winning over customers who are ready and willing to become your customers.
This could mean that a) you’ll need to alter your “ideal customer” profile, b) you have been chasing people that are all wrong for your business and c) you need to shift your mindset from “stalking and converting” to “romancing and wooing.”
Next, the work you do around better understanding your customer should be customer-centric, not business-centric. For example, typical business-centric survey questions include:
“What features would you like to see the next time we update this product?” or “What topics would you like us to cover on our blog?”
Your business is top of mind so it’s understandable to think that this type of questioning is the easiest way to approach customers. However, your customers will give you much more valuable information if you first imagine that your business does not exist.
Weird, I know.
But this approach works whether you are sourcing information directly from your customers or from your own brain. Focus on their needs, questions, and desires. Think about their problems in terms of stumbling blocks or barriers. Consider the work (e.g. social, functional, and emotional) they need to complete on a daily basis.
Instead, try asking questions like this:
“What frustrates you most about trying to…?”
“How do you normally spend your weekends? Why?”
“If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your business, what would it be?”
Maintain as little bias and as much genuine curiosity as possible. There is a time for sourcing your expertise, but it is not now. Don’t worry about your relationship to the potential customer. Instead worry about your customer’s relationship to themselves: their time, energy, families, and communities.
Improving your Business with Customer-Centric Insights
Once you have gathered unbiased information and examined your customers’ entire lives, it’s time to synthesize.
First, ask “Why?” And second, trust yourself.