As a strategist and entrepreneur, my goal has always been to know my customers and extract insight into the “must haves” that matter to them. To accomplish this, I:
search for insights and opportunities to learn about customers, the brand, a category, etc.
learn what makes an opportunity different, special or competitive
turn ideas around insights into solutions; marry insights to a genuine product or brand truth to explain where we are going and why it matters
encourage customers to tell their stories
Any savvy business owner knows this: when you identify your ideal customer (i.e., target audience) your marketing message delivers more potential leads, conversions and sales. In years past, this might have been tackled through demographic studies or buying trend charts. But these hands-off approaches simply do not work in today’s world.
What makes your customer tick?
These days, everyone from marketers and entrepreneurs to venture capitalists need to delve deeper into what makes their audience tick; what they want, and how they look for it. Analytics and demographic information (e.g. age, income level, etc.) — and even what they bought last month — will be helpful to track as you target your message.
But in my experience, that alone won’t get customers in the door. The right message can sell your brand and actually get consumers to do the marketing for you.
Find your tribe with these 9 steps
Here’s a look at 9 steps you can take to locate (and connect with) customers that are more likely to fall in love with your brand:
1. Be user focused
Make sure that you solve problems that exist. Next, ensure you are solving them in a way that appeals to the people who are actually impacted by these problems.
2. Seek out loyalists
If you solve a problem in an elegant way, your fans are out there. They just haven’t discovered you yet. Find them. You will know who those fans are inherently if you understand the void your product or service is filling.
3. Let go of assumptions
Maybe you’ve heard assumptions like:
Millennials can only digest 140-character blurbs
Older people don’t know how to use the internet or mobile devices properly
Only middle-aged moms, professional men, teenage girls or senior citizens buy things like mine.
Assumptions like these block any chance you have to understand and reach the people who are truly interested in what you have to offer.
4. Hang out with the conversation starters
Gather data. Target the full range of customers — happy, unhappy, recent, early, active, inactive — across geographies and through no fewer than three channels, including surveys, phone interviews, product intercept surveys, etc. Truly learn about your audience and how they make purchase decisions. Research trends, get involved and share your message the right way.
5. Focus on relationships
Engage existing customers and listen. Coffee meetings with prospects are a good way to learn every detail of their problem. The goal isn’t friendship. Instead, the aim is a bond filled with mutual trust, appreciation and value (mostly for customers). This is why content marketing is so popular and effective. Now more than ever before, consumers want to know the people behind the company, what they stand for, and how they will engage on a long-term basis.
6. Become agile with customer feedback
7. Adapt quickly
Listening to your customers doesn’t end when they finish talking. The next step is to take action. From a small tweak in marketing messages to a large feature pivot, it’s important to take action and adapt to keep pace. Just remember to be thoughtful rather than reactive.
8. Remember, the method matters
Since so many people are accessing the web from mobile devices, mobile is outpacing other traditional mediums. So, you have to tailor your message to the medium and know where your ideal customer hangs out (i.e. the medium). You have to live where your clientele lives.
9. Be a missionary
When you talk to existing customers, you are talking with people that are most vested in your success. They not only want to help you improve, but they want to be involved in the journey. Use this time to create excitement around your offering. Don’t just be a fact-gatherer; be a missionary.
It’s important to listen to your customers. Spend time with them on their turf. Open up to even the most critical feedback. See what other people are doing to engage your ideal market, and instead of copying it, adapt it in your own unique way.
This article has been edited.
Ryan Stoner is a serial entrepreneur and brand strategy and marketing leader. He is currently the Group Strategy Director at Phenomenon. A version of this article appeared on RyanStoner.com. Connect with @stoneage on Twitter.