Why I never ask: “Who is your ideal customer?”
Updated: Jul 24
I help a lot of businesses with their marketing strategy and planning. The first step whenever I begin this task is always to ask lots of questions. If I’m going to successfully help a company then I need to truly understand what it’s about and what it’s trying to achieve. I might ask what the overall goal is, who are the main competitors, what the product roadmap looks like and so on. The one question I never ask, though, is, “Who is your ideal customer?”.
You might think this seems unwise. You may have been taught to seek out who your ideal customer is and create a persona or avatar. But the one mistake I’ve seen many businesses make is to home in on their ideal customer and then forget about the broader scope.
At a basic level, you might believe your ideal client is a man in his forties with disposable income. But how have you got to that decision? I encourage my clients to list every customer type that they could possibly sell to and then evaluate them. Quite simply, without exploring every option, how could you ever know that you’ve made the right decision?
Let’s take a look at the toy market as an example. If I asked the question to an owner of a toy shop, “Who is your ideal customer?” they might say children. But actually there’s a whole complex raft of things to explore if you’re going to truly maximise sales.
Firstly, children have no money of their own. Even if they have pocket money, it’s still ultimately the parents in charge. So should you market to the parents? They’re the ones buying, after all. But then you need to consider pester power. If the children don’t ask for it, will the parents buy it? However, even if the child wants it, if you haven’t worked on your brand and the parents don’t trust in your company, that could still have a negative effect.
You could also throw grandparents into the mix. And what about adult enthusiasts? For some toymakers, such as Lego or Hornby, there are some adults who like the products just as much as kids. The second you start to really think about it, you’ll find there are so many layers of people that you could market to.
If you focus in straight away and make snap decisions, you’ll probably have some sales. But if you take some time to explore all your options and think about how to segment your marketing, you’ll never be in a position where you’ve missed an important opportunity.
No business can market to every customer type. It’s just not feasible. In any marketing plan it’s probably wise to choose two or three segments and then build activity around how you’re going to sell to them. And the segments can be completely different. You could market to children under 10 and adults over 50 at the same time, because you’d do it in very different ways.
A question I’m often asked is which marketing channel is best. My answer is always that it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. This is where the power of segmentation can help, as you now know exactly who you’re selling to and what you want to achieve. Marketing in places where kids will take notice is going to be very different to where adults of 50+ are going to be looking. Suddenly it’s not such a huge blank canvas. Now you can really start to focus.
One of the most important elements that you lose when you don’t explore all your options is that you never consider influencers. You might immediately think of celebrities here, but there could be much simpler ways to harness the power of influence.
Pester power is a prime example. And it can work for B2B. If you want that business to buy your products, then it might help if their customers were demanding it. It’s an extra layer of complexity that doesn’t always work, but done right it can make a massive impact.
So next time you’re considering your marketing, take a few minutes to list down every type of customer you could sell to. Be imaginative and cover all bases. You never know, it might open up a new stream to your marketing that you’ve never considered before.
If you’d like to discuss your marketing strategy or plans, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re always here to help.