January 08, 2014

Stop Waiting For Your Customers To Call

I remember sitting at the window waiting for the postman to call. I must have been four or five at the time, and had recently cottoned on to the fact that some very interesting things arrived by mail. We had a relative in America who’d sent on a parcel of goodies and I was still buzzed by its unexpected arrival and the excitement of pulling off the wrapping and finding the presents inside. Now I’d taken to watching at the window for the postman and hoping against hope that he’d bring more gifts. 

At The Window Once Again
As business-owners, we often find ourselves sitting at the window waiting for our customers to come. We’re not sure who they are or where they’re going to come from but we’re hoping against hope that they’re out there somewhere and headed our way.
We go to the front door and shout to the world at large that we’re open and ready for business. We place our ads and send out our brochures, confident that our offer will prove irresistible. And then we go sit by the window. And wait.

Who Are You Waiting For?
You’ll have heard people say that when you build a business for everyone, you build it for nobody. And so most of us narrow things down a bit and decide that our offer is for business-travellers or families or whatever. And then go to the door, shout out our offer and return to our place by the window. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.
So how can we make certain it will work? We’ve got to go further, a lot further. Calling out hopefully to the faceless crowd is not a strategy that will increase our chances of hitting the target with the certainty that we need in our business. We need to narrow it down even more. We need to sharpen our focus to a needlepoint and home in on one person.

Right On Target
Yes, you’ve read right, that’s one person. Now this seems counter-intuitive. How can we build a business if we’re only talking to one person? It doesn’t seem to make sense. But right at the heart of our audience stands one person who was born to buy what we have to offer. In business terms, we’re made for one another. We can call them what we want: our ideal customer or our target bull’s-eye but we are describing a customer who is just right for us, who appreciates and can pay for our offer. 
In targeting our customer in this way, we’re plucking them out of the faceless crowd and placing them carefully at the very heart of our business. Many of the great breakthroughs in product development arise when we actually consider how one customer in particular (rather than our customers in general) makes use of what we have to offer.

Reach Out And They Will Come
So how do we begin to picture our ideal customer? If we have existing customers, then we can study them more closely to get a sense of who is typical and who is ideal (the two may not be the same and we will need to move our ideal customer to the heart of our mix). If we’re a new business, then we’ll need to speculate a little more or look to customers who are buying something similar to what we have to offer. Either way, we’re looking for patterns of appearance, behaviour, lifestyle or preferences that will give us some clues as to where our audience stands. 

This simple act of picturing our ideal customer will take us away from the window and lead us to make practical provisions for bringing them into our business. Instead of calling hopefully from the doorway, we’ll go confidently to those places where they are to be found and issue them a personal invitation (or one that feels very personal to them). And in return, they are much more likely to come knocking at our door, ready to do business.


Carmel Rafter said...

When asked to what he attributed his great success as a player one famous footballer is reputed to have said:
"I just followed the ball."

A scattergun approach to business development similarly invariably wastes your ammo - follow the ball and be a striker.

Carmel Rafter said...

On being asked as to what he attributed his great goal-scoring success as a player one taciturn footballer is reputed to have said:-

"I just followed the ball."

A scattergun approach to business development invariably wastes ammo.

So follow the ball - and be a striker!