I once knew a guy named Danny. He managed restaurants and made around $50,000 a year. Because he was frugal and inherited a mortgage-free house, Danny lived a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle.
The only debt he ever carried was financing for his cars. Although he felt no loyalty to any single brand, he was partial to European luxury cars—first a Mercedes E class and later a BMW.
So here’s a purely rhetorical question: Would this young man fall into the target demographic for Mercedes-Benz?
Of course not. Can you imagine how their branding would change? I’ll hazard a guess that their website wouldn’t offer current owners “exclusive perks at the world’s finest hotels.”
Customers and Users Are Not Created Equal
Your terminology might be a bit different from mine, but I consider Danny an occasional user, rather than a true (or ideal) Mercedes-Benz customer. A surprising number of brands I’ve worked with struggled with sales because they confused the two: users and customers. As a result, their messaging was poorly-focused and uncompelling. In trying to appeal to everyone, they appealed to no one.
So how do you differentiate between customer and user, and apply this knowledge to your sales?
Take what I consider the easier path, using meaningful psychographic factors to unite your product or service with its perfect consumer.
The Easier Path to Creating Products that Sell
There are two basic approaches to marketing.
1) Develop a product and then find your ideal customer.
2) Find your ideal customer and develop a product they’ll find irresistible.
In my experience, the second approach is much easier and more straightforward. Rather than a “build it and they will come” approach, take the simpler route and start with the customer.
Your ideal customer—versus an occasional buyer or user—will, first and most obviously, find your offering valuable and relevant enough to buy. Beyond the purchase, they will align not only with features and benefits, but with your brand’s communicated values. They will champion you and spread the word to their friends and social networks. Like the proverbial canary in the coalmine, they’ll be the first to alert you to any problems.
Listen to them. Woo them. Cherish them. Forgive me if that sounds overly sentimental or irrational. But sometimes the simplest principles are easy to lose sight of, and we need reminders.
So here’s your reminder: Your ideal customer is worth all the effort, and any effort, to identify. They are, by far, your greatest asset.
Psychographics Versus Demographics
Today, finding your ideal customer and developing appealing products means tapping into the power of psychographic data. Demographics alone paint an incomplete picture. But with psychographics—attitudes, beliefs, behaviors—we get a richer and more complete understanding of all the factors that influence purchasing decisions.
We can then develop useful and accurate customer profiles and personas, which enables more precise targeting through ads, social media, content marketing, and all other tactics and channels.
You must develop an intimateknowledge of your ideal customer. And it’s simply not possible to gain an intimate understanding of just anyone who might happen to buy your product from time to time.
Starting with a customer and focusing obsessively on who that customer is and what they care about will help you differentiate between your true, ideal customerand those who could better be described as users.
To Focus, Let Go
One of the hardest things about focusing is that it requires letting some things fall by the wayside. In marketing, this can seem counterintuitive. Focusing so obsessively on one limited group, and ignoring all the others, can feel frightening.
Ultimately, though, progress is only possible when we let go of things—and sometimes, opportunities—that aren’t right for us.
Are you sure you understand who your true customer is, and why they matter so much? None of this is easy or simple, but in marketing and in life, developing the discipline to focus on the right things makes all the difference.