|Describe Your Customer|
Who Is Your Customer?When I visit with a new client for our marketing consulting business, one of the first things I ask is for the business owner to describe the customer they would most like to see walk through the door right now. Every demographic they can give me helps to know how to plan the marketing. Age, sex, income, job, etc. Then I ask the same details on the second favorite customer they would prefer to see.
Most of the time that I ask this question, the owner is surprised by the question. With a few moments of thought, they can generally come up with a description. But they have obviously never considered the issue in planning their advertising, promotion, store layout, pricing, branding, or everything else that would be determined by the demo. In fact, as often as not, the demo that is coming in the door is nothing like the preferred client.
After the demographic, the next question would be the customer style. There are plenty of customers who are not profitable for the company. And there are customers that create more stress than they're worth. There are also customers whose demands are outside the skill sets or talent of the company.
Unfortunately when revenues are not strong, we are tempted to take on customers that are outside of the ideal. The result can be so disrupting to the business that the loss goes far beyond the difference between costs and income from that specific client.
We did silk screen printing on bottles at the factory I used to own. We were the best in the world at the type of printing we did. However, there were still limits of the kind of art that we could do, or at least do well. But, then some huge order would come our way with art that was stretching our capabilities. It was always difficult to turn away that kind of business. However, the potential pitfall was to lose money on the difficult printing job, cost us the customer forever, and/or cause us to fall behind on other jobs.
Contractors often accept jobs from consumers who they can see are difficult personalities and/or seriously anal. Then early into the job, they see more of the same. The time to get out is before the job is underway. Your gut will almost always be right. That same personality, after you have done above and beyond, will generally be the hardest to get final payment from, and they will still be upset over something.
So, do yourself a favor. Write out a description of the customer you are seeking and even the one you hope never darkens your door. Once you have this description completed, it will help you to know how to market in a way that will bring that person to your business. What do they read? Where do they live? What keywords are they likely to be looking for? What brands do they prefer?
What kind of service and pricing do they expect?
In many businesses, the ideal customer is relatively easy to identify. A bankruptcy lawyer, wedding photographer, hardware distributor, and many other businesses can easily obtain lists of those needing their services or advertise very . Even in those cases, it is often wise to qualify the customer, rather than try to land every person or business who comes your way.
As a corollary, don't be afraid to fire customers who are unprofitable. You may be surprised to find out that they had no idea they were not profitable for you, and be willing to change their relationship in order to keep the relationship. Sometimes your clients need you more than you think.
Some who might be more trouble than they are worth or those who consistently beat you down in price or ask for expensive special treatment for free, those who consistently pay late, and those who have excessive returns. Some clients even do all three. I've fired clients who were inappropriate in their treatment of my employees. We even fired a major national chain for too many charge backs.
Be aware that your reputation includes the company you keep The word will get out if you are soft on price, credit, etc. If you have good products, service, and customer service...oh, and marketing...you should be able to be picky in client selection.