Who are your ideal customers? The more you know about them, the more of them you’ll attract — and the more successful your business will be.

Here's what you need to know to identify your ideal customers.

Characteristics of your ideal customer

To identify the characteristics of your ideal customers, start with any data you’ve gathered about your best customers. If your business sells to consumers, that information may include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Life stage
  • Psychographics (attitudes, hobbies, beliefs, interests)
  • Media they prefer
  • Pain points

If your business sells to other businesses, customer characteristics may include:

  • Industry
  • Location
  • Sales/revenues
  • Years in business
  • Number of employees
  • Budget
  • Pain points

Review data from your customer relationship management software, loyalty program software, customer purchase history and public records. You can also learn more about your best customers by:

  • Conducting customer surveys by mail, comment cards, online or over the phone
  • Holding customer focus groups with your best customers
  • Social listening (paying attention to what your customers say about your business on social media)
  • Monitoring online ratings and reviews of your business, products and services
  • Talking to customers one-on-one

In addition to the demographic data above, your goal is to discover:

  • How your best customers research purchases for products/services like yours
  • How they make purchasing decisions
  • What media they prefer
  • How they originally found out about your business
  • Why they decided to buy from you the first time
  • Why they keep doing business with you
  • What they get from your business that your competitors don’t offer

Create a customer persona

Combine all the information you collect about your ideal customer to create a customer persona. A customer persona is a description of the ideal customer as if he or she were a real person. (You may even have a real customer in mind that exemplifies your ideal customer.)

Here’s a sample customer persona for a bicycle retailer:

Mike is a 55-year-old professional with a household income of $150,000. He’s married with adult children and lives in the suburbs. Fitness is a priority for him, and he spends $5,000-$10,000 annually on high-end bicycles and accessories. He wants products that are functional, high quality and convey status.

If you have more than one type of ideal customer, you need different customer personas for each type. For example, the bicycle retailer might also have this customer persona:

Josh is a single, 28-year-old urban professional with an income of $90,000; he spends $5,000-$10,000 annually on bicycles and accessories. Josh prefers off-road and mountain biking and likes to customize his own bikes. Biking is a social activity for him, and he enjoys being the first in his crowd with the latest bike gear.  

Find more of your ideal customers

Using your customer persona/s, design your marketing and sales strategies to attract your ideal customers by:

  • Advertising in the media where they spend the most time (online, blogs, websites, print, TV, radio)
  • Creating marketing and advertising messages that address their pain points
  • Using social media to share content relevant to their concerns
  • Including words and phrases they use in your sales and marketing copy
  • Communicating in their preferred format (text, visual, video, long-form, short-form)

Focus your sales efforts on your ideal customers by:

  • Purchasing lists of prospects who fit your ideal customer profile
  • Targeting people with your ideal customer profile on social media
  • Getting referrals from your ideal customers (their friends are likely to be ideal customers, too)
  • Selling your product or service via their preferred sales channels

Identifying your ideal customers will help you weed out customers that are less than ideal—those that are harder to sell to, don’t spend as much money and aren’t as profitable. By focusing on your ideal customers, your business will grow faster with less effort, becoming more successful and profitable.

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