Across thousands of conversations with business owners, I’ve heard one thing consistently when asked if they know who their customer is. Nearly every time, I get the same wrong answer. “Everyone is our customer.” It is perhaps the most consistent answer across any subject matter among business owners. I understand where it comes from, as well. They’re simply maximizing the potential, right?
What makes this even more damaging is that the question of “Who’s your customer” sets a mindframe of how customers are treated. When they throw a wide net, then they treat all of the fish, shrimp and boots the same. There’s something inherently wrong with this mindset, since customers love to feel special.
The best way to handle this is to discover specifically who the customer is, and then treat them like the niche group they are with their own customized message style. That means narrowing down the audience, not expanding it. There are a few ways in which I pursue this with owners, and the process is both fun and liberating. Fun, because the first thing I ask them is which of their customers they actually like serving. Forget about the rest. We start there, and build from the “desired customers” list.
Small business is in a unique position where the brand and owner have a very high level of similarities. Honestly, until the brand is specified, the brand and owner tend to be identical. This is not the best way to do it, but it’s a natural course. And there’s nothing wrong with that. After the first batch of successful widgets have been sold, though, the brand needs to be identified, and part of that is to identify the customer. The specifics: who, where, when, and most specifically, WHY. Because let’s face it, if someone doesn’t understand why their customer buys, then they really don’t know anything about them.
As the customer type comes into practice, or to be more specific, once you’ve got the image of your favorite customer in your head, it’s time to dig into their psyche. This is the only way you can build an empathy statement they will relate to and respond to. In my personal world, I call it the bottle-o-wine research night. Get comfortable, and become a fly on the wall of the conversations your customer type is already having. There are many ways to pursue this. Personally, I enjoy this step because I feel like I’m getting the cheat code to listen in on the conversation. They are talking. I’m listening.