If you want to succeed in business, no matter which kind, you must know who is your customer. It goes without saying that not knowing your customer is like shooting in the dark. When you know your customer, you can find out what their needs are and cater your offerings to fit those needs.
Some entrepreneurs enter into businesses offering what they are passionate about, with little regard to whether there is a market for what they offer. If you want to succeed doing business, you must sell something that your customers want to buy, not what you want to sell. The ideal situation is to find common ground between what you are passionate about and what the market needs / wants.
Customers are constantly pitched at in our advertisement heavy society. Many are sick and tired of it. When a potential customer comes across your business through either an unsolicited advertisement (like direct mail), a proactive keyword search on Google or word of mouth, the question that runs through their mind is “what’s in it for me”?
Why should they spend any time on our business? This is just a natural instinct and how customers have become programmed. People are busier than ever today. They don’t have time to “waste” on anything that doesn’t benefit them. And why should they?
In fact, I am friends with several folks who would refuse to befriend someone if there is nothing of mutual value or benefit to be gained. Call it selfish, but they call it mutually beneficial relationship building.
Customers are looking to fill a void, a need. Unless your business satisfies that need, and you are quick and clear to articulate that, you will find success in business. You need to constantly put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes to ask and answer the same types of questions for yourself.
Many argue with me that knowing your customer isn’t as important when you are operating online. I beg to differ. Sure, keyword research can tell you the general demand around your subject matter, but web surfers can be using keywords in any context.
For example, the keyword “paintball equipment” may show a high demand, but searcher A might be looking for where to buy paintball equipment vs. searcher B who might be looking for how to clean paintball equipment to make it last longer. Which visitor are you catering to?
So while operating online can fetch you the traffic through Searching Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, it may not deliver the sales conversions you are seeking. In fact most websites I look at today barely do a decent job of quickly explaining to the visitor who they are, why they exist and why should the visitor spend time on their site. Think about it, if you were the visitor, what incentive would you have to spend any more than 4.87 seconds on that site?
The same goes for traditional marketing efforts. If you are blindly sending direct mail, or advertising in the Sunday newspaper without targeting a specific demographic, chances are that most of your efforts are being wasted.
In order for you to know what your customer needs, you first need to identify who is your customer. What market do you want to target and why? Is there a void that you can fill? Is there a need that you can address? How large is this market? What is the competitive landscape like?
It is always best to have been there and done that. If you are going to be starting a business, it is best to cater to a market that you know. When you know the market, you will easily be able to determine what it needs, what the psychological aspects are that will trigger the desired behavior in your customer.
And if you don’t know the market, get in the trenches and talk to people who you think would be your ideal customers. Learn about their pain points so you can cater to exactly what they need. Don’t rush this step. In fact, dig as deep as you can. Request one on one time with some of your potential customers and listen to them to learn what their needs are.
If you have access to groups, try conducting a survey. Ask friends with email lists to conduct online surveys for you. Volunteer somewhere and provide your services for free. Ask for feedback, or open the floor to a brief question and answer session. Gather as much information as you can about your customer and what they want.
The worst thing you can do after conducting all that research is not acting upon it. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that implementation is key. Like I always say, everyone is a millionaire in their minds, but only few are rich in practical reality because they executed their plan. Implementation is critical to success.
Do not be afraid of failure when implementing your business. You can never learn everything about your customer no matter how much research you do. That is why research should be an ongoing initiative. As times and situations change, so will your customer’s needs and wants. The key is to get started and act when you think you have gathered just enough information and are ready to embark.
That said, failure to stay on top of ongoing research can lead to the death of your business. Just think about the large corporations that fail because they take their eyes off who their customer really is. The key here is to constantly tweak your business based on new information you learn through ongoing research. Ongoing research in this context also involves your personal experience doing business, observations, market trends, etc.
Implementation, or live testing as I call it, is really the best way to validate your research, and continue to learn more about your market. There are tons of business failures out there, and you must be willing to fail! But if approached the right away, (such as doing your research upfront) you can mitigate this risk significantly. With the right business model (online or freelancing), the cost to you will be minimal at best.
If you are currently in business and are not getting the results, I urge you to assess your website or traditional marketing materials and ask yourself the questions discussed above. Ask someone to evaluate your marketing material and tell you whether you were able to get your point across quickly and clearly.
And if you are operating solely on the internet, remember that although keyword research may get you the traffic, it may not get you the sales conversion you are looking for. Successful entrepreneurs and copywriters know their audience inside out, and then optimize their marketing for keywords.
The bottom line is to understand who is your customer and then pitch to them accordingly. This applies whether you are operating online of off.
Readers: Do you know who your core constituencies are? Who is your customer? What are you doing to find out?