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Forget Who Your Customers Are. Focus on What They Want

Aug 14, 2008
It seems whenever we talk about finding and targeting our customers, we focus on who they are. Are they young, old or middle aged? Are they educated or not? Rich, poor or middle-class? Tall, short, skinny, chubby? Urban, rural, suburban or even ex-urban? (Ex-urban sounds like you divorced a suburb.)

Of course, these labels help us group our customers and find them. It's the old "birds of a feather" concept. And to that end, this process can be useful.

But it can also be a problem.

If we focus too much on labeling, grouping and tagging our customers, we can spend too much time thinking about how we define them. And that leaves less time and focus for the most important part, which is what do they want from us?

The more we herd people into groups (which serves our needs) the less we can see who they are as individuals. The less we think about what they want to accomplish.

Our customers know who they are. They don't care how we label them. They care about what they want. We should too. If we focus on who they are (as defined by the labels we assign them) then our focus is not aligned with our customers focus. We are not pointing our efforts toward helping them meet their goals.

That's a bad thing.

We're in business to help people accomplish something. We help them create opportunities or solve problems. Either way we help them improve their lives and their world.

And we do it according to their rules, not ours. They decide what they want. We don't. They're calling the shots. We're not.

Another problem is that labeling and grouping doesn't always work.

Not everyone in a certain age group wants the same things. Some people have kids early in their lives. Some wait until later. others never have kids. So, trying to sell kid-based products to people based on age means you waste a lot of marketing resources delivering your message to people who are not interested.

People who have companion pets come in all ages, shapes, sizes and locations. They speak many languages and have a wide variation in their income and education. But they all have one important thing in common: They all love their pets.

So how do you market to them based on who they are? You can but you'll waste a lot of resources.

So you need to find other ways to identify and reach them. One way is to watch what they do and target them based on that. If they buy stuff for pets (food, accessories, medical car, city pet licenses etc.) then it's a good bet they have a pet.

Another way is to use the technology available to everyone with an Internet connection. One of the great things about the 21st century is that it enables our customers to find us, if we help them.

So, we find ways to get our message out where the right people will find it. We setup an environment where the people we can best serve will find us.

I'm not saying we shouldn't group and label people to help us make better decisions. We should. We need to in marketing just like in most disciplines.

But I am saying we need to be careful to not go too far with it. Don't focus so much on identifying WHO your customers are that your forget WHAT they want.

Focus most your resources on discovering and delivering what your customers want and you'll have more of them finding their way to you.
About the Author
Kevin Stirtz is the Amazing Service Guy. He is a customer service speaker and trainer who helps companies increase revenue and profits by delivering Amazing Service. Kevin has spoken to thousands of people across the USA and in Europe about how to improve customer service. Get a free copy of Kevin's Amazing Service Toolkit at: http://amazingserviceguy.com
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