It’s obvious that knowing your target customer is a critical part of operating and growing any business. Defining your ideal prospect drives all aspects of sales and marketing but also provides direction for the entire enterprise, from developing products and services, creating positioning, developing sales enablement programming, and building the organization, from people to tech stack to processes.

Unfortunately, in too many companies, a target is viewed as “anyone willing to pay money.” In that case, being deliberate and targeting specific customers feels like missing out on opportunities. I’ve literally seen food brands targeting anyone with a mouth.

However, if your business is for everybody, then it’s likely to have a very generic offering that isn’t really the perfect fit for anybody.

Pointedly defining your ideal customer also helps a company discover where to spend its resources. Because your company’s resources are finite, giving attention to one type of customer means giving shorter shrift to others — including those who are empirically more valuable.

So how do you identify your ideal customer? To begin with, leverage all accessible data to better understand your current customers and why they chose you over your competition – e.g., CRM data, sales intel, customer satisfaction surveys, interviews with customers and non-customers, and beyond. Dig into what you know about them, what their goals and challenges are, and how they make their decisions/what their path to purchase is.

Having this information, here are some steps to improve your ideal customer definition, from good to better to best. Good

Define your current BEST customer

You may have various of types of customers, but focus on those driving the greatest value for you. Perhaps they are repeat users, are most appreciative of your product/services, or provide recommendations.

If you are a B2B business, identify your customers’ category and size, how long they’ve been in business, if they’re growing or have stalled, etc. All this will be helpful for your marketing and sales efforts. For example, imagine the difference it might make to realize that you tend to help turnarounds vs. early-stage startups and scale-ups. Better (add this to the above)

What types of people hire you/use your product/services?

Remember that, even for B2B organizations, it is people who make decisions. What are your customers’ goals and fears? What are their values? What is important to them?

Consider the difference it makes in your sales pitches and storytelling to determine whether your customer is the kind of person who seeks bold, innovative solutions that drive big change or are more risk-averse and want to maintain control and the status quo. Best (add this to the above)

When do you and your team do your best work? 

This is a critical determination, especially for service-based companies. Think about when your company is performing at its best and when the teams are most energized – is there a type of client, a type of engagement, a type of solution that brings out the best in them? This is the type of information that helps you truly define your company’s differentiation.

As you can see, these types of definitions and attributes can make a big difference in your company’s offering — and are most likely to drive resonance with and create magnetism for your ideal customers.

Michael Baer
Michael BaerPartner, Interim & Fractional CMO