You know that annoying feeling when you have a tough time dealing with a local business?
It’s frustrating, right?
Sometimes, local businesses just don’t get us.
That’s why, after doing your own market research and competitive analysis, you have to answer the most important question.
Who is your target customer?
Figuring out who your target customers are is a must when Building Your Digital Marketing Foundation.
By understanding your customer, you can relate to them. Then, you can figure out how to reach your most ideal customers online. And, how to solve their biggest challenges. They’ll love you for it.
Plus, understanding your audience helps you deliver the ultimate customer experience.
Any time you build something – a house, a piece of furniture, or a marketing campaign, you need a strong foundation.
That means, you need a plan.
Before you can begin building your marketing blueprint, and frankly before you make the leap to small business owner, you have to know your customer.
If you skipped a few steps before starting your business, don’t worry. You’re here now.
And, thanks to the research you did in steps 1 and 2, you know a lot about your customers and their challenges.
So, congratulations. You finished the research phase of Building Your Digital Marketing Foundation.
You’re already ahead of most other local businesses – you’re learning the steps. And, you’re putting in the effort.
Digital Marketing Foundation Phase 2: The Planning Phase
We know this can be hard, but think of how much you’ve already accomplished.
You just finished the research phase of building your digital marketing foundation.
Now, it’s on to the planning phase. Here’s what we’re going to work on during this phase.
First up, we’re going to teach you how to figure out your target customer.
Then, you’ll craft your small business brand.
After that, you’ll make your master template with all of the key information you need for your marketing.
Finally, to wrap up the planning phase, you’ll make a simple marketing plan.
You still have a lot of work to do. But, you’re in a great place.
It took us years to figure out all of these steps.
It took months of learning from the top marketers in the world, and reading dozens of books. Then, we had to research some data, survey homeowners and local businesses.
Next up, we had to spend time and money testing the skills we learnt to see what works.
We wanted to build the strongest possible marketing foundation specifically for small local businesses.
And, we needed to figure out how to teach you in the simplest way possible.
We had a lot of fun building a marketing strategy that works for businesses like yours.
But, it takes a lot of time to figure out marketing alone – you already have enough on your plate.
That’s why we think it’s so important to pass on what we figured out – whether or not you decide to work with us.
Our marketing strategy is a framework – that’s proven to work – if you qualify and execute the plan right. But, it’s a framework that has to be adapted and customized for each business.
So, let’s learn how to take the research you did, and use it to start planning your own marketing blueprint.
Before we move on, make sure you’ve spent some time going over your research.
It’s important. So, if you didn’t, pause now and go back.
It’s so important because now we use what you learnt.
We use your market research and competitive analysis to figure out who needs your services. And, where the opportunities are.
So, let’s get started with Step 3 of Building Your Digital Marketing Foundation.
Step 3: Building Your Digital Marketing Foundation
Once again, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
According to Entrepreneur.com, a target customer is the following.
Really, your target customer, or target market is the group of potential customers that you are trying to sell your services to.
Put another way, it’s the group of people you focus your marketing efforts on.
Anyone that could benefit from your product or service is a potential customer.
But, often, especially in a crowded market, you need to be more specific. You’re looking for a subset of the potential customers that give you the best opportunity to grow.
Thanks to your market research, you know who lives in your service area. And, you know all about the community’s problems and challenges that relate to your industry.
Plus, thanks to your competitive analysis, you know all about who you’re up against.
Now we’re going to use the information you learnt during the first two steps of Building Your Digital Marketing Foundation.
Try to define your target customer with as much detail as possible.
Potential customer vs. target customer vs. ideal customer
People get confused about the difference between a potential customer, target customer and ideal customer. So, let’s clear that up. And, don’t worry, it’s not your fault that you’re confused.
There’s a reason.
A lot of stuff you read online makes it too confusing.
And, everyone tries to use bigger words than they need to. That makes marketing hard, and boring. Let’s stick with simple and fun.
Your Customers – Peeling Back the Onion
Your target customers are often referred to as your target market. We like to use the phrase target customer to keep things simpler.
As local business owners, we can ditch the confusing business lingo. We’re not sitting in a big fancy board room. More likely, we’re sitting on an old board as a makeshift chair.
That’s why it’s time to peel back the onion. Think of your customer profile in three layers. The outer layer is biggest. Then, as you peel one layer away, the next layer is smaller.
The first layer is your potential customers. Then, a smaller segment within your potential customer market is your target customer. Then, an even more specific customer definition is your ideal customer. The ideal customers are a segment of your target customer market.
You’re probably thinking, okay, I sort of get it. But, maybe you’re not quite there yet.
So, let’s look at an example that worked for us when we were just learning.
We’ll use the example of a local home service company licensed in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess.
The potential customer for a home service business in Westchester, Putnam or Dutchess Counties is really anyone with a piece of real estate that needs some type of work done.
Potential customers meet the minimum requirements to possibly need your services.
So, if your a roofer, the potential customer is further defined as someone that needs or wants a new roof, roof maintenance or a repair.
Your potential customer market is often too broad. And, with so many local home service businesses, you’ll have a hard time standing out.
So, use what you learnt from your research. Then, identify some opportunities to focus on a subset of your potential customers.
After you do your research, and understand your potential customers, take some time.
This is how you begin to define your target customer.
Ask yourself two questions.
First, where is the opportunity to narrow down that big group of potential customers to a smaller group. Who can you best relate to?
Remember, your target customer should have values that align with your own. You want customers that get you. That way, you understand them too.
That’s how you can serve them best. Which drives new business, helps you grow and spend more time on what’s really important in life.
So if you’re a family owned home service company, perhaps your target customer audience is people who need residential home services for family owned homes. You can relate.
More specifically, where do they live, how much money do they generally make.
Narrow down the potential customers based on demographics and other personal characteristics we taught you to collect during market research.
Next, ask yourself if there a subset of your potential customer market that has a specific problem or needs a service no other businesses are addressing. If so, you probably want to consider focusing on that group.
That subset of customers that need a very specific problem solved is called a niche. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.
Then, within that group of target customers, ask yourself another question.
Who is your hypothetical perfect customer?
That’s your ideal customer.
The ideal customer is your imaginary friend.
Over time, you can develop a few ideal customer profiles. Maybe even give your imaginary friend a name But at first, just start with one.
If you could clone your ideal customer, and wake up every day and do business with that customer, what would they be like?
The ideal customer is an even smaller subset within your target customer market.
Not every customer will be ideal, or even part of your target customer market. Your marketing will attract other types of customers.
But, when you craft a message that keeps the people most likely to align with your business values and services in mind, you’ll connect better with them and stand out.
Try to picture what your ideal customer looks like. Search online for a picture of someone that fits that vision. Give them a name. Joe’s a good one.
Then, print it out and put it on your office wall. That way, they’ll be front and center in your mind.
When you keep your ideal customer in mind, before making decisions, your small business will thrive.
First, let’s start broad with your target customer.
Finding Your Small Business Target Customer
The approach to narrow down all potential customers – to target customers – will be a little different for each of us.
When nobody’s standing out, you can take a more general approach.
Let’s say you’re a roofer entering a market where there are no other roofers doing a great job in the digital world.
Then, you can define your target customers more broadly. Perhaps all homeowners that need new roofs or roof repairs.
But, if several businesses in your industry are taking advantage of digital marketing to connect with your community, you need a narrower target customer definition.
The best approach is to start with the profile of potential customers, then narrow it down based on what you learnt during the research phase.
Your Target Customer – A Practical Example
Often, your local business won’t be the only game in town. You’ll have competitors, and they’ll have a head start.
But that doesn’t mean they’ve got the advantage. Most local businesses in and around Westchester County don’t research before they build their marketing blueprint.
That’s always a mistake. But, it’s up to you to make them pay.
And, since you’ve gotten this far, we know you’re ready to put yourself on the right path to marketing success. Just stick with it.
Now look at what you saw during your research. Then, start to narrow down the potential customer profile to a target customer.
Think about the unique value you can deliver, the demographics of your service area and what potential customers had to say from your research.
Look at where the gaps were between customer needs, and services from your competitors.
For example, as a home service business in the Hudson Valley, what characteristics would your customers share?
Potential Customers – MCAS Roofing
Well, for home service contractors like MCAS, potential customers are anyone that owns a house in Westchester, Putnam or Rockland Counties. That’s where they are licensed and insured.
They would also have to be in need of a repair or renovation for the exterior of their home. As we learnt, those are all of your potential customers – it’s pretty broad.
Target Customers – MCAS Roofing
For MCAS Roofing & Contracting, they saw a few problems in our community.
First, there are lots of families that own homes in the Hudson Valley. Two parents work, and they’re super busy.
Parents that are also homeowners don’t have time to play phone tag with a contractor.
Millennials are also really busy, even if they don’t have kids yet. Different age groups prefer communicating in different ways.
Some people like text, email, phone, online chat or Facebook messenger. People want options.
The average commute time is also high for a lot of people in Westchester and Putnam. Plus, home renovations like roofs and siding are difficult for lots of families to pay for. It’s a big expense project.
When Mike spoke to some of his customers, he heard first-hand how hard it is to find a reliable contractor. His customers were happy to have found him. And, willing to share their thoughts with our neighbors.
People see contractors say they’re the best. But, according to our research, few trust that.
Mike’s neighbors were overwhelmed when they had to find businesses like his. They have to trust Mike with the safety of their family, probably their most expensive asset (their home) and roofing and siding is not cheap.
So, they’re understandably nervous the job won’t get done right. Or worse, someone will get hurt.
As a family owned business, MCAS Roofing decided to narrow down their target customers to local families that need a reliable, licensed, insured contractor for their home.
Their target customer will pay a bit more for quality materials and quality craftsmanship, instead of going with inferior construction at a cheaper price. They understand the value of quality. And, they want to see signs of trust, before they even call MCAS Roofing.
Mike saw that lots of businesses in the area saying they had what it takes, but few were showing it online.
Mike thought that was an opportunity. We agreed.
Finding Your Small Business Ideal Customer
When you try to be everything to everybody, you’ll never stand out in a crowded local market.
That’s why you have your target customer profile now.
But, within that group, you should dig a little deeper. You want to find your ideal customer. It’s not about ONLY marketing to them.
Instead, it’s about learning which types of jobs are ideal to help achieve your business and personal goals.
Who are the customers that you ideally want to be serving in a perfect world?
They might be the most profitable, or closest to your headquarters, or even have easy going personalities. It’s up to you to decide after you do your research, and think about your own goals.
It’s not always just about projects. Quality of life, family time, and low stress are important too.
Your Ideal Customer – A Practical Example
For MCAS Roofing & Contracting, Inc., their ideal customer profile starts with the family-oriented homeowners that value quality, reliable businesses. That’s their target customer.
So next, we had to help them narrow it down.
Mike’s “perfect” or ideal customers are the homeowners who want to build long-term relationships, and are willing to refer quality businesses to their friends. They’re the people that live and work here in the Hudson Valley, and will be loyal to businesses they trust.
The ideal customer for MCAS Roofing are homeowners that want businesses to earn trust, not ask for it. They’ll pay a bit more for quality and reliability.
And, they appreciate businesses that give them the tools they need to make good decisions for their own home and family.
Then, they become life-long customers. If you make a mistake, they accept it, as long as you go out of your way to make it right. And, handle their problems fast.
MCAS Roofing’s ideal customers are people that care about their neighbors. MCAS Roofing’s ideal customer values our community, and giving back.
That’s how you go from a pool of potential customers, to your target customers and finally your ideal customer profile.
Remember, none of this means your limiting your business.
We don’t want you to get confused. We’re not telling you to turn away customers that aren’t ideal. Instead, thinking about your ideal customer leads to the most profitable jobs from the customers you love to work with.
It’s about focusing your message so you get more of your favorite customers.
Defining Your Target Customer In A Niche
A common advanced strategy to growing your business in a crowded market is niche marketing. Niche is a specialized audience within your target customer market.
A niche can be a more specialized service that your competitors aren’t focusing on, or a focus on a huge challenge that you’re the only one that can help with.
Your pool of potential customers are going to be the same if you decide to focus on a niche. But, when you narrow that down to your target audience, it’s a bit different.
How Should You Find Your Niche in Your Community?
Don’t just target customers based on who you think you want your customer to be.
Instead, analyze the competition and find a niche, or segment, within your target customer market.
The easiest way to rapidly attract customers is to target a specific subset or niche in your industry that no other local businesses focus on.
Solve a problem nobody else is solving.
Niche Target Customer Market – A Practical Example
Let’s take MCAS Roofing & Contracting, Inc who took a niche approach to building a more specific target customer profile.
By first conducting market research around Croton-on-Hudson, NY, we learnt how overwhelming it can be for homeowners to search for a contractor they can trust.
That why MCAS Roofing & Contracting, Inc. decided to position themselves as the local roofer that values quality work and materials over profits. Their target customer market is families who value the same for their home.
They could have just left their target customer as residential real estate owners in their primary service areas who valued quality and reliability.
But, we suggested, and Mike agreed, that he niche down to family owned homes. It’s the people he can best relate to – because he is a Hudson Valley family man and homeowner.
You can also niche down to a type of service. For example, MCAS Roofing can take their target customer profile a step further. In addition to traditional shingle roofing, Mike Casolaro is an expert is slate roofing.
Slate roofing is a niche because the majority of houses have asphalt or shingle roofs. But, the more affluent areas of lower Westchester have a lot of slate. Even though the size of this niche target customer market would be smaller, there’s a lot less competition.
As you become more advanced, you can have specific niches that you market to differently.
The Buyer Persona
You can’t just have the target customer and ideal customer profile in your head. Get it down on paper. Everyone in your small business has to be on the same page.
Your Target Customer Profile
Document all of the key characteristics of your general target customer. Remember this should be the broader definition of your potential customers. These are all of the people that you want to focus on marketing to.
List the characteristics and demographics from your market research. Only the ones that apply to your new target customer profile.
Also, list their challenges or problems, as well as their values.
Your Ideal Customer Profile
Your ideal client profile is the more specific definition. These are the people that you love working with the most. Document all you can about your ideal customers.
You can add it under your target customer profile. Since, well, your ideal customer is part of your target customer market.
Congrats On Another Milestone!
Once you outline your target customer and ideal customer profile, you’re done defining your customers. Well, for now.
Remember, the research and planning phases of your marketing is constantly being updated.
But for now, you can begin crafting a message through digital marketing that will resonate with your audience.
Knowing your audience will now help set you apart from the competitors and build a memorable brand.
While your competition is speaking to everyone, you’re saving time and money.
You’re only speaking to the right people. But, now it’s important to shape a message and a small business identity that your customers will relate to.
Congratulations on being one step closer to Building Your Digital Marketing Foundation for long-term success in and around Westchester!
Next, are you ready to start learning about small business branding for your home service company?