Do you choose your customers or do they choose you?
If you are starting a business it is easy to get carried away and decide which customers you want but is it that easy. You may have an idea of your typical customer but should you ignore others in the search for your dream customer?
A cautionary tale
In a sleepy seaside village on the south coast of England there was a cafe. It was popular with the older people and kept to a traditional menu with competitive prices. These older people brought their younger relatives with them and the cafe hummed with trade pretty well all of the time. A new owner took over and decided he wanted to appeal to a younger market. He did not understand the link between the older customers and the young people. He changed the menu, dropping old favourites such as sausage rolls and increased the price of coffee to that paid in trendy coffee bars. The older people stopped coming, the cafe did not have what they wanted and it was too expensive, especially if they were treating the younger relatives. The younger people didn’t come because they went out to trendy coffee bars when they were in town, village time was family time and they wanted a cafe for all the family. Slowly trade dropped and the owner realised the damage that had been done, but too late as the families had gone elsewhere.
It is so important to understand who your customers are and what they want. You cant impose your decisions upon customers as unless you have a monopoly they will simply go elsewhere.
Who are my customers?
Who are my customers?
Ask yourself questions about gender, age and occupation. It might be that all your customers are the same type of people , have a think about how you can retain your old customers but attract new customers perhaps by varying what you do a little. You never know your old customers may buy some of the new product too! If you are selling mainly to businesses what size and kind of business are your potential customers, are you looking for the one big fish or lots of little ones?
What do my customers do?
If they are Individuals, what are their occupations and interests? A local pub changed landlord and found that they had lost most of their customers simply because he failed to renew the Sky TV contract so the football was not shown. Previously loyal customers went to other pubs to watch the football or stayed at home If you are selling to business, what is that business trying to achieve and how can your business help them to do that? You need to supply what they need not what you think that they need.
Why do they buy?
If you know why your customers buy a product or service it will be easier to match their needs to the benefits your business can offer. You need to understand how your product fits into their lifestyle or production, so if you sell gardening equipment you need to understand how your customers prepare their gardens and be able to advise on design and plant life. No one is going to buy a plant from a garden centre where the proprietor does not know about plants and keeps his stock in poor condition.
When do they buy?
Is there a buying pattern? If you approach a customer just at the time they want to buy then you will massively increase your chances of success. It is known that in many sectors of business January is traditionally a bad month- however travel agents often report a boost at the end of the month- is that the time to launch special low deposit offers if you are in travel?
How do they buy?
Find out how your customers buy, this might depend on their gender age or occupation. Some people prefer to buy from a website whilst other prefer a face to face meeting. Don't push a customer if you push the chances are they may buy but not from the pushy salesman but the nicer one down the road!
How much money do they have?
You will be more successful if you can match what you are offering to what you know the customer can afford. There is no point showing them the top of the range executive car if they can only afford a three year old small family town car. Pushing people to spend over their budget is not a good idea in the long term as they will not be returning customers nor will they recommend you to friends and family.
What makes your customers feel good about buying.
If you know what makes them tick you can serve them in the way they prefer. That means you have to get to know them, speak to them, but most importantly listen so that you can judge how to help them buy from you.
What do they expect of you?
For example, if your customers expect reliable delivery and you don’t disappoimt them you will stand to gain repeat business. Again listen to your customers and find out what they really want.
What do your customers think about your competitors
There are advantages knowing what your customers think about the competition it can help you change your practice so that you can provide what the customers want. I don't mean search for the dirt on other suppliers but note comments like "usually has what we want" or "usually so reliable"- you will need to match the competitors standards and more to gain and retain this customer.
Knowledge is Power
There is a saying used in many business seminars and lectures that knowledge is power but it is - so take time to get to know who your customers are and what they want- it will pay off in the end with increased sales.