When I ask business owners who their typical customer is, about half of them say ‘everyone’.
So then I try another question. “Who is your best customer?” and I start pressing for details, like income, interests, age, and other details, it turns out that they usually have a relatively clear idea.
What’s the problem with thinking of everyone as your customer? It seems pretty harmless… but could actually lead to a lot of heartache.
Pleasing all people pleases no one.
Have you ever tried to design a website for a 25 year old and an 65 year old at the same time?
People want different things… and whether you are producing a rack card or a website, you need to create something that is going to attract your ideal customer. You are communicating to customers in writing, images, video, and more… and different styles tend to attract different kinds of people.
Below are two online dating websites. Neither excludes people by age and for comparison’s sake, I blurred the names on both in case that swayed you:
Now neither of these sites actually discriminates on age… but some subtle design, text, technology, and photo decisions lead you to think (depending on who you are) you are in the right place or the wrong place.
So in subtle ways, you are targeting some people to somewhat purposeful exclusion of others. If you actually tried to design a website that appealed to all people, it would be super generic looking… and actually appeal to no one. (The site closest to this? Facebook but really if you look at it, it’s the information your friends disclose, not Facebook, that makes that site work well for you.)
Attracting people who don’t want to buy wastes your time and resources.
Think of these things (which may or may not have happened to you in the recent past):
The time you spend talking on the phone to that person who called about buying insert-item-you’re-selling-here but can’t actually afford it.
The money you spend on that broadly targeted Facebook ad that sent two clicks to your website and zero sales.
What do these two things have in common?
In both instances you have reached someone, but in both cases you have mainly reached someone who isn’t interested.
Think you can turn them around with your smile and cheery speech? Most people have decided within 5 seconds whether they like you or not so good luck with that.
The time or money you spent broadly targeting a large group could be reduced in reaching a smaller, more specific group.
Here’s an example from my Facebook profile (in case you don’t know me, I’m a straight, engaged female who is social media consultant with a bachelors degree). Which one makes me roll my eyes more?
I actually might want to get a masters degree so I get that… but attracting a man for a lasting relationship? I think I’m set!
The social media education company is not wasting their time on me but the ‘Enchant Him’ program clearly did. (Yes I totally clicked, if I would have waited until the end, I would have found the secrets to making a man mine forever… oh well!)
Knowing who your people are allows you to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.
Who’s our ideal audience? Middle aged, middle class white women with bachelor’s degrees who are decision makers at a small business or non-profit in coastal Maine.
Now does everyone we work with fit that stereotype? Of course not. But this majority of people tend to attend our workshops, subscribe to our email newsletters, come in for consulting, and serve as our liaisons with their company/non-profit on our larger projects.
In general, they are most likely as a group, to be on Pinterest and Facebook, less likely to be on Twitter and Google+. In case you don’t believe me, some graphs from Alexa.com (by the way, there is more than this available- fascinating website!):
OK so are you ready to see what the largest social referrers are on our website (NetworkedBlogs by the way is a Facebook app)?
I know, mind blown right?
But seriously, if you know your people, you know not only how to spend your time marketing but this information can help make all kinds of other decisions for you. So knowing who your people are helps you spend more time on the right things, and less time on the wrong ones.
Now I hope when someone asks you who your target customer is, you don’t say everyone… because not only is it not true but it’s costing you money.