August 20, 2015 Tito M

How to find your ideal customers to market your small business?

What is meant by an ideal customer?

Well, this is the person who not only wants to do business with you, but with whom you want to do business. Ultimately, defining your ideal customer helps your bottom line by focusing your marketing activities on reaching your most profitable customer group. In addition, it is as simple as identifying five to ten descriptive terms that paint a picture of this ideal, profitable customer.

First, to find ideal customers you will need to understand the demography of your customer. Demographics, is just determining if your ideal customer is male or female, and a specific income bracket or age group. Now, I know that there is always going to be exceptions to any rule, but again, the goal of this exercise is to improve your focus, so look for patterns and the usual suspects and ignore the exceptions.

The second thing to look at is location.  Does your ideal customer live in a specific area or proximity to your business? For instance, if you sell an online course, then your ideal customer could be located anywhere, but if you are a dentist, then your ideal customer is probably within 10 miles of your business.

The third is interests.  Do the ideal customers share certain hobbies or join the same clubs? If you are a home remodeling contractor, then your ideal customer probably would  read home magazines, watch home shows, attend home and garden events, and ending home remodeling project.

Finally the last thing is life events.  Is there a common life event, or a trigger, that causes the need for your service? The reality is, getting married drives a lot of businesses, business to florists and tax time drives business for tax consultants.  For many of you, the terms that you select for this bucket will have the most impact on your focus.

Here is an example of an ideal customer for a fictitious business that we are going to call Susie’s Garden Shop.  Her ideal customer is probably a woman between the age of 30 and 50 with a family income over 75,000 who lives within 20 miles of her shop and enjoys gardening, and buys gardening supplies every spring.  There you can see how just using these four buckets we came up with six descriptive terms that Susie, the garden shop owner, could use to focus her marketing efforts on her ideal, most profitable customer. Defining your ideal customer is really only half of getting started.

You also need to talk about your business in a way that is going to make the ideal customer want to do business with you.  My guess is, we would see two ends of the business story spectrum.

On end of the spectrum are business owners who spend a lot of time talking about the awesomeness of their business, but they never actually tell you what they do.  On the other end of the spectrum are business owners who give you a few fast facts about the business, but they don’t say anything that is compelling or makes them want to do business with you.

The goal is to give your business a story that you can be told in 60 seconds or less and like all good stories, it must include some drama with a happy ending.

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What you see in the above graph in light grey, is an example of a four-stage story arch.

What you see is the, in light grey, the beginning or the introduction to the hero, the complication, climax, and resolution.  This is a standard story template that people use.  In black is how this arch can be applied to telling the story of your business.

What do you do? What problem do you solve? The climax is how is your business different than other businesses out there? Then the resolution is basically, how is your customer’s life different because of doing business with you? What is their happily ever after?

Let me walk you through an example of how Susie would be able to tell her business story.  In the example below, she starts with, “I have a garden shop”.

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The goal of this phrase is just to be very simple and concrete as possible. Avoid the temptation of trying to make it sound too vague or too sexy, because the next three sentences are really, where you are going to take this simple, concrete truth and give it some meaning.

The next point is, what problem do you solve? This is where you focus on the one problem that you solve better than anyone else does in your market.  Now, you might feel like you solve problems, and the reality is, you might solve multiple problems, but the goal here, again, is focus.  You want to focus on the one thing that matters most to the person to whom you are talking.

That leads us to the third point, which is where you differentiate yourself from your competitors.  In the example of Susie, the garden shop owner, she sells specialty plants that her primary competitor, the big box store in her area, does not carry.  The reality is, for many of you, the key difference between doing business with you versus your competitors going to be you, your personality, your years in the community, your community relationships.

The goal here is to find something that sets you apart and include it in your business story.  This leads to the happily ever after.  How is your customer’s life different after having done business with you?

Just knowing whom your ideal customer is and knowing what you want to say to them is not going to be enough.  You need to get your business online so that your ideal customer can find you and learn about your business.  The reality is, 77% of Internet users search for local businesses online.  It is a given.  Your business has to be there.  But being online is more than just having a website, because those consumers are using multiple screens, including smart phones and tablets, so your website really needs to be responsive.

Your website obviously needs to be optimized for search engines, but you also have to account for the fact that consumers go to multiple sites to find your local business. Obviously, as I said, they are going to search engines like Google and Bing.  That is why your website is so important.  But they are also going to local search sites like YellowPages.com, review sites like Yelp, and social sites like Facebook.  On these sites they find what is called a business listing, meaning your business name, phone number and often your business address.

In fact, Yext estimates that missing and inaccurate information costs businesses over $10 billion every year.  As I said, getting online is more than just getting a website. It is also having a website that is responsive to mobile screens, optimized for search engines, and making sure that you have control of your business listing. The first thing that you can do when you think about this step of getting online is to make sure you have control of your business listings now.

At the very least, consider controlling your business listing across the top five publishers, Google+, Facebook, YP.com, Yahoo, and Yelp.  All you need to do is to go to each one of these sites and search for your business by name.  Most of these publishers, or in fact, all of these publishers, will give you the opportunity to claim your business listing, if it exists, or add it if it is missing. Most of them are going to give you the opportunity to add additional content about your business.

This really helps consumers choose to do business with you, so it is important to add that additional information.  Controlling your business listing on the top five sites is going to take you little bit of time the first time around, but totally worth the investment.  Again, this is all about improving your bottom line.  Once these top five sites are done, there are still dozens, and possibly hundreds, of additional sites where your business listing could also be published.  You can take the time, narrow it down to the ones where you think your ideal customer looks, or you could take advantage of some of the listing management tools that are available for small businesses.

Listing management tools are especially useful for the ongoing maintenance of your business listing, because things do change.  It is the Internet.  They change often.  You want to change on top of it.  Getting your business listed is an easy and free way to get your business online and make sure that potential customers can find you.

The second point here, though, is you want to make sure that you do have a website and that it is responsive for mobile screens.  According to a recent survey, we understood that 60% of shoppers with tablets or smart phones report performing local searches on their device within the past week.

What is the bottom line impact to you about a mobile optimized website? Well, it makes it easy for the consumers to contact you once they find you.  A mobile optimized website is literally optimized for ease of use on a small screen.  Here is a quick test that you can do to see if your website is mobile responsive.  Go to the browser on your desktop or your laptop.

You can open up Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Fox, whatever is your browser of choice.  Go to your website and then zoom out until you are looking at your website at like 27 to 33% of normal size.  Every browser is a little bit different, so you will have to figure out where that zoom opportunity is.  If your website looks exactly as it did at 100%, it is just a smaller version, than likely your website is not mobile responsive.

However, if your website changed a little bit, if it moved into a new order or the content moved around, then yes, your website is likely to be mobile responsive.  If your website is not mobile responsive, talk to your webmaster about getting it updated.  You definitely do not want to miss out on the opportunity to be contacted by consumers who find you on their mobile devices.

can google find you

Then the third, and most obvious, opportunity is to optimize your website for search engines.  But what I can do is give you a three step checklist that you can use to determine if your website is optimized.  Is it optimized accurately? Is it optimized for effectiveness?

To determine if your website is optimized, ask yourself, can Google find your website? You can answer this question by literally going to Google and, in the search results bar, type site: and then the URL of your company, eg site:johnspizza.com, whatever the URL is that you are wanting to look at.  Again, your typing site:URL.

When you look at the results you are going to see really two results.  You will see one result that says Google does not find anything.  In that case, if your website does not show up, you are kind of screwed.  That means that Google does not even know that your website exists.  There is work that needs to be done.  If your website does show up, what you are going to look for is to see, how many pages does Google think you have? How many of your pages are findable? Now, it is going to be an approximate number.  It is not going to be exact.  But if you are within like a 10% difference, if you have 50 pages and Google finds 45, you are pretty good.  If it is over 20% difference, then you know that you definitely have some work to optimize your website so that Google can find all of the pages of your website.

The second thing you wanted to do is to determine if your website is optimized accurately, meaning, does Google think your site is relevant for the terms that your ideal customer is going to use to find you or your type of business? You can get an easy answer to this question by simply thinking about the words, terms or phrases that your ideal customer is going to use when searching for your business, and compare these words to the words and the terms on your website.

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Obviously the first place on your website to look at is that visible content on your site, but you also want to look at the Meta tags and the Title tags.  Again, the goal here is not to teach SEO in five minutes, so if you are unfamiliar with the terms of Meta tags or title tags, then you can do a little bit of research. Bottom line, you want to make sure that all of the terms that matter, all the terms that describe your business and all the terms that your small business customer is going to be looking for are on that site and that they match across all of the different areas where content is included. If they can find you, then yes, Google has decided that your site is relevant and you will be included in those search results, but being included as number 1000 isn’t really going to help you grow your business.  This is where you want to make sure that your site is optimized to effectively get you to the top of the results.

In order to determine if your site is optimized effectively, you need to ask yourself, does Google think your site is important? Now, the answer to this question, that is kind of that secret sauce of Google or all search engines, but the two things that you can look at is, number one, how unique is your content, and the second thing is, how many other sites reference your content? This is that term backlinks that we all hear so often.

Trying to become important for terms such as plumber or forest is very difficult.  There are thousands of people who make very good careers helping business become important for these types of general terms.  The one term that you should really be considered important for is your business name, meaning if somebody is looking for your business by name, your business should really be on page one.  This is where your business listing, again, both on your website and off your website, can impact your chances for success.

In step one we got you started by defining your ideal customer, developing your business story, and in step two, we got your online and made it easy for people to find you.

This moves us along to step three of the practical marketing framework, which is get leads. Sometimes just being online is not enough.  You’re getting customers, but not at the volume you really need to grow your business.  This is when investing in advertising makes lot of sense if you do it smart, meaning invest in advertising with the goal of getting high quality leads, not just impressions or traffic to your website.

 

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