Everyone’s at the table. Colorful markets are scattered. The white boards are pristine and ready to receive the immense collection of brilliant, exciting ideas for how your organization can make the leap, take a bold step, make its mark on the world.

It’s a brainstorming session.

I have been in this meeting before. You know the one – where everyone is excitedly brainstorming ideas about what cool promotion the company should do or which shiny new media craze the company should chase.

Before you write another great idea on that white board, take a look around the room and answer this critical question: Do the people around this table really represent the point of view your target audience?

If the answer is yes, brainstorm away.

If the answer is no- or worse – the answer is “I don’t know,” keep reading.

The most important person to have in the room at a brainstorming session is your customer.

Sometimes, without even realizing it, organizations make their most important (and expensive) decisions without putting themselves in their customers’ shoes. When this happens there are only two possible outcomes:

  • You make decisions based on what someone similar to you would think, want, like or say. Or,
  • You make decisions based on your perception of needs for a generic, undefined customer.

The first approach may lead to a complete disconnect with your intended audience because they may be nothing like you at all. The second approach is worst. You will likely fail to differentiate yourself in any meaningful way from the competition.

The best solution for keeping your company connected with its target customer is to establish a shared view of the audience(s) your products and services are designed to reach.

So how do you establish a shared customer view?

Customer profiles are a great way to keep your organization on the same page about its target audiences. Ideally, your company should find a partner to help you gain the insights you need to better understand your customers. But in the meantime, here are a few tips to help you begin a basic customer profile:

Start with the fundamentals.
Make a list of the different types of people who purchase your services based on demographics such as gender, age range, household income, marital status and family size. On separate sheets of paper, write the different demographic groups represented in your customer base.

Add dimension.
For this step, you may want to ask for help from your customer-facing employees. Ask three to five of your top sales folks to describe their favorite customers. Reference the demographic information from step one and assign more detailed characteristics to each group based on what you learn from your employees.

Look for commonalities.
Determine if there are different categories of customers who fall in within a certain cluster. Are you seeing repeat patterns and characteristics related to your customers? If so, begin to assign customers to groups based on similarities.

Look for differences.
Now look for ways that your customer groups are different. Do they have different purchase patterns? Do they shop for specific groups of items or services? If so, begin to assign customers to groups based on differences.

Look for holes.
Decide where you have holes and in your information and determine the best route to getting answers. Do you need to do a customer survey to better understand your audiences? Do you need to put data-gathering mechanisms in place to track behavior? Do you need a better customer relationship management tool? Do you need to bring in a partner to help?

The next time you start any business discussion or brainstorm, pull out your basic customer profiles. They will help your organization stay focused on the needs and desires of your target audience.

To learn more about how your company can use customer profiles to grow market share and differentiate, contact us at apryl at hyphenmarketsolutions.com.



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