Customer profile development

Customer profile development

It often happens at events at which I speak, big or small, does not seem to matter.

Someone afterwards comes up to get some advice on their particular scheme  to make a million from an online business.

It happened again last week, one very sensible business idea that has been road tested and while sort of working, is sputtering, and a second that is as likely as the second coming to deliver salvation.

The advice I give always starts at the same place, the 4 core questions that need to be asked before anything else:

Who is your ideal customer?

Where can you find them?

What is it that you can deliver to them that will attract them to you?

What result do you want to give them?


It is rare that anyone I speak to has really thought through all four, indeed rare that even the first is clear, but without that discipline, you may  as well keep the money you would give away chasing the dream.

It is reasonable to start with a view, and after testing, alter it based on what you have learnt, but let’s take them one at a time.

Who is your ideal customer?.

In the pre digital age, all we could do was describe our ideal customers in very broad demographic and assumed behavioural terms, now we can be extraordinarily specific. We have also broken the bounds of geography, our customers can be anywhere in the world, and we can reach them. Bombarded as we all are with messages, unless a message speaks specifically to us, about something of immediate interest, we no longer see it, the auto spam filter between our ears screens it all out. In the event your million dollar idea has more than one ideal customer, do the exercise twice, be prepared to have two, or three, or four, sets of ideal customers and the messaging that is specifically relevant to them researched and prepared.

Where can you find them?

This question is not about geography, but about our digital lives. People with similar preferences tend to stick together, it was always so in the school yard,  and it is the same in our digital lives. My eldest son is a specialist in old fashioned large format, black and white, architectural and landscape  photography. His peer group around Sydney is pretty small, in Australia modest, but his global network of like minded specialists and hobbyists is substantial. You will find him in digital places that accommodate those particular specialists, and if you want to talk to them, the way to do so is to go there digitally, and say something of specific interest. Unless you can identify and deeply refine the profile, you will never find him, or anyone else who might buy your idea.

What can you deliver that is attractive to them?

Our range of choices of goods and services and their providers is vast, what is it about you and yours that is likely to be attractive to a prospective customer? To continue the analogy with my son, if you just knew he was a successful photographer, and you sold top end photographic equipment, you might think he was a prospect. No so. You need to be able to deliver him something specifically about his form of photography that is unavailable elsewhere, and that he is currently thinking about, or could be enticed to think about, before he will even notice a message from you.

What result do you want to give them?

Everyone to whom you try to sell something recognises that you are doing it for profit, not your health. While they may be happy to see you healthy, they will only buy from you if there is something in it for them beyond the warm feeling of making you successful. It is therefore essential that you define the result that your prospect will get from using your product. Again using my son, it would be attractive to him to find a large format camera and tripod setup that weighed less than the many kilos of his current setup, which he packs onto his back as he walks long distances to get just the right aspect and light, but any sacrifice of image quality, and his standards are extraordinarily high, would be absolutely unacceptable as a trade-off.

When, and only when you have thought through all this in detail, will you be ready to seriously contemplate an investment in the digital technology and content creation necessary bring your dream alive.