TL;DR -Takeaways for the impatient)
When we suggest building your website around your ideal customer, we’re not echoing the numerous management fads of the last 20 years – customer-centric, customer-focused, yada yada yada. What we mean is simply that your website should be built around a purpose, and what better purpose than gathering sales or leads from your best prospects? To get those sales or leads, your website needs to make it both attractive and easy for prospects (and re-purchasing customers) to learn about products, offers, warranties, services, and so on. Please understand that product information is not the only thing on your website. Read our details on website content.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of feeling that narrowing the focus of your website means you may lose other possible sales. Lincoln Murphy calls this the “fear of missing out” (FOMO)1, and, like us, suggests that greater returns are found in focusing on ideal customers, rather than the great mass of possible customers.
It should be no surprise to any business owner that the greatest returns on activities are those that focus on the business' ideal prospective customer. It guarantees the best return on investment in any part of a business' marketing activites. As Brian Tracey put it onEntrepreneur's website, "The most important activity of any entrepreneur is to clearly identify the very best customers for your product or service, and then focus all marketing, advertising and sales efforts on this particular type of customer."2 However, this is a lesson learned over time and at no small expense. When we ask the question, you do want to sell to, many first-time business owners we talk to invariable answer "why, everybody!". Very few businesses can afford to market their products/services to "everybody". That means budgets for national television, radio, magazines and the like. Be smart, market to your ideal customer and see a much better return on your marketing investment.
If you haven't defined your ideal customer or prospect for your business, it's time to do so. It will improve your sales techniques, the tone and content of your materials, as well as your website. One way to do this is to create one or more target customer profiles, one for each of your ideal customer types. John Jantsch puts it this way, "One of the most important elements of a marketing strategy is the development of an ideal target customer profile. Effectively understand who makes an ideal customer allows you to build your entire business, message, product, services, sales and support around attracting and serving this narrowly defined customer group."3
If you are in business now and have a sales history with any decent record-keeping, you can analyse purchases and begin to narrow in on one or more ideal customers. Look for the customers who represent the greatest profit in the shortest possible time, with the smallest investment. Every retail sales person knows about "looky-loos" and "tire kickers". They cost a lot of time and lost opportunities. As Lincoln Murphy, co-author of Customer Success4, said in his "Ideal Customer Profile Framework", "Ready, Willing, and Able are the baseline characteristics of an Ideal Customer."4
Remember you are looking for the "sweet spot" in that mass of possible buyers. Who purchased soonest after first contact? Who required the fewest sales contacts and the least amount of sales (or your) time? Who most frequently purchased from you again? Who referred the most business to you after becoming a customer? Now, what do these people or businesses have in common? If this sounds overwhelming or like 'analysis paralysis', don't believe it. The better the job you do on this, the better your business will do. For some help with this sort of analysis, read Lincoln Murphy's materials5. While he writes about software as a service (SAAS), virtually everything he writes about is germane to any product or service business. If you find yourself wanting to do even more detailed analysis, find a copy of The Successful Marketing Plan5, which provides instructions and forms (only for the very serious).
Once you have selected one or more ideal customers, you can begin to create a profile. This is a picture of the common characteristics of a group of ideal customers. The customer profile will not only help you create a better performing website, it will help you create better marketing overall, as it keeps you focused on the needs and natures of your ideal customers.
As the image at the top of the page shows, a customer profile is a demographic and psychographic description of your ideal customer. Details include:
The profile above is primarily for business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses. If your business sells to businesses (B2B), you will need a different profile, focusing on the characteristics of businesses that are your ideal customers. For example,
If you need help in creating a profile for your ideal customer, there are a number of websites to assist you. These include Sixteen Ventures7, Ryan Battles8 and The Balance9. You will find many other examples on the web, but note that many of them try to simultaneously profile your customer and pick a marketing strategy. While we feel that knowing an ideal customer's pain point and cost of problem is important, it is not necessarily critical to getting the basic elements into your website. Once you have those basics, yes, the other approaches will help you improve your site even further.
If you have already defined your ideal customer/prospect, use what you know about them in creating and updating your website. You can talk with those customers who fit your ideal customer profile (see more below), or you can survey them via mail or online survey services like Zoho.com, Surveymonkey.com or Typeform.com/Online-Surveys. Some will allow you to start for free, and some aid you in creating useful surveys.
Building for your ideal customer includes:
1Lincoln Murphy "Ideal Customer Profile Framework", sixteenventures.com (2014) https://sixteenventures.com/ideal-customer-profile
2Brian Tracy, "Determining Your Ideal Customer", Entrepreneur.com (2005), https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/75648
3 John Jantsch, "How to Discover Your Perfect Target Customer in 5 Steps", ducttapemarketing.com () https://www.ducttapemarketing.com/how-to-discover-your-perfect-target-customer-in-5-steps/
4Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman, Lincoln Murphy, Maria Martinez, Wiley (2016) ISBN-10:1119167965
Buy it on Amazon.com
5Roman G. Hiebing, Jr., Scott W. Cooper, The Successful Marketing Plan (4th Ed.), ISBN-10: 0071745572 Buy it on Amazon.com
6Valerie Levin, "The Consumer Secrets that Drive B2B Marketing" oktopost.com, https://www.oktopost.com/blog/the-consumer-secrets-that-drive-b2b-marketing/
8 Ryan Battles