“Ugh, why isn’t my marketing working?”
Millions of frustrated business owners are out there, asking that same question.
Sadly, too often they jump to the most obvious (and wrong) conclusion. The timing of the campaign was wrong. They should have designed the sales page differently. The ads had too much copy in them.
Any explanation, however surface-level, is easier to swallow than the truth:
These entrepreneurs had no idea who to market to, and so their message was too unfocused and vague to resonate with anybody.
Not knowing who your ideal customer is, dare I say, an embarrassing problem to have. This is supposed to be so basic — Marketing 101 stuff! But you’d be surprised how many brands struggle with defining and pursuing their ideal target audience.
At best, they have a vague idea of who might want to buy their product or service… but not much beyond that. So they have this very broad-strokes, incredibly unhelpful customer persona that doesn’t really provide any insight in how to market to real, flesh-and-blood customers.
So when those companies need to communicate directly with their audience, they don’t know what to say, or how… and as a result, they fail to attract their best buyers.
Well, today we’re fixing this problem with a hearty dose of clarity and focus!
Now, I freely acknowledge that you’re probably way ahead of the curve when it comes to defining your ideal customer. But chances are, your customer personas could still use some work. And if that’s the case, this week’s article will help!
In it, I will share with you a 3-step framework that can turn any generic customer persona into an actionable avatar that will sharpen and focus your marketing and sales efforts.
Read on, and you will learn:
- A simple “rule of thumb” test that will show you if your customer persona is specific and actionable — or vague and useless.
- How to get in your ideal prospect’s head and find actionable touchpoints you could use in your marketing, targeting, and sales.
- The #1 thing that prevents most business owners from attracting their ideal buyers (because they are too afraid to apply it).
Ready? Let’s go!
Step 1. Make your persona pop by applying “the mall test”
Okay, we’ve established that vagueness doesn’t sell, and generic descriptions are the enemy. But what can you do about it? How can you take a bland customer persona and turn it into an accurate, actionable avatar?
Well, it’s actually not as hard as it sounds! I’m going to show you one simple heuristic (a.k.a. rule of thumb) that will help…
It’s called “the mall test,” and it goes like this:
If you go to your local mall, would you be able to recognize your ideal customer from the crowd of other shoppers? And if so, what signs would tip you off?
Now, take a long, hard look at your existing customer personas — and try to flesh them out using this framework. For example, here’s a description that would not pass “the mall test”:
“Tech professionals aged 18-34, living in the US, who want to get ahead and are willing to invest in themselves.”
But this, on the other hand, will…
“Women in tech aged 25-35 y.o. living outside the Bay Area and making less than $70K/year. They want to make the leap from junior into a senior role and crack 6 figures, but struggle to find the right opportunities.”
Even with just 2 sentences, you can practically see the person from the second example, can’t you? You might even have a good idea of where at the mall she would go, what she’d buy, and what her day-to-day life is like.
That’s what makes “the mall test” so useful. It forces you to get hyper specific about the kind of customer you want to attract. And you will need that clarity and detail to find and connect with your dream-fit prospects online!
But hey, I’ll be the first to tell you that a 2-sentence description does not make an insightful persona. So how else can you improve it?
And that brings us to…
Step 2. Get deeper in your ideal customer’s head
For many brands, defining their customer persona begins and ends at demographics. Things like age, gender, income level, location, education, job title, marital status — plus every other signifier you can think of.
But even though demographics can be useful, they are limited. All they tell you is that your ideal customers tend to look and be a certain way, and not much else.
If you try to flip that connection on its head, and assume that everyone who matches those demographics is also your ideal customer…
…very quickly, you’ll discover that it doesn’t work in reverse.
It takes more than just demographics to help you recognize top-quality prospects reliably and consistently.
For that, you also need psychographics.
Psychographics give you insight into your ideal customer’s mind. They can reveal why someone would buy from you, why they would choose your brand over the competition, and even what messages would resonate with them.
If you want to attract eager buyers to your product or service, enriching your customer personas with relevant psychographics is the first strategic step in the right direction.
Here are 4 categories you want to think about:
- Goals and aspirations. What do your customers want to achieve that your offer can help them with? Think beyond the immediate results, try to see 1-2 steps ahead. E.g. “they want to get rid of pests in their backyard => so they can enjoy a stress-free BBQ season => so they get to spend quality time with family => so they feel like the world’s greatest dad.”
- Values, opinions, and beliefs. Do your customers feel strongly about anything? What opinions do they hold dearly, even if other people disagree? What’s their line in the sand that they will never cross? This may be your chance to show that your brand is in alignment with their values.
- Personalities and lifestyles. How do your customers spend their time? What are their vibes? The more you understand your audience’s lifestyle preferences and personalities, the better you’ll be able to communicate with them.
- Barriers and limiting beliefs. Finally, what’s holding your ideal prospects back? What internal and external limitations prevent them from getting the results they want? Chances are, similar barriers will stand in the way of them buying from you — so be ready to address them!
The more you know about what’s going on in your ideal customer’s life and inside their head, the more effective your marketing will be!
And now, for the final and perhaps most crucial step…
Step 3. Don’t be afraid to disqualify potential buyers
By definition, most people who could buy from you will not be your ideal customers. And that’s OK! Your business and your offers are not for everyone — nor should they be.
Your ideal customer personas need to reflect this reality.
If you want to work only with high-quality buyers, then it’s crucial that you ask yourself:
“Who do I not want as my customer?” Or, to be more specific…
“What would disqualify someone from working with me, even if on paper they might be an alright client / customer? What are my dealbreakers and non-negotiables?”
I know that these are daunting questions to ask. As business owners, we’re often hesitant to exclude people who might do business with us. Turning away a sale, especially if you’re just starting out, just feels… wrong.
But if you ask me, it couldn’t be more right!
Remember: you didn’t become an entrepreneur just to say yes to everyone who wants to buy from you. You did it to be in control of your life and your choices. To make an impact you care about. To advance your mission.
In pursuit of that, you are free to set any and all standards on who you do business with. For example:
- If you’re a B2B agency, you might set a revenue “floor” for the companies you work with, because you know that only $5+ million / year companies can afford you.
- If you’re creating an ad campaign for a product or service, you can use negative keywords to exclude non-ideal leads and target your message better.
- If you know that a specific group of customers spends more and buys more often, you can choose to cater to them exclusively. E.g. a hotel might focus only on honeymoon couples.
Despite what it may seem, disqualifying non-ideal buyers doesn’t limit your growth. On the contrary, it helps you prioritize the prospects with the biggest positive impact on your business — your dream-fit customers or clients!
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