Why It's Important in Growing a Successful Business
There are many factors involved in managing a business, and most of them can be safely relegated to subordinate issues or pushed lower down the list of priorities without much repercussion. The customer, however, is one aspect that cannot be ignored. Every successful entrepreneur knows that customers are the heart and soul of the industry, and to make a halfhearted attempt at understanding this complex part of the business model is to risk the collapse of the entire company. Likewise, getting to understand and predict customer wants and desires is a surefire recipe for success.
What is a customer?
A customer is simply a person who is likely to buy the product or service that you are offering. Not everyone is a potential customer of course, despite this being every entrepreneur's wish. There will be some segments of the population - whether by age, location, gender, or beliefs - that will never become your patrons. The trick is to determine which ones.
Creating a customer profile
A customer profile is a detailed description of who you think will be your typical customer. This involves a fair amount of guesswork, but most of it is common sense. For example, if you plan on building a vegan grocery store that sells quality greens and non-animal food products, then your customers will obviously be vegans and vegetarians. Outside pure intuition, research will also come in handy. You can look up statistics and quickly find out that most vegans are adults in their mid-twenties and thirties, and that the vast majority of them are female.
All this information will come in handy when you launch the business, especially when it comes to marketing. In the example above, since the bulk of potential customers will most likely be young-adult women, you can safely assume that they are adept at using social media. Most of your advertising can therefore be channeled towards websites like Facebook and Twitter rather than traditional outlets like newspapers and magazines that cater more to the middle-aged or senior citizens. Messages can also be structured to that demographic, such as how a vegan lifestyle can lead to a trim and toned figure, or how vegan meals can help lower costs when raising a family or juggling a career.
Matching real people with the profile
Creating a customer profile is important, but it's still theoretical at this point. Once you've made a list of characteristics of your imaginary client, it's time to apply it to the real world and get some tangible results. Search out individuals from your niche demographic and interview them. Many people will gladly give you a moment of their time, but you need to ask targeted questions rather than rambling general inquiries or else you risk testing their patience. If a one-to-one conversation is too much of a hassle for your prospective customer, ask for their email address so you can send them a survey to fill out in their spare time. Some of the questions you need to ask are as follows:
- • How would they rate their current experience with the industry? Your prospective customers might tell you, for example, where they buy their vegan ingredients and how convenient the place is.
- • What do they like best about their current experience with the industry? Your prospective customers might cite, for example, the location of the store and the ample parking spaces.
- • What do they dislike most about their current experience with the industry? Your prospective customers might mention, for example, the long checkout lines and the apathetic staff members.
- • How important is the current experience with the industry to them? Your prospective customers might mention, for example, that they are forced to buy at the local store because it's the only one that sells a particular ingredient.
- • What would it take for them to shop at another business? Your prospective customers might say, for example, that they are willing to take their patronage to another store if the prices were cheaper.
This step allows you to refine your customer profile, cutting out approximations that don't apply to the real world and adding in new characteristics that you previously never thought about. The heart of your customer is also revealed, providing you with an immense amount of valuable input that you can immediately incorporate into your business during the launch. Most importantly, the more people you manage to match to your profile, the better the service you'll be able to provide to them as you strive to meet their needs.
Customers are the key
Musicians who want to compose a symphony never proceed directly to the piano and start hammering out notes. They spend years studying music theory.Likewise, entrepreneurs shouldn't just throw their life savings at a hunch and start a company. They need to research their customer base first. Thankfully, it doesn't take a decade to figure it all out. With a few well-placed ideas and a lot of dedication, you can come up with a solid foundation for a business model that will stand the test of time.