I’ve worked with so many different kinds of brands and businesses at Reformation, but more often than not, they usually have one thing in common when we start working together.
They don’t know their ideal customer.
I know, it sounds like such a fundamental. Before you sell something, you should probably know who you’re selling to, right? And most of our clients do have an idea. They can tell us their age range, their sex, perhaps their geographic location.
But the reality is that customers are so much more than quantitative data. They are living, breathing humans, people like you and I who have preferences, habits, tastes, styles, and opinions. Describing your brand’s target markets in terms like, “30-year-old female in Calgary” or “45-year-old male in Toronto” doesn’t even begin to capture the nuances of who a consumer is and why they should want to buy what you’re selling.
So, we made a major change in our approach to public relations. Instead of relying on our clients to provide us with the raw materials we need to execute, we took a step back and decided to do the mining ourselves – to dig deep and get into the hearts and minds of the customer and then work our way back to how we could strategically reach them. One of the exercises included in this process involves identifying and personifying our clients’ ideal customers, and determining how we connect with them. If you don’t know your ideal customer on an “I know what time you get up, how you order your coffee, and what’s on your PVR” kind of way, here are seven questions to get you going in no time flat.
1. Do you already know your ideal customer?
One of the easiest ways to start fleshing out your ideal customer is considering whether you already know them. This trick often informs a lot of the target market work we do at Reformation. Think about everyone in your circle, regardless of how well you know them. Even if they don’t align perfectly, using a real person as the foundation to build your ideal customer profile is a great way to get started. Consider your immediate family, close friends, colleagues, trusted people in your circle (think: hairdresser, chiropractor, mailman, etc.), outsiders you encounter on the regular (the barista who makes your coffee every morning, the girl you see at the dog park a few times a week), characters from pop culture, TV, movies and books. No one is off-limits!
2. What’s your ideal customer’s story?
Nail down the factual demographics of your ideal customer (the usual suspects: age range, sex, personal or household income before taxes, marital status and household structure, sexual orientation), then build on this with the dirty details – the subjective information. What are their opinions, both general and specific to your industry, competitors, and products? Do they have religious or political beliefs that might affect their purchase behaviour? What kind of movies, books, or television shows do they enjoy, and why? Consider their personality, lifestyle choices, and points of difference – what makes this person who they are?
3. What are your ideal customer’s daily habits?
Think about an average weekday in the life of your ideal customer. I like to start with waking up in the morning, then go onwards from there. No detail is too small, so don’t rush past the little things. For example, what time do they wake up, and how much time does that leave them to get ready for their day? Are they habitually late or always early? Do they rush around or are they meticulous? When they wake up in the morning, do they use an alarm clock, rely on their phone’s alarm, or rise with the sun? Run through the day and capture as many details as possible about this person, always asking yourself the ‘why’ about each point. This is likely where you will identify their pain points, which should go back to the big why behind your brand – why you started in the first place.
4. What brands does your ideal customer love?
Don’t make the common mistake of only considering your competitors, and which of them appeal to your ideal customer. Instead, think outside the box and think of any and all brands that are taking part of your mindshare – the businesses that are going after the same ideal customer you are. Consumers are dynamic, real, multi-dimensional people. Even if you’re selling clothes, remember that your buyer also might enjoy beer, buy toothpaste, and hit the gym. Try to come up with a list of at least 10 brands that appeal to your ideal customer.
5. Why does your ideal customer like these brands?
Once you’ve come up with your list of brands, go deeper. It’s not all surface level – there’s a reason your ideal customer is interested in them. If you can figure out what makes these brands resonate with your buyer, then you’ll be one step closer to understanding how your brand can connect with them. Cover all the angles – think about their visual brand identity, brand promise, key messaging, price point, reputation, lifestyle alignment… the list goes on and on. The most important thing for you to learn is how to make a love match between your ideal customer and your brand, so learn from those who have come before.
6. How does your ideal customer consume media?
When it’s time to consider your marketing strategy, you’ll thank me for this. Get in touch with your ideal customer’s media preferences, and how they experience news and ideas. Eventually, this will inform how your buyers will learn about your brand – and effectively create your first interaction. Newspaper or iPad? Instagram or Snapchat? Netflix or PVR? Laptop or smartphone? There’s plenty of ways to reach your market – but it’s up to you to figure out which ones are worth your time and investment. One of the most impactful things you can do here to help with this step (and #7, below), is to go back to the very first question: do you already know this person? If you do, take them (and their similar friends!) for a drink, or ask them to do an email survey in exchange for a Starbucks card. You’ll get a world of information that will ultimately make your decision-making more confident.
7. How does this media catch your ideal customer’s attention?
Last but not least, do a deep dive into the many ways you can use media to your benefit. For example, if your ideal customer is Instagram-obsessed, then you still need to figure out the best way to use that platform to your advantage. Do they respond best to organic content that’s boosted with sponsored posts, or do they learn about new products through influencer marketing and their favourite Instagram celebrity feeds? If they’re into Facebook, are they using it primarily on their laptop or on a mobile device (because that will totally change your strategy, depending on their preference)? If they read the newspaper, is it in newsprint or on the web? Get in touch with their preferences and you’ll unlock the key to reach them in a meaningful way.
Once you’ve answered all seven questions, highlight the key information and craft a profile for your ideal customer. Give them a name, a descriptor, and a job. Describe an average day in their lives, and how your brand might factor into it. With any luck, that fictional account will become reality in no time flat!