A couple of weeks ago I sent a survey to my newsletter subscribers asking them what topics they’d like to read more about on this blog. One topic that came up with a resounding ‘Help!’ was writing for your ideal customer.
The ‘ideal customer’ is a tough concept to wrap your head around in some ways. As a business, your first instinct is probably to cast your net as wide as possible in terms of marketing and advertising – the hope being that the more people you get in front of, the more chance you’ll have to attract new customers.
In fact, the opposite can be true. When companies try to be all encompassing in their message, it can come across bland and generic, not really resonating with anyone. This is one of the biggest reasons that companies struggle to attract new business.
Why your ideal customer matters
It can be far more effective and profitable to focus on one particular customer type and write your copy as though you’re talking exclusively to them. Why? Because, if you get your message right, your ideal customers will read it and think, “Wow, it’s like they know me, like they’re talking to me” and they’ll feel compelled to pick up the phone, book an appointment or place an order.
This doesn’t mean you’ll be turning anyone else away but it does mean that you’ll be concentrating your efforts on attracting on a specific section of your customer base. You don’t need to do this indefinitely but it’s worth dedicating your marketing efforts to one customer type for three months at least, as it takes a good three to six months to reap the benefits of the marketing you do today.
How do you do this?
Not sure where to start? Start with yourself
I think this is where a lot of people’s minds get well and truly boggled! How do you know who your ideal customer is, especially if yours is a start-up business? Isn’t it anyone who’s prepared to spend their money? People might be telling you to market where your ideal customer hangs out but how on earth can you pinpoint that if you don’t even know who they are?
It helps to look at your ideal customer from a different angle, an angle that starts with you.
- Who do you love working with?
- Even if yours is a start-up business and you’ve yet to start trading, who would you love to work with once your physical or virtual doors open?
- Who do you want to connect with?
- Who do you find really easy to communicate with?
- What are your core beliefs and values?
Beliefs and values are really important. We tend to buy from businesses whose values are aligned with our own. For example, if family is your main priority or you are passionate about using organic ingredients in your products, I imagine you’d love to work with customers who share these priorities. Your values are typically at the heart of why you went into business, so it makes sense to write your marketing to people who care about the same things.
Many business owners are their own ideal customer, although possibly several steps ahead in the same journey. One example is life or business coaches who have been through the coaching process themselves and have since gained qualifications to pass on this transformative experience to others. In this case, they understand how it felt to be stuck in their career or personal situation and can also communicate the many benefits.
If you’re already trading, sit down with your client list and think about which customers you love working with.
- If the phone rings, which ones make your heart sing and which ones make your heart sink?
- Who feels like a really good fit for you and your business?
- Is there anything these people have in common?
- Are they of a similar age or socio-economic background?
- Do they have children?
- How do they view money?
- What do they say about your products and services?
- How did they find out about your business?
Your ideal customer is someone who loves your products or services, is enjoyable and easy to work with, and appreciates the value of your offering so they pay your prices without haggling. And the great thing is that the more of your ideal customers you attract, the more work stops feeling like work.
Personally, I like to imagine that my ideal customer is sitting in front of me as I write. What would they like to know? What do I know that I think they’d find helpful?
I thought it would be fun to look at how three well-known brands speak to their ideal customers and what this shows us. These are just three examples that occurred to me first.
Apple and the iPhone 6
You can check out the latest campaign for the iPhone 6 here. Apple is a company that knows words sell. Every campaign focuses on one big idea – in this case ‘Bigger than bigger’ – and grabs attention.
When Apple launched the first generation iPhone, one of its selling points was its compact size: “The internet in your pocket” and “big enough to produce detailed, legible graphics, but small enough to fit comfortably in the hand and pocket”. With so many of us using smartphones to watch films and TV or pretty much run our lives and businesses, there’s inevitably been a shift towards a larger screen. Apple knows exactly how to frame this as a positive.
When the iPhone 5 launched, Apple marketed it as ‘The biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since the iPhone’. How on earth do you follow on from that? Well, you stress that the iPhone 6 is ‘Bigger than bigger’ but also ‘better in every way’.
Look at the words Apple uses to describe the iPhone 6 – ‘dramatically thinner’ (not just thinner), ‘remarkably power efficient’, ‘seamlessly’ and ‘in perfect union’. Apple’s ideal customers are people who care about design and aesthetics, as well as function, and are willing to stand in line for two days to be one of the first to have the new iPhone.
They might be worried that bigger means bulkier, so Apple focuses on putting their customers’ minds at rest and focuses on the benefits of the larger display, which is ‘more advanced’ and ‘pushing the edge of design’ – in other words, exactly how Apple’s aspirational ideal customers see themselves.
It has a new Retina HD display, advanced sensors, breakthrough ID touch technology, and incredible new capabilities and features. The words consistently underline the message that this is a phone that is bigger and better in every way.
Pure Gym owns 70 gyms around the UK and understands that its customers are people who don’t want to pay for expensive spas, saunas or tanning. They want to fit exercise into their busy life, get in and get out, even if they’re travelling on business. No fuss, no hassle. They also don’t want to be tied down to expensive contracts.
The company keeps its copy really simple. The Home page is a series of sliders showing potential customers:
- That they can come in and try out Pure Gym for day at any of its 70 venues at any time of day for just £5.99
- They focus on the benefits of membership – 220 bits of equipment, 40+ free classes, a free app, easy online joining, 70 clubs nationwide, no contract, open 24/7, 365 days of the year
- The hashtag #readywhenyouare taps in to that need to have a gym membership that will fit easily with members’ busy lives
In very few words, Pure Gym is able to remove many of the barriers that stop people joining the gym.
There’s so much that I love about Mailchimp’s copywriting but I wanted to take a quick look at the 2013 Mailchimp by the numbers page because it perfectly supports the core messages of the company.
Mailchimp essentially helps businesses design and send better email marketing campaigns but what it understands is that it’s really selling is human connections. People buy from people. Mailchimp focuses on the human story behind the brand, the social proof (‘more than 7 million people use Mailchimp…Join them today’) and making the lives of its customers as easy as possible.
On the 2013 Mailchimp by the numbers page, we get a fantastic mix of impressive business stats about almost non-existent service downtime, new data centres, new experts, employees and events but we also get to know how many babies were born to the Mailchimp team, their number of soft ball wins, the number of campaigns sent from the Vatican City and how many support chats were about Beyonce.
In just a few lines of copy, Mailchimp speaks loudly to its ideal customers – business professionals and sole traders who want to connect with their customers but also value fun, mischief and the human story of triumphs, challenges and even mistakes.
Think about the brands that you can’t get enough of. Why do you love them? What do they say and how to they say it? Are they aligned with your core values, beliefs and aspirations? Understanding how to communicate with your ideal customer can often begin with understanding yourself.