August 08, 2015

How to find your Target Customer


A critical step that makers miss when launching their online store is investing time to research, and define their target customer.

{For purposes of this article, I will refer to the customer as singular (though, we all know you want LOADS of these customers!)}

Your Target Customer + Why It Matters for your Online Store

Many of my clients are makers.

They start businesses with an idea, and just start making that idea into a real, tangible item. Whether it's purses, jewelry, or dream catchers; the commonality is the creative spark that fuels a business being established.

Conversely, for most tech startups, they start businesses off with the 'product-market fit'.

This is essentially, the who and what behind your product. According to Marc Andreesen this means, "Being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

It is essential for any startup, tech or not to know their market which means, they must know their target customer inside and out.

When I work with makers, it's usually because they've hit their 'max' on Etsy without much market, and want to take their business to the next level but have no idea where to start. I always recommend starting with the vision, then the target customer, and building out a marketing strategy that will drive traffic, and ultimately conversion to your store.

A marketing strategy cannot exist without a target customer. Absolutely Cannot. 

You cannot (and should not) put your time, money, efforts into channels without having any sense of who you are trying to attract.

How to Find Your Target Customer

If you already have an active business, selling online, then this step will be easier than if you're just starting out. 

For existing businesses, the gold is in your existing customer database. 

Firstly, go into your online store's database and pull out your 'best' customers.

How you define 'best' will very by time you've been in business, type of store etc., however in general these should be your top value/spend customers. Highlight in particular people who are extremely active and engaged on your social media pages, who are low maintenance customer service wise.

Next, start a Google Sheet or Excel doc with your top customers' names. I like to aim for 25 customers. Add in columns for demographics basics (Age, Name, Location, Education, Relationship Status, Kids/No Kids, Job Type), and more psychographic/interest based items like hobbies, interests, places they travel, brands they like, magazines/books they read, blogs they love.

Now, research. Yes. RESEARCH. 

Your goal is to find out all you can about these top customers, and map the commonalties across the customers to form your target customer profile, or as I like to call it, your Muse. 

How you may ask?

Well, there's this fantastic tool called the internet. :-)

Here's a non-exhaustive list of places you can search for information about your customer:

Pinterest - excellent because many people use first (real) names for accounts. Check out what they pin, who they follow (What other brands?), and what type of boards they create.

Facebook - people are still using real names, but it is difficult to find out too much about them. If anything, it will give you a visual on what they look like. You may be able to get light demographic information from here, such as year graduating high school etc. which will give you a rough age range.

Twitter - See if you can find them on Twitter. Do they follow your brand? Who else do they follow?

Instagram - Who are they following? What types of photos do they post? You may be able to find what bloggers, brands, and generally types of people your customers are following from here. Gold!

LinkedIn - A virtual goldmine for info. What type of work do they do? Where did they go to school? What type of education do they have?

Google - Generally, google may give you light interests such as marathon results, athletics stats, any articles featuring them, any public comments they've made on pages and blogs etc. 

I know the above sounds like internet stalking, but trust me, it's necessary.

Once you've spent the time researching the customers, spend time scanning through the details. What do these customers have in common? Where do they hang out online? What are they reading? What is their family structure? Education?

Never before have marketers had such unbridled access to details about their customers. Now, is the time to utilize it to give your marketing a leg up. 

For new businesses, you'll have to do some extra legwork.

You'll have to start with who you think your target customer is and do some initial testing with that group, to see if your concept resonates with them.

Alternatively, you can start to build a persona around your ideal customer, and adjust it as you launch, if it doesn't seem on point. The message here is you need to start somewhere. 

I always suggest to clients to build either a private Pinterest board or document that houses a profile of your target customer.

Give him/her a name. Add a photo.

Yes, some of this will seem like guess work. And that is okay. 

Make him/her come to LIFE, and your marketing efforts will pay off in spades. 

Do you know who your target customer is?

Tell me your experience so far in the comments below.

Wishing you much abundance + retail bliss,

Principal Retail Consultant/Founder