Monday, April 29, 2013

Creating Success from the Inside Out: The #1 Thing You Must Do to Prep Your Business for Total Success

I have to admit that I groaned when I found out what this one thing was because it is not an easy task.  In fact, it is incredibly difficult. 

It is something that a good friend of mine, a product manager at my day job, has been telling me that I should be doing for my business.  He even went so far as to telling me to stop everything I was doing for six months and go through this process because it is so important.  I ignored him for the last year and then recently I started an online business class – the whole first week of class was devoted to this one thing.  That finally sent a strong message to me that it is really important!

So what is this one thing?  In very short terms, Voice of Customer (VOC).  We must identify and understand our ideal customer(s).  To do this, we need to interview our customers/potential customers so that we can understand their wants, needs, fears, and desires.  Once we have this information, we can create an image of our ideal customer and tailor our products and marketing to that customer.

You may have more than one ideal customer for your products.  For example, I sell bridal jewelry and everyday jewelry.  So I have bridal customers and regular customers.  I can also look at my regular customers and break that down further into my customers who buy the more modern jewelry I make and the people who enjoy more classic, ornate work that I create.  Each of these types of customers has their own set of wants, needs, fears, and desires. 

To start, come up with a survey of questions to ask your potential customers.  You want to gather information like age, gender, marital status and occupation.  But delve deeper to find out what kinds of magazines and books they read, what music they listen to, and what their interests are.  How do they live their lives?  What is important to them?  What are their concerns and fears (related or unrelated to your product)?  What are their dreams and what kind of life would make them happy? 

Here are some suggestions for accessing your customers to get this information:

1.       Who in your inner circle of friends and family are customers or meet the criteria you have set for who you think your potential customers are?  Talk to them first to go through the survey and tweak it based on these early interviews.
2.       If you have a Facebook page or website, put up a link to the survey (you can sign up for Survey Monkey for free and create a 10 question survey) and offer a coupon or some incentive to those who fill it out
3.       If you do art shows or craft fairs, have surveys available for people who come to your booth.  Offer them incentives to fill out your survey.  You might also glean some good information just by chatting with them casually.
4.       Use your email list and send out a survey request to your current customers.
5.       Do you have repeat customers with whom you have a working relationship?  Talk to them, too.
Once you have enough information gathered, you can look at the trends and start to come up with an ideal customer that represents these commonalities.  Make this ideal customer into a real person.  Give them a life and a story. 

At first I thought I was my ideal customer.  After all, I make things that I think are nice and that I would wear.  But once I started this process of identifying my ideal customer, I realized that I am just one person amongst many and not everyone thinks like me, wants the same things that I want, or even has the same fears and desires.  I realized that by limiting my customer experience to just myself, I would be cutting off a whole world of potential. 

Once you have an ideal customer created, it will help you to see whether the products you are offering fit what this ideal customer wants or needs.  Maybe it will generate some ideas as to new products you could offer that you hadn’t thought of before.  Perhaps you need to tailor your products to fit the price range of your ideal customer.  It may also give you some insight into where and how you could be marketing and promoting your products. 

Consider who your ideal customer is and leave a comment below.  Who is your ideal customer?  What insights did you discover from doing this exercise?  What other ways have you used to glean information about your customers?


  1. Thanks Debi. this online business class that I'm taking has really opened me up to the marketing side of my business, which has always mystified me.

  2. It's Marie Forleo's Rich Happy Hot (RHH) B-School in case anyone is interested. I highly recommend it. I have learned so much from this course and have been exposed to a great community of like-minded women.