How to Narrow Down Your Customer Base

This originally started started out as advice to Real Estate professionals but I applied it in some respects so I believe anyone could use this method if you are targeting a local customer.

Discover Your Life Circles

Who is your target customer?  Describe them with at least 3 attributes:

Your target market should be as specific as possible!  Having a large or unfocused target market ensures that you also have allocate a huge marketing budget, and spend tons of time learning about all of the customers in the markets you choose.  Having a large target market might allow you to bring in a large number of customers, but they will not be high quality which means you’ll make far less profit.  As you prove that you can effectively serve each target market you can expand to other markets, but you should definitely start as specific as possible.

Example Customer Segment:  “New families (one child), living/shopping in zip codes  85718 and 85732 with a family income of at least $100k /year”

If you’re not 100% sure what your target should be, then start by taking a guess, will will give you tools later to determine if your guess was a good one.

Take a guess

The fastest way to quickly and deeply understand a target market is to pick one that is similar to you.  Remember, this canvas is not permanent and you can have more than one.  In fact, we would recommend that you complete one canvas for each target market you might focus on.  For now, just focus on ONE.

Here are some exercises to help you determine which customer segment you can serve best:

What do I enjoy doing?  Why?  

Here in Tucson, we are a mecca of cyclists and triathletes. I met the president of Tucson Young Professionals, who also happened to be an amateur road cyclist. At the event where we met, we chatted for a while about the races he had participated in, and what he was planning on doing. As I talked with him, I was able to connect with him on many personal levels, and relate to him (I had gotten into road cycling recently, but on a much lower level than him).

Later, when I offered to connect with him on Facebook, his profile picture prominently displayed him in his bright cycling jersey, helmet, with a fancy road bike. His digital persona lined up with our conversation, and I felt a better connection with him as a result. Now, I want to take this outside of my interaction with him, and relate my experience with him to normal life interactions.

When you meet someone, and all they talk about is work, what impression does this leave with you? Do you trust them more, believe they can solve your problems, or does it alienate you from them?

Close the book and write down a few things that you are passionate about in your personal life.

We’re going to create a fictitious real estate agent to showcase how these exercises work.  Our agent enjoys the following things:

  • Going to the gym
  • Hanging out with other moms
  • Helping out at the school
  • Helping out in the community


What types of people do I enjoy spending time with?  

Michael Port in “Book Yourself Solid” talks about the idea that people will do business with you to the degree that they like and trust you, and the depth of that relationship. If you are engaging with people around topics that you enjoy, and are truly interested in, it gives you a real foundation to build a relationship, and strengthen the tie of like and trust from which your business and referrals will come.  Your passion will shine through.

You are looking for categories of people that you would enjoy spending time with both online and in person. By defining this, you can start to tap into new groups of people online that are not diametrically opposed who you are and what you like.

Go ahead and close the book and write a quick list for yourself.

Here are the answers from our example agent:

  • People that are kind
  • Other Tucson natives
  • People that are financially savvy
  • People that are outgoing

Pulling This All Together

So you’ve now documented the type of people that you like to be around, and the types of things you enjoy doing, lets take a stab at pulling all of this together.   Think through all of these aspects that you enjoy and create a fictitious customer persona.  Try to incorporate as many of the important aspects from above as possible.

Again, please don’t worry about whether this perfect customer really exists at this point.  We’ll work through how to connect with them later.

Lets call your target customer Jane. She is a Tucson native who lives in the foothills area, within the 85721 and 85727 zip codes. She is currently in a two income household, but moving to one income with the new baby.   Her husband will work and she will stay with the baby.

Jane is in a mom’s play date group, and exchanges coupon clipping tips with the other moms there. She often meets up with a few of the mom’s group ladies at the gym to take a spinning class or yoga every once in a while. On the weekends she also volunteers with Ben’s Bells recognizing great people in the community.

Now that you have a detailed customer persona, write a short summary of that customer in the Customer Segments box of your canvas.   If you had trouble narrowing to a single customer and have more than one, we suggest that you create a separate canvas for each customer.  This will help you stay focused and understand the risks and rewards associated with each potential customer segment. ( / CC BY-SA 3.0

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