Imagine you are in the market for a used car. From whom would you rather buy, a trusted friend who knows your wants and needs or a salesperson who is pushing the virtues of the dealership? You’d probably go with the friend, and your potential customers would make the same choice.

The era of pushing your product in front of the generic consumer isn’t completely over as you still need traditional advertising to build brand recognition, but today’s consumers have lost patience with interruptive ads. They fast-forward through commercials and screen their telephone calls. So, how do you attract customers and convert them into loyal customers? You become their friend, and you do this by learning who they are and offering solutions to their problems.

Marketing expert and author Ben Angel says learning about your customers is the most effective, yet most often overlooked way to market your business, product or service. For example, if you’re a residential plumber, you can assume most of your business comes from homeowners. However, if your social media ads target the broad category “homeowner,” you’ll be competing for attention with hundreds of other advertisers. It’s akin to standing on a busy street corner holding a “check me out” sign. You may get a few bites, but it is not the most efficient use of your marketing dollars.



Drill down to build your ideal customer profile

If you want your customers to be your friends, you need to know more than their homeownership status. Like an FBI profiler, you want to create a persona of your target. A customer persona, or avatar, is a fictitious character that has the attributes of your ideal customer. By creating this profile, you will know who you are attempting to reach and what type of advertising, offers and solutions will attract business to your door. To create your customer persona, find the answers to these questions about your current customer base:

  • Where do they live, work and play?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What brands/pages do they follow on social media?
  • What are their shopping preferences?
  • What motivates them?
  • What challenges do they face?


Survey your current customers

The most direct way to research your ideal customer is to survey the ones you already have. Keep it brief and throw in an incentive, a coupon or discount, to encourage responses. Create the survey with the idea you want to know your customers’ most pressing problems in relation to your product and how your customers typically seek out solutions.


Social media tools offer a wealth of free data

A robust marketing campaign should include top social media sites. Your Facebook friends, Twitter and Pinterest followers leave information about themselves across the different platforms. You can mine this data using these tools:


Become the friend with expertise

Once you know your ideal customer, create content that will attract, inform and problem solve. The idea of inbound marketing is that rather than chasing after customers, the customers will come to you. Become the trusted adviser in all things related to your product or service. Brainstorm topics that will appeal to your target. Your social media research will inform this step.

In the example of a plumbing service, if research shows that the customer persona enjoys travel, a blog post about keeping pipes from freezing while on a winter vacation may do well. Your research will also reveal what type of content your customers prefer. Present your expertise in multiple forms. Podcasts, videos, blog posts, e-books, infographics and articles are just a few of the ways you can establish yourself as the expert friend. When they are ready to purchase, your customer friends will turn to you, not some stranger, to fill their shopping carts.



This article was written by Gillian Burdett for Small Business Pulse



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