1) Know who you want your customers to be.
When you start a business, the industry you enter will give you a rough idea of what your customers will look like – opening a restaurant attracts a different clientele than an electronics shop. The important thing to understand is that there is a significant degree of variation within industries. When you have clearly defined the niche your business will occupy, you’ll then need to figure out what kind of customers you want to attract. A business that is more specialized has fewer opportunities to attract prospective customers, but it also means that you’re faced with less competition. A computer repair store and a shop that specializes in repairing old/obscure game consoles is unlikely to experience much customer overlap. When you open your doors, having a sense of who your ideal customers are will make it much easier to drum up interest in what you have to offer. A generalised message that targets no one in particular will do little to bring in business of any value.
2) Consider the profile of the people that buy from you.
Once you’ve obtained an idea of what your ideal customer looks like, you can then begin to hone in on attracting that particular demographic. While each customer is a unique person in their own right, certain demographics have overlapping tastes and behaviors. What kind of products do they look for? What kind of deals and promotions are they more likely to respond to? What kind of clothes do they wear? What cars to they drive? If your goal is to attract people of a certain income level, it will help to learn more about the goods and services they are more likely to purchase. A good example of a business failing to consider the profile of their customers is in the disastrous launch of McDonald’s Arch Deluxe. Branded as a more upscale, “adult” burger, the Arch Deluxe met with little positive reception upon its release in 1996. The people who frequented McDonald’s (many of whom were children) did not care for a product that aspired to be better than fast food, despite actually being fast food. McDonald’s lost over 100 million dollars on the Arch Deluxe. A better understanding of their customers would have led to a less ill-conceived idea.
3) Harness the power of analytics.
Although data analysis has been around for a long time it is only within the last decade or so that small businesses have started to harness the power of data thanks to Google Analytics and similar software. Analytics software allows you to track practically every conceivable aspect of your customer’s behaviour – what they search for, when they search for it, on what device, what they ask for, how long they spend on pages, how often they click on certain links – all of this, and more, is revealed with analytics. Analytics are commonly used by businesses that have found and secured their particular customer base, but they can also be used to get a better picture of what your first customers are like. Analytics give you pure data points; only the raw information. What you do with this information is up to you, but if you use it properly, you can give yourself a major advantage over your less-informed competitors. It is important to remember that while you may feel as a business owner that you need to know everything all of the time, the key to success is building the right team by bringing the right people with the right skills into your business.
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