Start with who – your ideal customer profile

Characteristics of ideal customers

Within your target market you should be identifying who your ideal customer is, then focusing your sales and marketing efforts on those customers that you prefer to do business with. Get this right and you will enjoy:

  • Increased profitability, as they recognise the value that you offer and will pay the price you ask.
  • Lower customer acquisition costs and higher customer lifetime value
  • More effective use of your sales and marketing spend.
  • Better referrals to more ideal customers

Within the complex environment of B2B sales you should focus your sales efforts on those opportunities that fit your ideal customer profile. It is useful to assess your customers in five key areas:

Urgency to solve a problem (to which you have a solution)

  • We all have too many things to do, your customers are just the same, so make it a priority to identify the problems and opportunities that are most important to them. So when you offer your solution you know that they will want to work with you.

Customers that recognise the value of your offering

  • If your product solves a key problem, reduces their costs or improves their top line sales then it will be much easier to convince your customers to pay the price you ask for your product or service.
  • Make sure you understand how it affects their business and that it will make a noticeable difference. Work with your customers to demonstrate the ROI of your solution.

Aligned to your strategy  

  • Much better relationships will evolve if you have an understanding of your customers’ strategies and they are aligned with your own. For example, if you are a business developing cutting edge products, then identify the ‘early adopters’ that want to be working at the leading edge with you. This means they will accept the risk that things will not always work out as you planned and will stick with you to iron out the glitches.
  • If you have shared values, then those customers are far more likely to be advocates for your solutions, provide case studies and references that lead to more ideal customers engaging with you.

Willing to engage and ready to take action

  • You need to be able to build strong relationships across all the buying influences (or personas). You need engagement with
    • User buyers – the people who live with and use your product or service
    • Technical buyers – the people who ensure that the specification is met and the product does what is expected.
    • Economic buyers – the people who assess the ROI and overall effect on the organization.
    • Coaches – people who will help you navigate through the customer’s organization and wants you to succeed

Without these relationships you will struggle to progress the opportunity to a successful conclusion. Worse still, you may get surprises through not having enough understanding of your customer’s needs.

  • You may well be supplying your products through distributors or contractors and there may be outside influences that you need to engage with. A willingness from your customer to help you navigate your way through all the buying influences will significantly improve your chances of success.

Can be served efficiently

  • The ideal customer has low acquisition costs and high lifetime value.
    • If you need to visit the customer 20 times to convert the sale and involve lots of different departments then it’s probably best if they are not on the other side of the world.
    • But on the other hand, if the end result would be a long term relationship generating significant profitability then this may be worth the investment. Just make sure you balance the two factors.

Ideal customers need to be defined within the context of your offering. There may be variation between ideal customers for your overall business and those for specific product offerings, so be sure to define your assumptions.

Identifying your ideal customer is the starting point for developing your business model and your value proposition. It forms the starting point for our workshop on developing value propositions, have a look at how we do it at www.mikeinnes.com

For a more detailed look at how identifying and focusing on your ideal customer improves your profitability have a look at this MITSloan article on ‘How to identify the best customers for your business