Are you going after the same customers as everyone else? Or are you serving a different market? Who are your best customers and which ones do you serve well? Some customers are profitable: they are easy and satisfying to work with, they make decisions quickly, they pay on time, and they give referrals and return on the time you invest.
Looking at the best of your current customers, the ones you have been most successful with, will give you a good idea about the type of customer you should seek in the future. If you don't have much of a customer base because you have just gotten started, think about what the ideal customer would be like.
What would a profile of your best customer look like?
Positions (executive, manager, supervisor, consumer)
Type of customer (business, consumer, nonprofit, government—if business, commercial or industrial)
Geographic reach (local, state, national, international)
Size (for example, less than 50 employees, 50 to 250 employees, 250 to 1,000 employees, and so on)
Growth mode (high growth, low growth, retrenching)
Technology (high tech, low tech)
AOL succeeded by defining its market. In 1992 it had two hundred thousand members. By 2001 it had thirty-two million members and had become a media giant. AOL distinguished itself by making online services easy for the masses to use. Many "techies" eschewed it, but people who didn't understand the intricacies of online communication were enticed to sign up. Of course, it didn't hurt that everywhere you turned there were disks announcing that you could get so many hours of AOL free. AOL also promoted a sense of community among its members and continues to expand that benefit today. (While AOL's original strategy of making Internet access easy and creating a sense of community was highly successful, it may have lost some of its attractiveness by now because customers are generally less intimidated by the Internet than they used to be.)
An owner of a radio station observed that 70 percent of the station's listeners were female, 65 percent owned homes, and 45 percent lived in households with income ranging from $25,000 to $49,000. This clear definition of his audience demographics gave him and his advertisers an understanding of their primary market.
"Nobody can sell anything they can't believe in."
—Dennis Eck, chief executive of Coles Myer, the largest retail company in Australia