Welcome! This is part FOUR in a series about how to start an eCommerce business: Answering the Five Fundamental Questions of a Business.
We’ve covered a LOT of ground in our first 3 posts. We talked about ironclad strategies for identifying great niche markets and ultimately deciding what product to sell. We reviewed the methods and available resources for how to produce your product, whether it is an information product or a physical product, and went over the most popular fulfillment models in the game.
But today, I am truly excited because we are moving on to my absolute FAVORITE topic in eCommerce: Digital Marketing.
And the first step in marketing is ALWAYS getting to know your customer. So, today’s post answers the question: Who is my ideal customer, anyways?
In case you are lost, here again are the five questions:
- What product should I sell?
- How will I produce my product?
- How will I deliver my product to my customers?
- Who is my ideal customer, anyways?
- How do I convince them to become a repeat buyer and brand evangelist?
Let’s dive in.
Targeting Your Customer Profile
You might think, after answering the first 3 questions, that you know FOR SURE what product you are going to sell. But I would caution against rushing into a business before making a marketing plan. What is a marketing plan?
A Marketing Plan is the SYSTEM of strategies used to sell your products or services.
This is where you get to shine. It’s your chance to stand out from a crowded sea of companies and advertisements online and make sure the world knows that doing business with YOU is the best decision they can make.
But before we get too far, you can’t design any marketing strategy without FIRST defining WHO you are marketing TO. So, without further ado…
Who is my ideal customer, anyways?
Nailing your ideal customer is so important because it will inform the way you position your products in the marketplace, your advertising copy, your brand story, and more.
The first step is to walk through a simple brainstorming exercise. I will provide some guidelines in the section below. But just remember that the goal is to formulate 1-2 customer profiles for your brand. You might even give a name to your fictitious ideal customer.
My Fictitious Ideal Customer (Or “Customer Avatar”)
When building a customer profile, imagine that they are a REAL person standing next to you. For example, if I were a car salesman selling minivans, I might say…
“This is Katie – she is my ideal customer. She is 45 years old, a mother of 4, and lives in a suburb of Chicago. Between hockey practice, dance recitals, after school clubs, grocery shopping, and the occasional family road trip vacation, she needs a car that is big AND durable AND affordable. The details matter to Katie. She notices features like trunk space, power folding seats, and a good backup camera. Katie knows a great deal when she sees one, and manages her household’s finances very well. She appreciates direct talk and good customer service.”
You may have noticed that I describe Katies gender, age, geography, how she spends her time, her skills, and what features she is looking for when buying a car.
Creating a fictitious customer profile (or two) for your brand will really help you think of your customer as a human being, instead of a number on a spreadsheet. Keeping that image of your ideal customer in your head will help immensely as you compile your marketing materials.
One last thing to note is that you should complete the exercise below prior to defining your Fictitious Ideal Customer. And remember to continually revise and update your assumptions regarding your customer profile. More on this at the end of the article…
In order to generate your ideal customer profile, you will need to step into Katie’s shoes, so to speak. Thinking from the customer’s perspective and determining WHY a customer would ever buy your product is the first step. Ask yourself:
- What need is met by my product?
- How does my product solve a problem for my customer?
- What are my “wow” factors? Meaning, what features or benefits drive someone to buy my product over a competitor’s?
- Does someone typically buy this product for themself, for a family member, or as a gift?
After (and only after) you’ve demonstrated why someone would buy your product, you can easily brainstorm who would buy your product. Ask yourself:
- What is the age, gender, and marital status of my ideal customer?
- Are they in school, or working? What do they do for a living?
- Where do they live?
- What is their level of education and income level?
- Which interests and values are most important to them?
- What do they do with their spare time?
- What is their personality type?
If you’re stuck, do some research. Google “who buys products in [your niche]”. Once you’ve answered these questions, you can complete a brief writeup of your customer profile like I did with Katie in the previous section.
Creating a “StoryBrand”
Donald Miller pioneered this term in his book, Building a StoryBrand. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in brand development. On the eComm Boardroom site, we will dive into this concept in depth in a separate article. But I wanted to introduce StoryBranding here, because it really can be powerful for your new business.
Human beings have always been captivated by great stories. If you want to captivate your audience of potential customers, you need to tell a great story about your company. But the mistake made by most brands is that they make their business the Hero of the story.
I hate to break this to you, but the bottom line is your customer doesn’t REALLY care about your business. They care about solving the problems they are facing and attaining the desires of their heart.
Switch Your Story Up
With the StoryBrand framework, the CUSTOMER is the hero of the story.
Thinking through the framework of a story, the hero has something they desire; a goal. And to get there, they are going to need a guide.
THAT’S where you come in. If you can write your brand story positioning the customer as the hero and your business as the guide, directing them to their desires through your products and services, you will have told a compelling Brand Story.
The language from your brand story should make its way onto:
- Your website
- Advertising copy
- Blog posts
- Social Media
- And just about every customer facing piece of content that you produce
I will walk through exactly how Donald Miller recommends creating a brand story on the eComm Boardroom website. This exercise is sure to help you understand your prospects better and give you a powerful tool to convert them into customers. Drafting a StoryBrand is one of the first steps I take anytime I start a new venture!
Evaluate, Revise, Rinse, Repeat
Remember! Brainstorming your ideal customer is a necessary first step to marketing.
However, it is only the first step. You must revisit this exercise once you have some ACTUAL. REAL. CUSTOMERS. Nothing trumps the real, cold, hard data. And the more data the better. I recommend frequently analyzing your customer base and using that analysis to revise your ideal customer profile and your Brand Story.
Wrap It Up, Chuck
Excellent. Now you not only have great product ideas, but you have a robust understanding of who is going to buy them!
Armed with this knowledge, you may be able to refine your product idea list. Which products give you the clearest picture of your ideal customer? If any of them are still very murky, it may be a sign that the product is not worth launching. After all, you can’t sell a product if you have no idea who wants to buy it.
Next up, we tackle the final Fundamental Question of a Business. It is a continuation of our discussion on marketing, and it is my absolute favorite topic: How do I convince my ideal customer to become a repeat buyer and brand evangelist? (AKA Digital Marketing 101)