February 13 BY CRISPINA FFRENCH

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Did you know you can actually CHOOSE your customers? 

Its true – 

This is what I mean.

When I started my business picking customers never really crossed my mind.  

My sales model of that time is best remembered as ‘Hope Marketing’.   My stars miraculously aligned for the first few years so that model worked just fine.  It went like this:  I brought my stuff to market (wholesale tradeshows) and killed it with crowds of buyers flowing through my booth.

Working with some customers was a total pleasure .  They understood my process and were thrilled by my brand mission. They inspired me, we had dinner and partied together, and, they paid their bills on time. 
Of course there were customers who were not that much fun too.  They didn’t ‘get’ the recycled aspect of my production, wanted unreasonable product consistency, canceled or changed orders, returned perfectly salable product and were late payers.  

For the first 5 or 6 years, demand outweighed production capacity so I began to pick and  choose my customers which proved invaluable. Sell to customers who are happy to buy what you are selling, pay what you are asking and come back for more.

Here is my strategy for finding ideal customers no matter what you have for sale:   

Get really clear on two things: 

1. Who you want to sell to?  

2. What will you sell them? 

Do you want to work with farmers’ market customers who might need extra education about the value of your upcycled wares?

Do you want to upcycle wedding dresses and work with brides who are planning their eco-wedding?

Maybe you want to craft memory blankets for newly weds, grieving families, siblings or far flung friends?

You might prefer producing simple items quickly and offering your wares to seasonal retail gift shops at wholesale pricing.

The choice is yours.  

Identify your ideal customer detailing their lifestyle, habits, work life, income level, location, age, gender, and interests. Then, finding more of them becomes easier. When you know what you are looking for, it is so much easier to find it!

Answer these questions to help identify your ideal customer:

What do you love to make? (as an example, let’s say braided rugs from used t-shirts)

How does your product or offering serve?  (a rug provides a design element in a room, it’s warm, keeps floor travel quieter, and is soft on your feet, and your rugs are environmentally sensitive as they are upcycled)

Who is drawn to your offering? (eco-minded new home-owners, environmentally minded decorators, green interior designers, apartment dwellers, people with kids upstairs, people with wooden floors, etc.)

Describe in detail the people drawn to your offer: (Think of this as an individual and build a detailed persona – this ‘persona’ has characteristics shared by your ideal customers.  When distinctly different kinds of customers are drawn to an offer, develop a persona for each customer type in as much detail as possible.  

This is where I start:

  • Where do they live?
  • What is their gender?
  • How old are they?
  • Do they have kids?
  • What are their interests?
  • What is their income bracket?
  • What is their line of work?

Once you’ve detailed the types of people who are drawn to your offer, focus on the type of customer you most enjoy. This allows you to get really specific with your marketing. The more specific your marketing, the better it converts browsers to buyers. 

Side notes:
– It is always possible to pivot your offer and/or your customer focus.  Best to clearly plan the change based on a decision that best suits you and your business.

– Learning about and documenting your ideal customer persona is on-going.  Always pay attention to who is drawn to your offer and what characteristics they share with others in your audience?  

Are you wondering “HOW THE HECK am I supposed to know the answer to these questions about my customers?”
(I wondered that for literally YEARS before realizing that I could just ask them….)

Each week I chat with, or interview, at least 3 customers and document our conversation focused on their wins and challenges.  
– What is going on in their life?
– What drew them to my brand?  
– Did they buy a stroller blanket from my website?  
– Do they attend annual in-person retreats?
– How did they find me?
– Did they stumble across feed on social media? What platform?
– Was it an online or print ad? Where exactly?

Gathering information and developing connections with your audience will help build your customer personas. Knowing your customer types will enable you to find more people interested in your offer and you’ll target your marketing to best meet their needs.

Have you thought about customer development in the past?  Is this work you already have built in to your business? If not, do you plan to?  Pop a comment or question below. Share your customer’s experience.  If the comments are not working here you can find the same thread with lively discussion over in Stitcherhood.

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