Your business isn't about you

Last week I spent half a day with students at Wintec who are doing an ecommerce paper. The students have an assignment to create an ecommerce website selling a product or service, for a real operational business. 

One of the things that I shared with them, which I thought it would be good to share here is that your business isn't actually about you.

When you think about it, you aren't the one parting with hard earned cash to purchase your products or services, but so often I see business owners and managers do something because it's what they like. Sorry to break it to you, but your personal taste might not, and probably won't, be to the taste of the people you are actually trying to convince to part with their hard earned cash for your product or service. You need to appeal to them, as without them you haven't got a business. 

This led me onto buyer personas, or profiling target markets. This is a really key part of marketing, as it makes you really think about and narrow down you you are selling to, and as part of this process you might find out new information. 

Here are the basics of what you should generally include in your target market profiling:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Relationship status/household make up
  • Work/position
  • Interests/hobbies
  • Decision making process
  • Motivators
  • Barriers

You may also have some pretty important influencers on your end buyer, and if this is the case it could be worthwhile profiling them too. For example the executive assistant who does the research for the CEO's travel is a pretty important part of the decision making process and you need to appeal to them as much as to the CEO who makes the end decision and uses the travel services.

Understanding the customers' decision making process, and what will motivate or hold them back in this process is really key. For example is the product or service something they want to be seen with, are their social conventions or pressures, is there a level of risk - both perceived and actual?

What is the pain point that you are trying to ease for your target customer? For example if you're a dental service the motivator could be healthy teeth and gums for a healthy mouth and no long term problems, but the barrier is cost and the potential pain, so what sort of messaging do you need to create to reassure your market that you are the right choice?

Or if you're an interior design company the pain point might be a house that doesn't feel like a home, but the barrier is the perceived cost and lack of understanding around the different services. The motivator might be to 'wow' people when they come into your home. Now that you're aware of the barriers and motivators you can be precise and purposeful in creating key messaging and services to fit this profile. 

I would typically start with understanding the different audience groups - for example with the interior design company they might be residential styling, residential full service (furniture selection, sourcing and styling), commercial styling and commercial full service. Then you can start to profile each of these groups and what makes them unique, as well as what is similar across them. If you have real customers who fall into each of these groups that you can talk to and gain some real insights from even better! And hey they might feel privileged to be asked.