You have a great product and you have some great customers - and you want to expand your market ( don't we all want that ?). You try various things including print and digital ads, cold calling, trade shows, sales pitches etc. but seem to be stuck in a rut.
Talking to many businesses particularly hi-tech ones, we feel that businesses are not able to zero in on a precise answer to the questions:
Who is our customer?... and what does she value most?
Why are these questions so hard to answer? Because businesses are unwilling to give up on large segments of customers who seem to be promising prospects and yet orders never seem to come through. We are all unwilling to focus on a narrow band of customers because of our
Fear of losing out
We feel that neglecting large segments of "possible" customers will mean losing out on large chunks of business. A nagging fear of losing out seems to dog even the savviest marketers. And if you do not focus on a particular segment of customers - you cannot define what she values most. The two segments of potential customers pictured above as "A" and "B" are different because they value different things.
This inability of businesses to focus on their core customer results in several back-end problems like:
- Product offering continues to try and mean different things to different people. Product developers have a moving target for innovation that seems to move horizontally. You think that one segment of customers requires a feature "A" but then another good segment of customers really want feature "B". Where does the product team focus?
- Customer service suffers because the service team never really figures out how to make both segments "A" and "B" happy. In fact, customer service reps are bewildered when a solution loved by segment "A" seems to totally annoy a customer from segment "B".
- Marketing communication is devised for one segment but sent to both: Amazingly cable TV companies do this all the time. They will have a great promo for new customers (Segment A) but will mail the offer to existing customers (Segment B) and when you call them the hapless service rep says "sorry - this is for new customers." If you persist in asking for the deal the rep will actually tell you to leave the company and come back as a new customer after a year's gap!
Here are some things to consider in trying to solve this evergreen marketing problem:
- Focus on one set of customers, at a time, with similar needs : These customers might be geographically dispersed, might have very different demographics but the share one thing among them.
- They value the same things or features and benefits of your offering.
- Once you map the features and benefits that matter to your core target customers back-end things become much easier to manage:
- Production becomes easier and better quality because you are trying to deliver some key features and benefits to a precise segment of customers.
- Customer service causes more customer satisfaction. This happens because customer service reps get a deeper understanding of customer problems and their quick solutions.
- Marketing communication becomes easier because (a) you know what the particular segment of customers care about (b) you can tailor messages accordingly.