The first step in any successful marketing plan isn’t how you’re going to market your message, but who you’re going to market it to. You could have a perfect campaign with all the ad spend in the world—if it’s being seen by the wrong people, it’s going to be a waste of time and money.

“That’s great, but how do I know who to target?” What a fantastic question, ethereal-voice-from-nowhere-in-particular! That’s exactly what this blog post is going to try to help you with.

Step 1: Find an example your ideal customer.

The “Ideal Customer” is an avatar you create to help make sure you’re focusing on the right things, but that avatar is made up of traits from real people. The easiest way to create your customer avatar? Use your best current customer. They might not be perfect (who is, really) but they’ve got the benefit of already seeing the value in what you offer.

Step 2: Study them.

You’ve got your best customer in mind—let’s call them Pat. It’s time to start dissecting the facts of Pat.

  • Where does Pat live?
  • What does Pat drive?
  • Did Pat go to college? If yes, what type of degree did Pat get/pursue?
  • Is Pat married? Single? Divorced? Dating?
  • How many dependents does Pat have? Are they children? Elderly parents?
  • Does Pat have pets? Dogs, cats, etc? More than one?
  • Where does Pat work? What type of income does Pat bring in?
  • What does Pat enjoy doing when not at work?
  • What social issues does Pat care about?
  • What’s the most amount of money Pat is comfortable spending at one time without worrying about it?
  • How successful would Pat rate themselves? How happy?

Some of those answers are kind of invasive, and I wouldn’t recommend asking all of them flat-out unless you have a really close relationship with your customer. But you can start by answering the ones you already know and intuit some of the others.

Important note: None of these questions revolved around you or your business. This avatar isn’t about you. It’s about getting to know your customer. When you know what a day in their life is like, what they value and what they don’t, authentic ways to connect with them will come easily.

Step 3: Test your assumptions.

You’ve studied your best customer and you think you’ve got them pegged. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Think your target customer is interested in community outreach and loves dogs? Sponsor an event with your local animal shelter, or host an adoption or vaccination drive outside your store/office.

If you rehome a lot of puppies, but nobody pays your business much attention, you might need to re-evaluate if you’re really a good fit for that group. But, if you end up with a lot of new faces marveling at why they hadn’t heard of you before—congratulations, you’ve successfully targeted your customer.