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Identifying Your Small Business’ Market and Potential Customers

This is an excerpt from Perfect Phrases For Managing Your Small Business, which is available in book stores and at amazon. Please click the picture for more information.

While planning to start up and regularly throughout the life of your business, you need to identify (or retarget) your customers (your market segments) and learn enough about
them to customize your business to meet their needs and communicate with them.

Here are questions to ask members of your market segments, whether current customers or potential customers. You should also add your own questions relevant to your type of business.

■ What’s the most important thing you look for in a [insert type of business]?
■ When you deal with [insert type of business], what’s the thing that drives you nuts so you don’t want to go back?
■ How could we make buying a [insert item] easier?
■ Where do you get most of your information about [insert product or service]?
■ What drives you nuts about your job (if working business to business)?
■ What causes you to trust a [insert type of business]?
■ What could we do to provide you with better service?
■ What additional services/products would you like us to provide?
■ Have you been treated well by our staff?
■ What’s the worst customer service experience you’ve had with [insert type of business]?
■ What’s the best customer service experience you can remember?
■ If we have special offers,would you prefer to hear about them by phone, by mail, by e-mail, on our Web site, or not at all?
■ Do you visit our Web site?
■ When you shop for [insert products or services], where do you tend to go in the city?
■ What’s most important, price or convenience?

Summarizing Customer Characteristics

Once you have information from your current or potential customers, it’s worth organizing it into a concise set of statements that describe your market, statements that you will use later to determine specifics about your marketing actions and strategies. Here are phrases you can customize to use in your summary.

■ Our main customer group is between 18 and 24, living in [geographic area]. Characteristics of this group include:
– Substantial discretionary money
– Desire to be current
– Want to be different but without being too different
– Love technology
– Enjoy online interactions with peers
– Do 40 percent of shopping online
– Value informality in both dress and conversation
■ Our main customer group is between 45 and 60, male and female, regardless of current geographic location. Characteristics of this group include:
– Preference for reading things on paper rather than online
– Prefer personalized service involving a person
– Mistrust technology or are frightened by it
– Large discretionary funds
– Make two to three large purchases a year
– Prefer simplicity in purchasing
– Mostly have considerable amounts of leisure time
– Value well-dressed people and more formal conversation
■ Our main customers are large corporations, and the main decision makers we will deal with are executives,human resource professionals, and senior managers.  Characteristics of this group include:
– Value professionalism at all times, in appearance, grooming, and conduct
– Have exceedingly little spare time
– Hate high-pressure sales tactics
– Want the information and what’s in it for them, quickly and concisely
– Demand short written summaries before or after meetings
– Often delegate meetings to junior staff
– Occasionally get swayed by management fads or trends – Tend to be cautious about making any changes in their purchasing practices or the vendors they use


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