How to Find Your Ideal Customer

  •    Freelance journalist covering women, business, policy and social good.

Understanding your target audience is critical to the growth of your business. For small businesses, focusing on the specific markets that are most likely to buy your products and services will make marketing more affordable and more efficient.

Getting to know your customers, however, requires more than just knowing simple demographics. It's certainly important to learn relevant data such as your customers' average age, gender, occupation, income level and geographic location.

But it's just as important to be able to understand your customers' buying behaviors: How do they think? What are their most immediate concerns? What are their goals? What are their obstacles? How do they make purchasing decisions?

Create A Persona

One way to help define your target audience is to create a customer persona. A customer persona is a representation of a key segment of buyers based on their buying behaviors. Websites that are created using personas are up to five times more effective than other sites, research shows. Similarly, marketing emails that rely on personas have both improved click-through and conversion rates.

According to the Buyer Persona Institute, a persona "tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves."

Without customer personas, you may be making faulty assumptions about what your audience wants, based on your own knowledge and experiences, instead of understanding how your audience thinks and feels.

In contrast, customer personas enable you to gain a deeper understanding of your target audience by breaking them into relevant segments, each represented by a specific persona, reports content marketer Jayson DeMers. He shares some real life examples of customer personas gathered from market research reports, including: “Early Tech Adopters," “The DIY Mom" and “The CrossFit Paleo Evangelist."

“All you have to do is think about these labels and you immediately start to visualize who that person could be," writes DeMers. “By personalizing it, you add another layer of depth and insight."

Build A Profile

Once you establish basic demographics, a first step to creating a customer persona is to consider your audience's most pressing needs, reports the Content Marketing Institute (CMI): What are their challenges or pain points? What types of products or services are they looking for to solve those issues? Are they the primary decision makers for purchases at home or in the office?

It's also important to understand how your target audience shops. Do they respond best to certain marketing formats? Do they have a preference for specific buying platforms, such as a mobile device? What social media channels do they frequent? Who do they trust to provide information?

As a starting point, you can look for relevant data. Analyze the site traffic and buying patterns of current customers, tune in to social media chatter or send out a survey or poll.

Share What You Learn

Once you research and create your customer personas, be sure to align them with your marketing and sales efforts. First, understand that the personas will likely need to be changed or updated as your business grows, so plan to review them at certain time intervals, advises Entrepreneur.

Share the personas with any internal team members or outside contractors who are helping you market your products and services–and make sure they have the most current data or know where to find it.

You can also use your customer personas to guide content creation, whether it's a landing page on your web site, more personalized marketing emails, or videos that target each persona.

Last but not least, track how you use your personas and what impact they have on sales so you can adjust them as needed over time.

One of the best ways to define your target audience is to create customer personas to help you understand not just what your customers think but also how they shop. It's an effective way to align your site with what your customers truly want and need.