This is the third installment in the series on business plans and the information that goes into them.
So far, we’ve identified the need/problem and your timely solution to that problem. Now let’s turn our attention to your customers – who are they, how do you reach them and how do they find you?
Who Are Your Customers
Pinpointing your audience is essential to marketing your business which in turn is key to increasing sales. This part of the process calls on you as the business owner to focus on the type of persons who are likely to use your services or purchase your products. It is tempting, no doubt, to say to yourself that everyone is your customer. It is not enough to generalize your answer. Why? Because it is not true – everyone is NOT your potential customer.
While some people may be keenly interested in knitting supplies and in your knitting instruction class, I, for one, have no interest in knitting. Therefore, I will never respond to any advertising, emails, direct mail or any other solicitation that involves knitting. So, for you to spend money and time (both very valuable resources in scarce supply) in trying to solicit my business would be highly inefficient and wasteful.
So, determine the type of person who would be interested or see value in your products and services. If you bake artisan breads and cakes, your customers might be people who appreciate wholesome, home-baked goods but don’t have the time or skill to do it themselves. If you sell fresh roasted coffee, for example. your target audience might be coffee lovers who value a great cup of coffee and are willing to spend a little more to enjoy that. If your business provides free food for the needy, your consumers are those families struggling to make ends meet.
How to Connect
If you’ve been able to describe your target customer the you should have a little insight into what makes them tick and a few ideas on how to communicate with them. For example, you’ve identified your audience as artistic and craft-oriented for your knitting business. A good place to connect with like minded people might be to teach a class at the community college or establish a strategic alliance at the local craft supply store and offer a class at their facility. You shouldn’t set up a booth for your knitting class at a sports memorabilia expo. Wrong audience, wrong location.
The artisan baker and the coffee roaster might set up a stall at local farmers’ markets, street fairs and festivals. From there, they could further develop those customer connections by creating a direct sales program via home delivery or by mail.
The company that offers consulting services to small business might see some advantage to writing business advice articles for the local newspaper or business magazine. Perhaps they would enhance their market share by networking with other professionals at local civic organizations or trades. Maybe even offer a free seminar or discussion on current business topics at a local restaurant.
Keep in mind that sometimes the best way to find out what your potential customers are like is to look at yourself. After all, you are passionate about the problem and your solution. So what is it that drives you and excites you? What methods of communication and advertising are most effective with you? Chances are, you customers will feel the same way.
If you know yourself, you’ll know your audience and you’ll have a pretty good ides on how to connect with them.