The Secrets of Successful Business, Part Three: Seven Types of Customer Template and Which Ones are


In the second part of this series, we saw that it was possible to devise something called a ‘customer template’ - in effect, a model customer or the ideal sort of person who would be completely fulfilled by your product or service.

If you describe a customer in terms of vulnerabilities, losses, threats, weaknesses from which they are suffering, perhaps someone who has had previous ideas crushed or made fun of, leaving a feeling of weakness and hopelessness, an interesting thing happens: you develop a character, an almost real composite of needs and vulnerabilities which seems more human and less of a figure in a set of statistics. Instead of a faceless ‘prospect’, you now have an ‘Elinor’ or a ‘Samuel’ who actually needs what you have to offer.

This is your ideal customer: there are other types of template, some of which you can and should avoid, while others may be of help to you.

Starting with the ones to avoid, you will find certain ‘prospects’ who aren’t prospects at all: these are the people who sometimes hang around on the edge of a business, criticising it and perhaps even trying to drive people away. Sometimes they are competitors, trying to draw your prospects towards themselves and their business. They may have access to more resources than you and they may be much larger already. The main thing that they will have in common with you, if they are a competitor, is that they are delivering a similar kind of product or service.

The next type of prospect is the one who is already hooked up to a competitor and dependent upon them. As far as you can see, this person has the same needs that your product or service fulfils, but those needs are apparently being fulfilled by the competitor. It takes real skill to prise this person away from wherever they have developed loyalty and to get them to gravitate towards you instead. The central thing to focus on is an aspect of their needs which the competitor isn’t addressing. The perfect example of this is what Steve Jobs did with Apple: though most computer users of his time were in orbit around computing giants like IBM, Jobs saw that there was a vacuum, a hidden need, which Apple could make use of: he saw that the consumer might want something easier to operate and more aesthetic than they were being presented with. In developing Apple and its line of innovative products, he showed that it was very possible to attract millions of these kinds of people away from his competitors.

One step out from that template is the prospect who temporarily and perhaps repeatedly engages with you and your products or services but who then returns to a competitor. They do not ‘sign up’ with you, but only use you occasionally. You need to ask this type of customer, perhaps through surveys, what it is precisely that they find useful about what you have to offer in relation to a similar product or service found elsewhere. Perhaps as a shop they come to you for one or two precise items when they need to, and these items aren’t available elsewhere. To get constancy in that case, you would need to expand your range and find ways of making it easier to stick around with you rather than go elsewhere.

Oddly enough, your prime customer, the one we developed earlier, fits in the next ‘layer’ of templates. At this level, you have a prospect who has a burning need who hasn’t yet found a solution. This is the most fertile template, the one every marketer in the world is aiming a campaign at.

But there are others.

Your existing customer forms another template. You can draw this model in your head no matter what your business delivers, by simply imagining the curve taken by a customer once they purchase whatever it is you provide: they begin with their need still in place, but, as they make use of your product or service, they emerge from that need and climb upward towards satisfaction. Marketing campaigns need to make the most of testimonies from these people.

Two more templates or levels are worth mentioning: above the emerging customer - emerging from need towards fulfilment - there is the ‘happy customer’. This is the person who has applied your product or service and has had a need fulfilled. And beyond that is the loyal and aligned customer, the one who not only has achieved fulfilment with you but has also signed up for further, future services or products and is helping you to disseminate your range to others.

Take a look at your business. What kinds of customer are wandering around in and around the fringes of your enterprise?

Marketing can deal with each and every one, as above.

Coming up next: Conversion - What It Is and What To Do About It.

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