Your Strategic Plan’s Target Customer Profile

You must know your customer well before you can develop a strategic plan to get and retain that customer’s business. To visualize your ideal customer, create a customer profile or detailed description of your target customer as part of your strategic planning process. Specifically, you want your profile to be so descriptive that you can visualize shaking your customer’s hand. List the needs and wants for each of your target customer groups. Think about behaviors, motivations, and potential benefits sought.

In order to create a detailed customer profile, you need to know your customers’ characteristics. Be interested in their likes, dislikes, needs, wants, birthdays, anniversaries, styles, titles, beliefs, behaviors, perspectives, politics, dreams, shoe sizes, and so on.

Check out this list of generic consumer and business characteristics:

  • Consumer characteristics

    • Demographics: Age, generation, gender, income, family size, life cycle, occupation, education, religion, race, ethnicity, social class, health

    • Geographic: World region, county, state, city, climate, density

    • Lifestyle: Innovators, thinkers, achievers, experiencers, believers, strivers, makers, survivors

    • Personality: Compulsive, gregarious, authoritarian, ambitious

    • Usage: Occasions, benefits sought, user status, usage rate, loyalty status

  • Business characteristics

    • Demographic: Industry, company size, location

    • Environmental: Economic developments, supply conditions, technological change, political and regulatory developments, competitive developments, culture and customs

    • Personal characteristics: Buyer-seller similarity, attitudes toward risk, loyalty

    • Purchasing approaches: Location of the purchasing function, decision-making structure, nature of existing relationships, general purchasing and payment policies, purchasing criteria

    • Situational factors: Sense of urgency, need of product or service for a specific application, potential size of order

If you have a consumer product or service, the major types of characteristics are demographic, geographic, lifestyle, and usage. If you have a business-to-business product or service, the major types of characteristics are demographic, environmental, operating variables, purchasing approaches, situational factors, and personal characteristics. If you have specific companies that you’re targeting, write down their names and main contact information.

Create a customer profile that requires you to visualize your customers with 100 percent clarity. The table presents examples of three grades of customer profiles, from bad to good to better.

Bad Example Good Example Better Example
Small businesses located in Oregon Small businesses located in Oregon that are in the auto industry Small body shops seeking rapid insurance reimbursement in Oregon
All agencies in the marketing industry All agencies in the marketing industry billing less than $10 million annually An agency focusing on public relations for local and state government community programs
Field sales people constantly on the road Field sales people earning between $50,000 and $100,000 who’re looking to purchase a new car in the next year Field sales people earning between $50,000 and $100,000 who are image-conscious first movers and are looking to purchase a sports car in the next year.
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