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Do you know your customers?

Without a clear idea of who the most probable customers will be, how can a company know what customers want? Or where to reach them?

This area is one of the key challenges for new business. Pinpoint your target market to start with. This gives the opportunity to make contact with customers and get a feel for their needs. If funds are limited and resources are thin on the ground the main thing you will need is time. Time to research customers, to ascertain the needs, and to present the product to them in the most effective way. Check out the demographics of the type of people most like to buy and market to them on their own turf. It's not much good to put a full color poster in the middle of a city if you want to sell organic fertilizer to farmers.

Vital Statistics
When selling to an individual build an image of them. This will include information like age, gender, marital status, lifestyle, location, most likely occupation, and level of income.

Even when selling to companies find out which industry they work in, how many employees they have, their turnover, procurement arrangements and timescales, who has the buying power, what are the business needs. Knowing all these details gives you the information to build a profile on them and begin to see how best to sell to them.

How much will they buy?
Selling to wholesalers is a different scale to selling to end-users. Understanding demand is still important whichever category your business falls into. Having a standard profile for customers makes it easier to judge demand.

Part of estimating demand is to identify how much of your product/service an average customer would buy in an average sale.

Then try to work out what would make them buy more or buy less. Like seasonal or economic factors.

Always expect marketing campaigns to work. Demand will increase, so make sure your company is ready for it.

Volume of sales from each customer can be affected by external market factors. Many customers prefer to buy from a few suppliers and spread their business across 2 or more places. So it is logical to think that a new competitor will not pull away 100% of a customer's business. But it will have an impact on how much a customer buys from you.

When will they buy?
Time of day, day of the week or month, month of the year can all be key times you can use as keys to sales. For example, ice-cream sales in winter will be less than summer. For less obvious examples, a small retail outlet near office worker would have peak times before 9am, between 12-2pm and 5.30 to 6.30, which matches the times available for the workers to be customers. Identifying yours can boost sales and help you know when additional staff may be needed. External market factors might affect when customers will buy form you. House buyers may be snapping up houses, or sellers may sell hard before an annual budget, if the budget is expected to affect the economy in the housing market.

How often will they buy?
Understanding customers leads to forming a solid view of buying behavior. Know your products and how the customers will use them and a much better idea of when they will need more.

Does your product have a life span or usage limit. For instance everyone will always need food on a daily basis but most people will buy a lounge suite for 5-10 years.

Know where they prefer to buy from
Are your customers shoppers in the city, or online? Would they prefer mail order shop from home or a television infomercial. What is the best position for a shop?

Once you understand where customers want to buy from it allows you to understand:
  • Establish and effective presence
  • Find the most effective sales channel
  • Decide where to promote business, who to and when. Let customers know you exist by concentrating marketing in the places they are most likely to see it.
Understand why they buy from you
Establish the Unique Selling Point (USP). This is what makes a customer choose to buy from you and not a competitor instead.

If you satisfy a need customers will buy from you. Perhaps you are the closest store to them selling newspapers. Perhaps you are the only store who sells the particular newspaper a customer wants or perhaps they need a particular magazine you have as well as the newspaper so it's worth a trip across town.

Whatever the USP, and there will likely be more than one, dependant on the customer type, know it and use it in all marketing. Talk to customers and you might find a USP you had no idea about. Communication is the key to knowing your customers and selling to them repeatedly.
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