We all know that customers are the lifeblood of a business. But how well do you know your core customer? Is your company in alignment to deliver the needs, wants, demands and desires that are important to your primary source of income?
What is a core customer?
Your core customer is a real individual, with a unique identity and set of needs. They are a person, an individual, and the decision-maker in the purchase of your products and services.
Some companies, in fact, most companies, have more than one decision-maker in the buying process. If the decision-makers have different needs that need to be met before purchasing, you will have more than one core customer. You may also have different core customers in different market segments as they have different needs to be met.
Your core customer will make purchases of your product at the optimal price point that generates you profit – why? Because they assign real economic value to what you have to offer and buying at your price is a positive action for them. You fulfil their needs, wants and desires so they have no need to look elsewhere and will be prepared to pay for your continued service.
For this reason, you should focus significant resources on your core customers at the expense of your non-core customers. Be selective.
Remember, your core customer is a real person with unique wants, needs and fears. It is important to realise that they are not a lifeless profile on paper, they are alive – just like you and I. Each one has specific reasons, emotions and interests in your product. Understanding who your core customers are makes it easier to talk to them and attract new customers who are just like them.
It is not enough to define your customer as a market segment or a statistic, however. Classifying your core customer in this way implies one size fits all and ignores the fact that they are unique individuals.
Identify your core customers
Using market research techniques, ask your current client base a series of questions about their wants, needs and why they choose to work with you. Start with customers who are high value, order regularly and pay on time, as these are the customers you also want to attract.
This research must be undertaken by someone with a marketing background, not your sales reps. Salespeople are primarily concerned with protecting the relationship they have with customers and will want to distil questions down to only one or two. Do this and you lose the opportunity to gain invaluable data and research that the full set of questions will reveal. Marketers, on the other hand, are data-focused and are interested in gaining as much insight as possible into what a customer wants.
I have had many clients gain invaluable insights from these questions, which have enabled them to create a competitive edge over their competition. Others discovered that they had been placing their emphasis on services that were of low value to their core customer. Once they had realigned their priorities and processes to those of higher value to their customers, they experienced a growth in sales and attracted new customers.
What to ask your core customers
The following list of questions will reveal things you may not already know about your customers and provide data that will enable your leadership team to make any necessary changes to the structure of your company. I have added in brackets the aim of some of the questions. They may seem similar to others, but they will give you an expanded analysis with their answers.
- In what industry do your customers operate?
- How much does the company turnover?
- How many staff are in the company?
- What position does their key contact with you hold?
- What position does the person who approves sales with you hold?
- What do they need? (of necessity, necessarily, usually preceded or followed by must)
- What do they desire? (to wish or long for, to express a wish to obtain)
- What are their preferences? (that which is preferred, choice)
- What do they seek? (try to obtain)
- What do they want? (to feel that you would like to have something, to feel that you would like something to happen)
- What are their demands? (that they do not expect to be refused)
- How did they find you? List all of the ways that they found you.
- What do they read?
- Where do they get their information from?
- Where do they search for information?
- What social media platforms do they use regularly? E.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram
The data provided will enable you to create a persona of your core customers and what they require from you. You can then align your company’s marketing, sales and organisation to best meet their needs and attract other like-minded customers. It is essential to review your core customer’s needs and wants every few years as technology and markets change.
For a deeper dive into developing customer personas for establishing who your core customer is, I would recommend that you read The Inside Advantage: The Strategy That Unlocks the Hidden Growth in Your Business by Robert H. Bloom.
It will help guide you to a clear understanding of who your core customers are and what your specific offerings to those customers should be. This is essential to the growth and the success of your business.