I can’t believe I’m going to write another article on market segments or target markets. But I HAVE to because I just noticed that most of us aren’t getting it right.

I was reading a business book just now that referenced Wal-Mart’s original target market as “People living paycheck to paycheck.” This isn’t a very complicated thing. That’s what makes it so powerful.

It’s only five words! And yet, there is something so real, so visual, so emotional, so visceral about those five words. You already have an immediate sense of who these people are, what they want for their family and for themselves. What their daily habits, challenges, and delights might be.

The Challenge

The challenge for many of us seems to be in profiling our customers in these simple terms. Sometimes I wonder if our default to fancy demographic language “Men between the ages of 35 and 45 who wear glasses” makes us THINK that we are being more precise when we are actually being entirely too vague.

Another obstacle or challenge is that you might think you have to get to that simple, single sentence profile the first time around. maybe you will. Maybe this article will be enough to have the profile just pop right out. But maybe it won’t. You might have to do some “noodling” or thinking about this. You might — heaven forbid – have to spend a few minutes, hours, days or months actually thinking about your customer and what their life might be like as it surrounds your product or service.

Embrace the Exercise

I say embrace the exercise. Decide to be CURIOUS about who your customer really is and what their life is like. Simply decide to pay attention, spend time with them and actually observe what’s going on there. Give yourself the freedom to notice the little things about who they are outside their interaction with your product. You will be amazed at what you discover.

Your Ideal Customer Profile Checklist

Here’s a quick how-to list that will get you started. This is by no means the best method to do this. I haven’t included every possible question and I don’t claim that this will give you the profile you’re seeking. But it will certainly get your brain started in the right direction.

  1. Pull together a list of about 10 of your ideal, most favorite customers and people you LOVE to work with.
  2. If you are friendly enough with them AND they are on Facebook – become their friend and simply watch their profile activity. This is a less intrusive way to get to know them and you will get to see simple things like what sports teams they like, where they are from, what they like to do with their family.
  3. Assuming you’re NOT friendly with them – become a little more friendly with them – take the time to ask more personal questions about what their life is like. Do they like to read, cook, travel, etc.
  4. You have to build a personal rapport with someone before they actually tell you the truth about what they want or expect from your product or service. And more importantly, you want them to describe their life as it surrounds their interaction with your product or service. That isn’t going to happen until you have a good enough relationship for them to share the juicy stuff.
  5. Get into their daily routine. Get into the daily world of your customer from the time they get up to the time they go to bed. What might they be thinking, what might they be worried about?

Remember, for Wal-Mart to get to the fact that their target market is “living paycheck to paycheck” they would have to know some personal things about them. They might know that their pre-teen daughter loves Miley Cyrus but they can’t afford concert tickets so they get products with Hannah Montana stuff on it.

Tell me about how you’ve been profiling your customers. Got any tips or tricks to share?