It started with an e-mail from Handmadeology inviting me to jump start my sales in the New Year. That e-mail had a link about making things happen for my small business, which prompted me to check out yet another link (regarding my brand). And this is where the story begins.
You should probably NEVER refer to your customers as tools.
It just doesn’t sound very nice. However, defining your ideal or target customer is a great tool for focusing your business. I decided the best way to find my customer was by finding photos of women I related to and who represented the attributes I want my garters to embody.
And then I had a horrible, nasty revelation: I would be so embarrassed if anyone stumbled upon my collage because almost all of the women are slender and white. The sociologist in me is squirming madly. Even the “full figured” women I included in my collage are decidedly thinner than the average female population.
What do I do!?
Since I got all my photos from common women’s magazines I decided perhaps the media I chose was too limiting. I attempted to search the ‘net for a wider variety of photos, but that just left me confused. It felt forced – like I was over-analyzing every photo to make sure I wasn’t excluding a certain demographic, but I no longer had any idea if these were women that represented my customers.
After a lot of worrying and some self loathing, I decided to move forward with what I have. After all, this profile is my tool for identifying my customer. I wouldn’t just buy a different sewing machine because some other sewist told me my machine didn’t give me enough variety.
The customer I created, the one I connected to, is a lot like me – and I know me.
Selling is a lot like writing- write what you know, sell what you know. It is also a lot like writing in that you start with a small skill set, say vocabulary, and you grow from there. You add synonyms, sentence structure, maybe a foreign word or two for a little flavor.
True, right now I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of potential customers because of my ignorance (disconnect?). On the other hand, there’s quite a bit I do know about one specific segment within a vast population. The trick, I think, is to get comfortable with my “ideal customer” and use the experience I have there to grow my understanding of other potential customers; even if part of me is abashed at presenting the world such a narrow customer profile.
Oh, did you want to see my customer rap sheet? Fine.
There she is. She’s a pretty fine lady and I totally get her. Now, I just have to see where designing for her takes me.