tooling around: customers can be such tools

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.

Identifying the ideal Never a Plain Jane Designs customer

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.

Where are the curves?

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.

Target Customer for Never a Plain Jane Designs

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.

Do you use a customer profile to focus your product line and marketing?  How is that working out for you?

10 thoughts on “tooling around: customers can be such tools

  1. Interesting that your visual customer is one way, but your customer rap sheet can include actually SO MANY different customers. I don’t fit your visual at all, but your rap sheet? That’s me. (Minus the kids part – so, just one point off)

    1. In that case, foo, I’m dying to know more about you! Where do you live? What do you do for fun? Where do you let loose that whimsical side?

      I am also stumbling over that visual – the homogeny of all those photos gets to me. But they also spoke to me. Can you see something I don’t?

  2. I fit some, but not all of the items on your sheet. I am 54–expand your demographic because those of us a little older have more disposable income, we tend to be more secure in our bodies (I’m larger than most in your visual) and we buy what we like for function and whimsy. Lose the bit about kids–it’s not relevant to your product–same with what type of relationship. They may fit you, but not necessarily your target customer.

    My suggestion, put this out there as your customer profile and offer a bonus for those of color, or a different ethnicity, who provide you stunning pictures you can add to your visual. Let them feel welcomed by extending this offer and see where it goes. Can’t hurt–at least you’ll be being honest.

  3. I read something in a marketing book just yesterday that gave me pause. The author (John Locke) said that he wasn’t trying to grow a wide market base for his ebook products, but wanted a DEEP market base, instead. He said that he would rather have thousands of loyal, definite buyers than millions who would buy maybe once or twice. Maybe that’s where you’re headed with this? A narrower demographic, but loyalty with the folks you do target?
    You said that “the customer I…connected to, is a lot like me.” I think the flip side of that probably is true, as well. We all feel more comfortable buying from someone we feel a connection to, don’t we? We can’t connect with everyone, so I think you’re right on target. Like you said, You’re base will expand naturally as you market. It’s a great starting point, so don’t sweat it:)

    Have a happy day!

    1. Jimelle, was your book The Long Tail? They also talk about the deep market vs. the mainstream market. I totally buy it and I want to want a deep market, but I feel bad – like I purposefully didn’t invite the band nerds to my sweet sixteen or something. Also, doesn’t everyone complain that everything out there is catered to the slender white woman?

      However, your putting it in words for me makes me feel better. It isn’t as if I don’t have time to find other deep markets later. Thank you so much for your affirmation. I think I will now take a deep breath and dive into my market.

  4. Oh I am exactly your ideal customer so I had to check out your garters to see if I need one, already married so maybe just for a Tuesday?

    I am currently building my customer demographic and learning that it’s Ok to have more than one but we’re not here to try and make everyone our customer we are here to connect to those that connect with us. Those are are real customers! Tara taught me that :) Now I’m back to those garters 😉

    1. Tuesday is always a good day for wearing a garter! Stats show productivity dips after 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays so you should totally wear a garter to remind you your hard work will be well rewarded when you get home.

      As for Tara, she’s one smart cookie. Sometimes I guess we need to be told and retold the things we already know.Thanks for that, Tiffany! Now go check out some garters!

  5. If you want to reach out to the larger woman make sure you let her know your garters can be custom made to fit all sizes. Maybe even show one of your garters on a larger size thigh?

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