Quality over Quantity. Are you Marketing to your Ideal Customer$

“If only I could get on {Insert News Site/Publication Here}”. I hear this kind of thoughts too many times; even my co-founder Brian and myself have dwelled in this state of thinking sometimes.

Too many people think that success derives from marketing or publicity. Not to say they are not important because if I did I would be a starving entrepreneur filling out applications to ask, “do you want fries with that?”

What I am saying is sometimes we want to run before we can walk. We want to grow before we validate. When talking to my peers about this subject I usually use this analogy.

Are you Advertising to the Wrong people?

Let’s say Jimmy starts a restaurant, Jimmy’s SouthSide Grillin. Jimmy is sitting in his restaurant all alone one night thinking to himself, “ I need to get people to try my restaurant, because once they try it, they will love it and I’ll be successful!”

So Jimmy decides to try and advertise in his cities newspaper, which has a weekend feature called Dining Good in the Neighborhood.

Jimmy knows he is one feature away from success, so he applies week after week but to no avail. Business has been slow during the week and dead on the weekends. He is confident however that if he gets featured the influx of new customers will make him a success. So the 6th time around he spends all his available time and energy networking in the city and finally gets accepted!

Jimmys South Side Grillin

The day finally comes and customers come flooding through the door, they are barely able to fill the orders. Luckily Jimmy anticipated the traffic and augmented his staff. It was the busiest 72 hours of his life. “What a weekend, I have never seen the register so full!” he tells his wife Sunday night while he lies exhausted in bed.

The traffic resumes to its normal state the next week, although Jimmy does not mind, as he is still exhausted from the weekend.

Friday afternoon comes along and Jimmy and his staff are ready for the rush, Jimmy even wore his comfortable shoes to work. The clock strikes 5pm and they start getting their first weekend customers.

As it gets closer to 7pm there is a noticeable drop. Maybe it will pick up a little later, Jimmy thinks to himself, but 8pm rolls around and there are more staff than customers. The same pattern occurs Saturday, then again Sunday.

Jimmy is a bit demoralized Sunday night while he lies wide-eyed and awake in bed. “Maybe it was a fluke or some kind of event was going on in town”, his wife says comfortingly.

But it was no fluke. The same thing happens the next weekend, and the weekend after that.

So why did the restaurant fail to “succeed” like Jimmy had planned? Did Jimmy’s restaurant just sell bad food? The restaurant was able to sell during the week to stay alive, but not enough to sustain the major drop on the weekends.

Marketing is only as good as your Validation

Jimmy failed because he hinged his success on sending an influx of customers to try his restaurant before knowing 2 critical variables:

1.) knowing what his ideal customers wanted

2.) knowing where to find his ideal customers

What Jimmy did not realize is that he advertised in a newspaper feature that was read by people that prefer a more formal style of eating. Jimmy did offer a sit down experience however it was geared toward a dinning experience of 30mins opposed to something more formal, in the 1hr range.

Had Jimmy focused on learning who his ideal customer was; tailoring his restaurants experience to suite their desires, he would have realized getting on Dining Good in the Neighborhood would be a waste of time and resources. Jimmy was dreaming of a marketing campaign that was doomed to fail.

This situation happens all too often, not only in the food industry but any business.

How a Millionaire can Waste time Productively?

Even the best in the businesses have fallen into this trap. Eric Ries author and serial entrepreneur knows this all too well. In 2008 Eric became a co-founder of IMVU, an online avatar community/game, which grew to $40million in revenue by 2011. Ironically, similar to Jimmy, Eric made assumptions about his ideal customers and paid the price.

When Eric started IMVU he made all sorts of assumptions about his ideal customer, while they were building IMVU. They later brought in teenagers to test out their community/game and were wide eyed at the feedback they received.

Turns out the assumptions they had made about teenagers wanting to invite friends to the IMVU community was Dead Wrong. The teenagers said they did not want to invite their friends to something that was “Not Cool Yet”, possibly Jeopardizing their social reputation.

The team also assumed teenagers wanted to integrate their existing Instant Messaging (IM) platform so they could easily IM with others in IMVU without having to download another IM platform, Wrong Again. The teenagers wanted their own IM platform to keep their social and IMVU friends separate. Most of them were already using up to 8 different IM platforms.

What did these assumptions equate to for the Eric?

He ended up having to completely re-build the IM platform from scratch; having to throw away “tens of thousands of lines of code” and many hours of his life. He was not a happy camper.

If you want to learn more about Eric’s story and some other examples of businesses he worked with check out his case studies.

Assumptions are a Businesses worst Enemy

So what can we learn from all of this? Well let’s use the real world restaurant analogy as a guide.

Focus on what your customers want first. Figure out what service you can provide and really think long and hard about who would get the most value from it.

Then go out and validate your assumptions. Start talking or interacting with places that your ideal customer might congregate in. Try social media routes and forums, they are great places to interact with people with similar interests. I wrote an article about Social Media and Forums Tips and Tricks if you want to learn more.

When you find people you think are your ideal customer make sure you know what they want and if your service, is a solution to their problem.

Eric had a solution for teenagers who wanted to interact with friends online, but he missed one major point. His ideal customers did not want to interact with their current friends; what they really wanted was to interact with new friends. Don’t just assume what your ideal customer wants know what they want. Assumptions will cost you time and money that are precious and limited resources.

Once you figure out who your ideal customer is and what they want, find out where your ideal customers congregate. This will come almost naturally as you find your ideal customers.

Make sure to analyze what their common interests are and really focus on trying to find places they are likely to congregate. For example Jimmy could have visited an older restaurant from the featured Dining Good in the Neighborhood list and talked to customers asking them what their favorite restaurants were. Getting to really know what type of customers he would be advertising to and if his restaurant was a good fit for them. Simply talking to these customers would have saved Jimmy a lot of time and effort advertising to the wrong people.

These sound like basic concepts but you would be surprised how many people lose sight of this as they grow their business. Often times we see little bumps in traffic or customer influx that we think is a result of something we did, when it fact is due to a slue of unrelated circumstances.

“Probability is not a mere computation of odds on the dice or more complicated variants; it is the acceptance of the lack of certainty in our knowledge and the development of methods for dealing with our ignorance.” ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb,  Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

We can’t expect to know all the answers but by talking to ideal customers, the people who will drive our business, we can reduce our ignorance. Never assume you know, that is ignorance.

Ideal Customer Noise in Social Media Marketing

The concept of focusing on what is validation and what is noise poses a big problem on social media however.

I mentioned previously that social media and forums are a great place to interact with potentially ideal customers but I felt obliged to tell you to please be careful. The Internet in general does bring a lot of noise and as such we must always be vigilant.

When Brian, my co-founder, and I started our first business the biggest asset we had was a strong social media presence with about 5k followers on Twitter and 6k in a Linkedin Group. We posted awesome content from around the web about programming and quickly saw our followers augment on a consistent basis.

We had a good idea of who our customers were however our business was focused on a niche group of programmers. The problem that arose was that some of our content attracted the wrong type of programmers; we still love them but they were not our ideal customers.

The problem many times with sharing online is that people are so focused on the content you are sharing that they don’t really pay attention to who shared it.

Worst of all is that I might share something random that I find interesting, which has nothing to do with my brand; but if a potentially ideal customer sees it they might think that random content is what my brand tweets or shares about. No Bueno.

Brian and I realized we needed a tool that could help us grow, engage and brand our social media content so we could attract the ideal customers to our business using our social media. Our search for this social media marketing tool led us in circles.

So we just created it.

LinkPlug helps you Market & Validate on Social Media

LinkPlug was created to help us market to our ideal customer by informing them about our business anytime we shared anything on social media and forums.

We also wanted to engage our ideal customers and start to see what their interests were so we added a suggested content feature. This feature displays some of our most popular articles, that we shared in the past, to see if they resonate or didn’t with our audience.

This feature similar to Bit.ly helped us see what kind of content our customers thought was awesome! We also added a Bit.ly integration for more data.

Link Plug worked so well that we decided to give others the opportunity to use it to help their businesses; we just couldn’t keep this thing to ourselves!

We just recently launched this product and I would be a hypocrite if I said we had all the answers.

Brian and I are working hard to mold this product into something everyone can use to really kick ass on social media and start learning and acquiring ideal customers.

Help us build Link Plug! Try Link Plug and let us know what you think.

I would love to hear if you have feature suggestions, blog article suggestions or just want to drop me a line and say, “Hey Edwin, can you help me use Link Plug for my business?”

“A Masterpiece, no matter how Great, is Not a Masterpiece if No One Sees It”

Written by: Edwin
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