“Don’t you know who I am?” Yes, that’s the cry of the indignant celebrity when the host refuses to seat his party at the trendy, overcrowded restaurant.  And inevitably, he knows lots of really, really important people, and he’s going to tell them all about how he was treated.  No one will ever eat there again when he’s through, he screams at the top of his lungs.  According to him, his words carry so much weight, the place might as well shut the doors right now!

It’s kind of a funny scene to picture, the apoplectic, self-important politician, news personality, or actor berating the poor, lowly restaurant employee, eyes bulging out of his head and veins pulsing as though he’s about to burst.  We can laugh at the thought, primarily because the likelihood of encountering such a situation as local small business owners is rather small (If it happened to us, though, we probably wouldn’t find it so funny).

There’s a serious question for us in this little scenario, however.  Just who is walking through our doors? What do we know about our customers? When they get inside, are they getting what they want? After all, people do talk, even if their networks don’t comprise the most influential people in the world.  Their connections are potential customers, and what they say (or don’t say) matters.  It’s critical that when our customers come in, we’re delivering.

We can use things like customer satisfaction cards, but they don’t tell us much, and they’re largely reactive – they help us address problems after the fact.  If we’re concerned about delivering the first time, and every time, we need to be detailed and, to the extent possible, proactive.  We need to understand exactly who’s likely to come to us, what they want, and what will keep them coming back, and design an experience that ensures their demands are satisfied.

How do we do this? We can’t rightly sit down and have a cup of coffee with everyone who might one day be a customer, and cater to every single whim of a diverse audience.  What we can do is develop profiles (“personas”) describing the attributes of the people we serve, creating detailed pictures representative of the primary groups that comprise clientele—both current and future.  We can also map their “journeys” from contact to conversion to return.

If we can “personalize” our customers, we can find out who they are, what they’re interested in, how they make decisions, their preferences, and so much more.  This is a wealth of information, and we can use it to communicate who we are and what we do, reach the right audiences, customize the products and services we offer, and tailor the customer experience once they’re interacting with us.  We can get more people in the door, and give them what they want.

Creating personas and journey maps is therefore highly useful for both marketing and delivering, from contact to conversion to retention.  It gets us away from the “one-offs” of resolving customer complaints, and positions us to build a satisfied clientele that keeps coming back.  And remember, even if they’re not famous, people talk… today, there are more ways than ever to communicate with their peers.  When we get it right, we gain critical “reputation points.”

All of this may sound great, but how? Well, it requires a little bit of market research—an investment, to be sure, but one that pays off handsomely.  We can start with our current customers, collecting demographic data, using surveys from our mailing lists, or convening focus groups.  And, we can expand these efforts to larger portions of the public, which can help us both better understand prospects find untapped market potential.

If you want to consolidate your business and expand it, be smart about it.  You can know who you’re catering to, what it will take to get them in the proverbial door, how to get them to pull out the credit card or click “buy,” and how to deliver so they’re satisfied, they return, and they tell their friends.  It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have—everyone can get “cozy” with their markets, and meet them “where they’re at.”

Tom Morley has 18 years of experience as an internal and external consultant helping clients in all sectors, across industries, in the US and abroad, to become sustainably cost-effective and achieve their visions.  Formerly with BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting, his areas of expertise include organization strategies, human capital management, and change acceptance and adoption.  His clients range from small, local concerns to international, multi-lateral institutions, and he has advised leaders and managers of more than 50 organizations to help them realize their goals over the course of his career.

If you’d like to learn more about “personalizing your market,” contact Snowflake.  We’ll be happy to talk about your situation and offer our perspectives, risk free.  Refer to this blog and get a one-hour consultation at no cost.