Designing Strategies: The Blog

Finding your ideal customers

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Woman on LaptopYou have probably discovered by now that taking the old school shot-gun approach to marketing is a huge waste of your resources.  To make the best investment of time and resources in both traditional and social media marketing — including your blog — you need to know who your target audience is.  Just compiling names and e-mail addresses really doesn’t tell you much.  For your content to be of value to your customers, you need to know who they are, what demographics they fit into and what characteristics and traits they share with others.  From this data, you can develop your customer personas — clear targets at which to aim your marketing efforts.

Knowing only the most basic information like how many males vs. females are following you and reading your content  does not provide a clear enough picture of who your ideal customers are.  What you don’t know about them can mean the difference between the success and failure of your traditional and social media marketing efforts.  So, dig out your Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker hat,  curved pipe and magnifying glass,  it’s time to become an Internet super sleuth.

Using other online sources to fill in the blanks of the demographics of your target audience — your prospective customers — will take both time and effort.   But rest assured,  ROI will be well worth it.   Just a typical Internet search using Google, MSN, Bing or other search engines can turn up a lot of information on most anyone these days.  You can take a low budget approach by having a young, computer and Internet savvy intern become your on-line sleuth.  If your client base is made up of  larger firms,  you might want to pay the subscription fee for a business search site like Hoovers.

Here are some additional tips for information gathering to fine tune your customer personas:

  • Start with their website to see what it reveals about them and their business.   ‘About’  and ‘Services’ pages often provide quite a bit of personal information and company history.
  • There are nearly 850 million people on FaceBook, so odds of finding those who are following your blog, e-articles, newsletters and other content there are pretty good.  Those who openly share their lives and businesses provide a lot of information  you can use in developing your customer personas.  Sometimes birthdates are included, but graduation dates can also give you a rough idea of age.  Where they live, what they drive and other information can be telling in regard to their income level.  Hobbies and interests are general topics freely shared on most social media sites.
  • Search for on-line articles or blogs they authored.  Both provide information on their areas of expertise and view points on topics of interest — who are they writing for?  Blogs often include ‘About’ pages that are often more casual and personalized than might be found on a more formal  business web site.
  •  LinkedIN is the place to look for business background, education and skills information on individuals.  Companies post a lot of very useful information on LinkedIN company pages: who their employees are and were, company mission and/or vision, size of company, products and services, growth rates and more.

Search, search, search.  Internet search engines and those within social media sites can be a treasure trove of information.  Use keywords that relate to who your best customers are and pull up names and information on other potentially profitable clients.  The more information you can gather to help clearly define who your fans  and friends are, the easier it will be to create quality content that will appeal to them.  Write and talk about what they want to hear, not what you think they should hear. When your customer personas and your marketing content match, you will be right on target for success.

 Please share your own tips on gathering information to develop customer personas in the ‘Comments’ area below.

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Are Your Succession and Exit Strategies in Place?

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succession and exit planningAs strange as it might sound to someone starting a new business, the beginning is when you need to plan for the end.  OK, you might be thinking: ‘What is this dim-wit talking about?  I want to know what to do today, tomorrow, next week and next month to get my newbusiness off the ground.  I’ll worry about the end part later – much later.’   There is no time like the present to get to work on your succession and exit planning — before you need them.   Developing key management concepts in the midst of a leadership crisis is definitely not the way to go.

The reality is that everything you do, every step you take in starting and growing a business should be based on where you want to be at the end.  Your exit strategy and the succession plan that will make for a smooth transition and your successful exit possible shouldn’t be put off until the last minute.  How will the company continue running strong with you, the founder or primary leader, out of the picture?  What value will the firm have if you are no longer in the picture?

As the business  grows,  taking on its planned organizational structure, employees will be added  to take on  added responsibilities that come with growth.  Success will bring growth to your customer base and  revenues,  introduce new products and services that provide for new market segments, and perhaps even increase the number of  company facilities.

With your leadership skills focused on day-to-day matters that come with a successfully expanding business, it is easy to foget that no one is invincible or irreplaceable.  Personal situations can change in a flash as drastic accidents, family or health issues arise.  Any of these can pull a leader away on very short notice.

Having a succession plan in place can make such transitions less of a shock to the fiber of your organization.   It involves identifying an appropriate successor, bringing her on-board far enough in advance for training and development necessary to take over the firm’s administration.  Usually, the more history a successor candidate has with the company, the easier the transition phase. There are several key steps to take in developing your succession plan:

  • Your Company/Industry Situation:  Review the status of your company and industry today. But, also consider changes that might occur in the future and effects they might have.  Based on this research process, develop a plan that includes the following phases.
  • Search for Candidates:  Successors can come from several sources:  internal employee pool, external pool of others within your industry, and external pool of others outside your industry.
  • Select & Develop the Right Candidate:  Invest in training the ‘heir apparent’ to strengthen weak or missing areas of expertise necessary for them to take over the leadership role.
  • The Transition:  Managing the transition between leaders will be different for each company based on its unique situation.

While many companies manage to forge onward during a short term absence of key leaders, the longer your absence, the less likely your firm will successfully stay on track without a formalized succession plan.  If you have left this important part of your planning on the back burner far too long, it’s time — NOW– to pull it out and get to work.

Planning for the success of your business when you are no longer there is crucial.  Get to it!  Put your company in a position to successfully pass the baton when it becomes necessary.

 

 

 

 

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