What do your best customers smell like?
What you should know about your best customers

If information is power, how much do you know about your customers? Try this quiz.
1 Who are your three best customers?
2 Why do they do business with you?
3 What is their competitive edge?
4 What are their greatest challenges?
5 Who are their chief competitors?
6 What significant trends are impacting their industries?
7 What do your best customers have in common?

Why are each of these questions and the answers important to you? If you want to keep your best customers and find more like them read on.

1 Who are your best customers?
How do you define 'best'? Is it the one who paid you the most money this year, the one who has paid you the most over the last few years or the one who provides steady business, pays promptly and is easy to service? You decide. You might need to create a few categories of best and deal with each differently. However you define best, establish your criteria then measure it regularly. Know who your best are and what they're doing. Treat them special. Stay informed and keep them informed. Stay in contact with them more often.

2 Why do they do business with you?
Stop patting yourself on the back and claiming that they are smart enough to pick you. Maybe that's true. But don't assume. Forget surveys; ask them directly, over coffee or lunch, "Tell me why you selected my company as your supplier?" Follow up with, "I am always trying to improve my service, and I want to ensure I don't make the wrong changes. So if there is one thing that I should not change what is that?" You might be surprised by their answer.

3 What is their competitive edge?
Would you do business with your best customers? After you ask them why they do business with you, ask "Why do your best customers do business with you?" Watch their reaction at your interest in them. If you know their competitive edge then you can demonstrate how your company can help them with that important edge. You can also offer them ideas to help achieve and promote that edge. They will love you for it.

4 What are their greatest challenges?
Is it competition, staff, or finding time to relax? If they don't want to tell you then back off. Likely they will be only too happy to share their concerns with a trusted colleague. Listen and don't try to solve their problem unless that is your area of specialty. Ask them how they are approaching this challenge. You will learn more about them in understanding how they think. You may be able to recommend a book, seminar, or associate who specializes in that challenge. Or you may be able to help them directly by adapting your service to help. If you can help your customers with the ghosts that keep them awake at night, you will become invaluable.

5 Who are their chief competitors?
If you know whom they see as their chief competition you gain insight in to how they position themselves. Are they the market dominator or the underdog? Each will have entirely different corporate cultures, styles and needs. You will market to them differently.

You also need to decide if and how you will deal with the key competitors to your best customers. It will depend on the nature of your business and the level of trust and confidentiality needed to maintain good customer relationships. If you are tempted to sell to their competition remember that the surest way to create allies is to have a common enemy.

6 What significant trends are impacting their industries?
Be aware of threats to your customers' viability and discover new opportunities for your business. How is their industry changing? How will they do business in one, three and five years? And how will you fit into that?

If you are aware of these trends then more news about them tend to grab your attention when you read the news or talk to others. You might clip and send your customer an article that talks about the trends. Your customer will appreciate your interest. When you market your product you may explain how it protects them from a negative trend or takes advantage of a positive trend.

7 What do your best customers have in common?
If you want more 'best customers' then know how to find them. Describe your best customers and post it on your office wall. It's like a wanted poster for good customers. If you know what you are looking for you are more likely to find it.

Think about how a hunter tracks their prey. They learn the habits, smells, likes and dislikes. You can do the same to find your big game. Here is a sampling of the information you might collect about your best customers; clubs and associations of which they are members, where they live, what they read, their education, special interests, sports and hobbies, recreation, demographics & ethno graphics, etc.

You can do two things with this information. Direct your marketing to these groups or places. It is like fishing. Discover where to catch the best fish and concentrate your efforts in those places. Find where you will catch the best customers and concentrate your marketing there.

Secondly ask your best customers to refer you to others like them in their groups. We prefer to do business with others who are like us. These referrals have greater weight and it helps you catch the customers you want.

Sharpen your nose and happy hunting.

İPM10 George Torok is co-author of the national bestseller, "Secrets of Power Marketing", the first guide to personal marketing for the non-marketer. For powerful answers to your marketing challenges call George Torok at 905-335-1997. Register for your free Marketing Tips at www.PowerMarketing.ca To arrange for your marketing program call 905-335-1997.