Who Are Your Customers?

Do you know who your customers are? Do you know why they chose you? Do you know what they like? What they want? Where they spend their time? If you don’t, you should find out. Understanding who is your customer is perhaps the most important part of developing and marketing a business.

My first venture online was a site similar to this one. The main difference was I had a partner and the two of us were completely new to life and business online. Somewhere we’d gotten the idea that we wanted to create websites for people. We set up a site for ourselves, and…well that’s where things didn’t go according to plan. Neither of us had ever run a business before. Neither of us really knew how to market ourselves. Neither of us had a clue who our customers would be.

I still clearly remember a day when we both, armed with worksheets from the Small Business Association, attempted to define our market. We looked at each other and thought potential customers were anyone looking for a new website or a redesign on an existing website. Sounds logical since that was the service we offered, but we hadn’t defined our customers enough and never really knew who they were.

Defining Your Customers

As you define your customer more, your market becomes smaller. That might sound like it’s not the best of ideas since a smaller market means less potential customers, but it’s actually the best thing you can do when starting out. You’re not going to compete with the Amazons and Wal-Marts of the world and be able to appeal to everyone.

When you define your customer more you can better differentiate yourself from your competition. Yes, there are less people specifically looking for your specialization, but for those people you become the choice. Would you rather be the one choice for a small group or one of many, many choices for a larger group? Which do you think ultimately results in more sales?

There’s a balance of course.

  • too narrowly defined => too limited a market
  • too widely defined => hard to stand out

Somewhere in between is the ideal. Somewhere in between is the place where you can differentiate yourself and stand out in a market that’s large enough to provide the customers you need to succeed.

Knowing Your Customers Leads The Way

Understanding who your customer is goes beyond finding your niche market. Once you understand your customer you can tailor your marketing specifically to them. For example if you know where your market spends its time you can build and maintain a presence there.

Knowing your customers leads to the tone of your copy. When I started this site I thought I needed to appear larger than I was. This site and business is me, but my thinking was that in order to gain clients I needed to appear like a company with more than one employee. Over the years I’ve learned from clients that one of the reasons they choose me is me. They like the personal touches. They like the things I do outside of the working relationship. It’s a selling point I hadn’t considered originally.

As I redesign this site and prepare to move it to a new domain (I promise it’s coming very soon), I’ve rewritten the copy to reflect more of me. I’ve injected more of my personality into the pages. Sure there will be some that will think the writing too informal for a business, but there will also be some who will appreciate the informality and become more inclined to be my next client.

While it may turn away some more of me in the copy should also help me stand out to those people who want a more personal relationship with the person who works on their website.

How Can You Know Your Customers?

The best way to find out who your customers are is to ask them. Ask them why they chose you. Ask them why they stick with you. Ask them what you offer that others don’t.

Listen to your customers. Even if you aren’t asking them they are likely telling you. They’re telling you in emails and they’re telling you in which of your products and services they choose. If you have a blog they’re telling you when they comment. In every communication they have with you, your customers are letting you know why they are your customer.

What if you’re a brand new business and don’t have customers to ask or listen to yet?

You can still ask and listen. You’ll just have to ask someone else’s customers. Listen closely on forums and social sites to what’s being said about your competition. Listen for why people are choosing to do business with them. Listen too, for what your competition isn’t doing. If a need or want of the market isn’t being served it’s an easy way to differentiate yourself in the industry.

And yes, you can also ask. Get to know some of your competitors customers and ask them the questions above. Ask them why they do business with a certain company and ask them what they aren’t getting.

Once the asking, answering, and listening is done you can take what you’ve learned and develop personas to represent your market and further lead your decision making.

Do you know your customers? Do you know who they are and how they spend their time? Do you know what they like and especially what they like about you?

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. Excellent article, if we take the time to think about the thoughts and concerns of the visitors of our sites we’ll begin to understand them.

    Understanding brings clarity as to why they will or will not get involoved in what you’re offering.

    You are correct about just being yourself. The web can be so impersonal and yet people go online to connect!

  2. Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Yep. Understanding your market is the first step to success. You can learn along the way and make improvements as you go, but the better you can understand who your customer, visitor, etc is the better chance you have to succeed.

    I hear you about the impersonal stuff. I have to admit that my pages here outside the blog are probably a little too impersonal at the moment. I thought that’s how they should be when I wrote them a few years back, but that will all be changed with a new design that’s coming shortly.

  3. Hey Steven,

    Great post and love your writing style and if this is the new site great work if not well look forward to seeing what is around the corner.

    I see so many people trying to be everything to everyone and wonder why they are nothing to anyone! No definition of ideal client = death by starvation!


    Rich Muir
    making registering your new company easy

    • Thanks for the compliments Richard. I’ve actually been blogging for awhile, but in the beginning I think I was mostly blogging to myself.

      I agree. I was just having a similar conversation with someone on a forum. When you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one. Most of us don’t need to appeal to all. If we can identify the people we want to work with and want to work with us we’ll be fine.

      Thanks again.

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