How to clone your customers

Developments in cloning have been amazing, but unless your customer base is made up of sheep, they haven’t meant much to marketers. That said, there’s a way you can “clone” your best customers, so you can do business with more of them.


Really getting to know your current customers is a critical step in finding new ones. The better you know the reasons your customers chose you and what they really think about you — versus what you believe they really think about you — the better you’ll be able to target other people who are likely to do business with you.


The fancy marketing term for this is “customer modeling.” Once you create a model of your ideal customer, you can use what you’ve learned to make more effective decisions about your marketing.


Given that business owners get pretty upset about the money they invest into marketing, you’d think they’d have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t — or you’d think they would try to find out. But when I’ve asked most business owners what led their current customers to choose them, they weren’t sure.


The dead giveaway is when they answer questions like that with “I think …” instead of “I know …” statements. “I think most people find us on the internet” or “I think most of our customers are referred by friends” or “I think they see our coupons.” It’s almost never “I know that 63 percent of our business is a direct result of our cable TV advertising.” If you know exactly why customers choose you and how they find you, congratulations. You’re already ahead of 98 percent of the businesses out there.


Want to know an amazingly powerful, amazingly effective way to learn how your customers found you and why they chose you? Ask them. It’s really that simple. Oh, you could hire a marketing research firm and invest five figures in surveys and focus groups, and you’ll get answers to those questions, but it’s far quicker, easier, and economical to simply take a moment or two to ask a couple simple questions of every customer. Questions like “So how did you find us?” and “What brings you back?”


It takes less than five seconds. You can make the questions part of the regular cash register conversation, just as many businesses do when they ask their customers for zip codes. Not only will you gain some valuable insight, but you’ll create an opportunity for your employees to engage customers by showing a genuine interest in and appreciation for their business.


If six out of ten customers mention that they came to you because they heard you on the radio, you may want to increase the percentage of your budget that goes into radio commercials. If most cited the sign out front, you’ll want to give thought to putting more effort into your front windows and possibly beefing up the sign.


If customers tell you they keep coming back because of the friendly service they receive from your staff, let the staff know that, and then give them raises or other rewards. If they’re the key to keeping your business, it makes sense to keep them happy. Sadly, too many businesses regard front-line employees as easily replaced robots. If your customer research confirms their importance, making sure they know how important they are to your success may be the best marketing investment you’ll ever make.


The more you know about your customers and why they make the choices they do, the better you’ll be able to position your business to serve them. Just as important, they’ll regard your interest as genuine, and not as something intrusive. By asking questions and acting upon their answers, you’ll prove that their business matters to you. And the good things they say about you to their friends and colleagues will send more clones your way.

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