The secret to cloning your customers

There’s a way you can “clone” your best customers, so you’re able to do business with more of them.

It starts by really getting to know your current customers. The more you understand the reasons your customers chose you and what they really think about you — as opposed to what you believe they really think about you — the better you’ll be able to target others who are likely to do business with you.

The fancy term for this is “customer modeling,” and once you create a model of your ideal customer, you can use it to make more effective decisions about your marketing.

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 online” or “I think most of our customers are referred by friends” or “I think they see our coupons.” It’s never “I know that 63 percent of our business is a direct result of our email campaigns.” If you know exactly why customers choose you and how they find you, you’re already ahead of 98 percent of the businesses out there.

Would you like to know an amazingly powerful, amazingly effective secret for learning how your customers found you and why they chose you? Ask them. It’s really that simple. You can hire a marketing research firm and invest five figures in surveys and focus groups, and you’ll get answers, but it’s far 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. You’ll gain some valuable insight while creating an opportunity for your employees to engage customers by showing a genuine interest in their business.

If six out of ten customers mention that they came to you because they heard you on the radio, consider increasing the percentage of your budget that goes into radio commercials. If most cited the sign out front, think about 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, tell the staff and reward them for it. If they’re the key to keeping your business, it makes sense to keep them happy. 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. 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.