The process for finding your ideal customer used to be complicated, but since the arrival of social media and online search tools like Google, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Bing, the data is now available for you to find out who your most likely and most ideal customer is by following the data to whatever your objective is.

What do you want to do when you work it out?

And that’s where we start the search for your ideal customer. At the objective. This is where we ask ourselves, what exactly are we trying to achieve by knowing who our ideal customer is. That’s because just knowing who that customer is, isn’t an end in itself. It’s just the first steppingstone towards something else. And not every business has the same objective in mind when they ask this question.

You’d think that every business would have the objective of making more sales and in turn, making more money, but in today’s more aware and conscious business world, that isn’t always the main objective in mind.

One of the most common objectives for finding out what an ideal target customer is, happens to be a goal to reduce the cost of advertising or marketing overall. Think about it. You could spend $5000 on a print campaign for a local magazine. It’s glossy, it’s beautiful and you have no idea who is reading it. Sure, the magazine seems to be targeted at someone. It appears to be popular with some of your friends. But can you measure who is actually reading it? No. There is no camera hovered over the heads of the people who read it that can tell us some demographic info about the kinds of people that are picking it up, what they’re reading it in, or even what other things they like.

You can’t build a profile around an ideal customer based on that. To a degree, you could use survey data from TV and radio stations, but when there are a total of 100 surveys put out to a market of 1 million people, you’re not getting accurate data about anything of depth apart from what people are or aren’t listening to or watching.

Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Google Analytics and LinkedIn will give you a view of data that shows the kinds of people who are accessing your websites, what pages they are interested most in and whether they are tending towards buying or browsing. Facebook and Instagram have probably the best data analysis tools out there. You can dig deep in to who is viewing your content, who is watching your videos, what other things your followers like following and where they are. There’s so much data in there that really helps you see who is doing what and what things they have in common.

LinkedIn has some similar features in their Marketing Platform that gives you some generalised information around the numbers of people in different job roles, industries and geographical regions. While it’s not quite the detail of Facebook’s platform, this is valuable information for those businesses who sell to other businesses. You can start to match other sources of data that are telling you WHO your target customer may be, to the number of relevant businesses that match this in your area.

Where do I find the data that tells me what I need to know?

Where exactly do you find all this delicious data, though? It’s all available for free in your Facebook Page, Facebook Ads Manager, Facebook Business Manager, Facebook Analytics, Google Analytics, Instagram Insights and other on-platform data repositories. If you have a Facebook business page, then you have access to your Page Insights. You will only get Instagram Insights if you convert your profile to a business profile. Trust me, you want to do that. It opens up a much bigger world. When you can see who it is that is viewing you beyond just the likes and comments, and you can see what they like most, you can see who it is who might just be the most ideal group of people by age, gender, location and more. If you went in to your business thinking that your primary target audience was going to be men over 45 with lots of money, but your social media content is indicating that it is women between 18 and 25 who are loving what you’re doing, then that is a sign that you may need to change your mind set on who it is that your customer actually is.

But what should I be selling?

Now you know why it’s important, and where to find the right information to find out who your target audience is, how to you use that to work out what your target audience likes?

This is where you bring together multiple sources of data to form patterns, as we’ve discussed above, and combine that with what exactly your business objectives are.

As a basic idea, you want to sell the products that you make the most amount of money from. That doesn’t always equate to what you sell more of than anything else. If you sell 1000 scented candles, yet only make 10 cents off each one, but you sell 100 candleholders that give you a margin of $5 per holder, then clearly you want to push your candle holders  and work out where the ideal audience is for that product because it’s where all the profit is. That may mean shifting your focus across to producing content, placing ads and reworking your website to appeal to the kind of person who buys candle holders.

While you may love the money that your customers bring you, there may be specific types of customers that you really don’t like serving. They could be bargain shoppers who are always haggling for a better price. They could be customers who live in far-flung places that cost you a fortune in postage to send to. Or they could be a particular type of customer who is super high-maintenance and demanding of attention. The creative elements, words and language you use in your posts, ads, web pages and marketing materials can send a strong message to a potential customer as to whether you wish to serve them or not. Stating that “Qualification criteria applies” to new customers accessing your services, or stating that your candles may contain certain known allergens, means that those customers who badger you with questions about ingredients, are “tyre kickers” or are renowned for being the type who wear clothes and then return them demanding refunds, are the kind of customers you can disqualify through what you say about your products and services before they buy them.

If you want to only serve women, for example, you create an environment where women are very comfortable, but men are not.

And finally, if you’re looking to discover who your target customer might be, think about the type of customer that you know, will be a return customer. Quite often we spend so much on marketing to attract a new customer, only to have them purchase a low value product. You want to think of a customer in terms of their lifetime value – not the just value of one single transaction. When you look back through your client or customer list, can you see those customers that seem to come back again and again? They buy multiple products at once, or they book your services repeatedly. These count towards who your ideal customer is. After all, if you spend $20 to acquire this new client, they then bought a $30 service, you’ve made $10. But if they keep returning for that service every month, then you are making the full $30 each time after that initial sale.

So what next?

Identifying your ideal customer is a mix of where your social media and web data is pointing, who you would like to serve, who represents the best margin per sale, and finally, what customer represents the best value over the lifetime of their dealings with you. When you can find the combination of these that works best for you, then you’ve found your ideal target customer. However, this is not a once-off job. Your target is a moving target. Who your ideal customer is this year, may be a dead-end next year as fashion, trends and tastes change over time.