How to Use Technology to Identify Your Top Customers

What if I told you that with the advent of the internet and technology – and our friends Google and Excel – you can do segmentation and targeting yourself, at a fraction of the cost of traditional outsourcing? Though it is helpful to also conduct primary research I am going to concentrate what you can find on your own. A step by step guide. It does take elbow grease, and creative problem solving, but that’s why you are a small business owner, right?

Track all the Data You Can Find

Before you begin crunching numbers, you have to have numbers. Track your sales interactions – you can utilize a tracking/CRM tool (my top picks are Salesforce, Pardot, or InfusionSoft) to gather data on your customers, their visits, purchases and more. To track your website, all it takes is a capturing tool like Google Analytics to look at conversion rates on calls to action / page views / etc (Google has great info here.).

Make sure to track as much as you can – everything from gender to address to income. For small companies, just start with a spreadsheet on Google Drive or Dropbox. And remember better data = better answers. Your end goal is a spreadsheet of all your customer interactions with columns on each demographic dimension you can find – so that you can analyze.

Evaluate What’s Working

Now look in depth at your customers / key decision makers. Specifically, what do successful customers have in common? Pivot tables will be your best friend (here is an easy tutorial).

When you look at your data, do you have more customers based on age, gender, income, location, education level or job title? Where are the clusters? Start to build a series of nested characteristics, e.g. high income earning females that commute and have a family. Sort by columns, multiple facets, etc. Build a key customer profile.

This is what you can later validate using primary research (actually talking to customers). But secondary research will get you a long way.

Target & Find Them (first using FREE data)

This is where the grunt work and creativity come into play. Once you have defined the key characteristics of your best customer, you need to find more of them.

Usually, I start by choosing a higher level aggregator – location or industry or job title is a great place to start. You want to deep dive into 10-15 “potentials” at that highest feature … fewer and you won’t get a usable list. More and you will “boil the ocean.”

Next, you want to search online with Google for reports on concentrations of your target profiles (e.g., cities with women, industries with high-income workers). Your goal is to prioritize the potentials so you can determine where you spend your dollars to hit the most potential customers. Remember, data is only as good as its source. Look for top research organizations, or reputable magazines and online websites.

To look more closely at consumers, a favorite tool is Nielsen’s Segmentation Solutions– a series of qualitative segments based on analysis of demographic, income, proprietary and available data sources in multiple categories – searchable by locations. The government also has great data available – check out US Census Data for demographic data by zip, state and metro area or the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics for job data, growth, employment information, etc. Industry data can be found through IBIS World or various industry specific websites and organizations.

After all this work, you should have a good idea of who your ideal customer is – and hopefully a prioritized list of specifics about where best to find them. After that, making the cold calls or building the sales lists will be a piece of cake, right?

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    By: Lauren Ward

    Lauren Ward has 15+ years in experience as a consultant in business development, strategy and marketing through her firm Ward Business and Strategy Consulting, LLC. Her specialties include conducting customer segmentation, best practices and competitive assessments, as well as marketing research and growth strategies. Lauren graduated from Duke University cum laude, and received her MBA at the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin. In 2012, Lauren successfully battled Stage 3 breast cancer. Lauren is a proud mom of three, including twins, and in between the chaos, loves to write, travel, SCUBA dive and play tennis.

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