It’s obvious that knowing your target customer is a critical part of operating and growing any business. Defining your ideal prospect drives all aspects of sales and marketing, but also provides direction for the entire enterprise, from developing products and services, creating positioning and brand narratives, developing sales enablement and lead nurture programming, and building the organization, from people to tech stack to processes.

Unfortunately, to too many companies, a target may be viewed as anyone willing to pay us money. In which case being choiceful and targeted means leaving people out, which may feel like a missed opportunity. For example, I’ve seen marketing services companies that target any company with a budget, SaaS companies that seek to help every different type of business organization, even food brands targeting anyone with a mouth. However, if your business is for everybody, then it’s likely to have a very generic offering that isn’t really the perfect choice or fit for anybody. And no one will see your messaging or product as either truly relevant or as “getting them”.

In addition to the reasons stated above, accurately and pointedly defining your ideal customer also helps a company define where to spend its resources. Just because a customer might be “close-able” doesn’t mean your business should seek them. Going after and servicing customers requires people, time, and other scant resources. Thus, giving attention to one type of customer means giving shorter shrift to others – including those who are empirically more valuable.

So how do you identify and define your ideal customer? To begin with, leverage any and all data you have access to in order to better understand who your current customers are and why they chose you over your competition – e.g., CRM and customer data, sales intel, customer satisfaction surveys and NPS, 1:1 interviews amongst customers who did and didn’t choose you, and beyond. Dig into what you know about them, what their goals and fears are, and how they make their decisions (i.e. what their path to purchase is, who is involved in the decision, etc.).

Having this information, here are some steps to improve your ideal customer definition, from good to better to best.


  • Define your current BEST customer: You may have a variety of types of customers, but focus on those that are driving the greatest value for you. Perhaps they are the ones who are repeat users, who are most appreciative of your product/services, who provide recommendations. If you are a B2B business, identify what category they’re in, what size company they are, how long have they been in business/what stage they’re at in their lifecycle, are they growing or have they stalled, etc. All this will be helpful, especially for your marketing and sales efforts. For example, imagine the difference it might make to identify that you tend to help turnarounds vs. early-stage startups and scale-ups.

Better (add this to the above)

  • What type of people hire you? Remember that, even for B2B organizations, it is people who make decisions. What are the people who choose you like? What are their goals and their fears? What are their values? What is important to them? Consider the difference it makes in your sales pitches and storytelling to determine whether your customer is the kind of person who seeks bold, innovative solutions that drive big change, or are more risk-averse and want to maintain control and status quo.

Best (add this to the above)

  • When do you and your team do your best work? This is a critical determination, especially for marketing services types of companies – i.e., what types of clients create the best environments for your products, services, and teams? Think about when your company is performing at its best and when the teams are most energized – is there a type of client, a type of engagement, a type of solution that brings out the best in them? This is the type of information that helps you truly define your company’s differentiation.

As you can see, these types of definitions and attributes can make a big difference in your company’s offering. And, ultimately, are most likely to drive resonance with and create magnetism for your ideal customers.

*Originally published in MediaPost’s Marketing Insider September 1, 2022

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