Whether you’re starting a brand new business or you’re fairly established in your industry, bringing in new customers is bound to be one of your top priorities. But if you don’t have a great lead generation strategy, you may find yourself scrambling. And, subsequently, wondering why customers aren’t lined up ready to buy. To create a sustainable, growing company, you’ll need a lead generation strategy to consistently bring in potential customers. But first, you’ll need to zero in on exactly who that customer is.

What is Lead Generation, Anyway?

A lead is someone who has shown an interest in your organization’s services or products in some way. Lead generation, therefore, is the process of turning strangers into leads. Or, as Hubspot says, lead generation is “a way of warming up potential customers to your business and getting them on the path to eventually buying.” Marketo’s definition of lead generation is “the process of helping potential customers find your company — often before they are even looking to make a purchase — and then turning that early awareness into brand preference, and ultimately, into leads and revenue.” It’s really one of the first steps in any effective marketing strategy that can allow you to appeal to customers early on and stand out for the right reasons.

Why is Lead Generation Important?

Lead generation is an integral part of your marketing efforts, and it’s essentially what will translate into sales. You need to be able to reach these customers and separate yourself from the competition. While there are several ways to do this, lead generation is one you can’t afford to overlook. After all, if you can’t find these potential customers — or who they even are — you’re going to have a tough time keeping your business afloat.

A Note About Inbound vs. Outbound Lead Generation

Over time, the effectiveness of certain marketing strategies has shifted. In the digital age, it’s all about inbound lead generation. While both inbound and outbound lead generation require businesses to focus on their target markets, the approach differs quite a bit. Outbound lead generation is a more traditional method wherein the business sends a message directly to potential customers (think cold calling and e-mails). Inbound lead generation, in contrast, requires the business to provide useful, relevant content that will then bring customers right to your business. Today, consumers are much more likely to tune out sales pitches and choose to do business with a company that can provide real solutions to a common problem.

This change has proven problematic for many companies. In fact, approximately 63% of businesses agree that generating leads and traffic is their toughest marketing challenge. It can be tough to completely rethink your lead generation strategy. Some companies may even choose to utilize both techniques to fit their unique needs. But no matter what kind of strategy you use, understanding your target market — and even more specifically, your target customer — is a must.

What is a Target Customer?

Now that you understand the importance of lead generation, you’ll need a way to identify exactly who your ideal customer is. This can narrow the scope and allow you to focus on exactly what makes a viable lead (i.e., someone who is likely to have a real interest in what your company has to offer).

You may have already identified your target market, which differs slightly from your target customer. While your target market likely represents a larger group of potential customers (often with a wider age range, income bracket, or other differential), your target customer will be a bit more specific. Instead of a target group between the ages of 18 and 25 who live in the suburbs, your target customer profile might be an African American male, aged 23, who lives in a certain zip code and makes a specific amount per year. You’ll also need to take psychographic terms into account which describe your target customer’s personality — like environmentally responsible, adventurous, tech-savvy, or trendy.

In short, your target customer should represent the ideal consumer who is most likely to purchase your products or services.

How Do I Define My Target Customer?

Identifying your target customer can be tricky, especially if you’re running a brand new business and have limited data. But even if your product or service has widespread appeal, you can’t simply market it to everyone. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending a lot on your marketing with less-than-desirable results. Every business has a primary customer; identifying this ideal customer doesn’t mean you’ll be alienating others who don’t fall into the same category. However, it will make lead generation much more efficient (and sales much more likely).

When you’re trying to figure out your target customer, you’ll want to ask yourself the following:

What problems can our products/services solve for our customers?

  • What is your primary customer’s gender?
  • How old is your primary customer?
  • What is their income level? Education level?
  • What is their marital or family status?
  • Where does your primary customer live and/or work?
  • What is their ethnic background?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • When would this customer likely buy your product or service?
  • What is their personality like?
  • What are their values?
  • Where do these customers get their information?
  • What’s their lifestyle like? What are their interests and hobbies?
  • What product or service benefits will appeal most to your primary customers?

These are by no means the only questions you’ll have to answer when determining your target customer, as there are many other factors to consider. However, these can give you a good starting point. Once you have a better understanding of who that ideal customer is, what their life is like, and how they’re likely to behave, you can use this information to market your offerings more effectively and provide relevant content that will appeal to their needs.

If you’re able to put yourself in their shoes, you’ll have a better understanding of the problems they face and illustrate how your company can provide a solution. That’s ultimately a huge part of turning relative strangers into long-time customers — a.k.a. lead generation and sales.




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