Define your target customer and your unique selling point – plus examples!

target customer and USP

Your target customer

I work with lots of small businesses, and something that I have really grown to see the use of is a definition of who your target audience is – or more specifically your target customer. By that I mean the type of person that you most hope to sell your product or service to. When I started Five Pixels I didn’t formally write anything down, but I had a very clear intention of working with local businesses, and not positioning myself online as a generic web designer/developer. Also, I have always been most interested in working with small businesses – sole traders and those with only a few employees.

My main reason for this is because they are the people that I can most help with my services. I understand and deal with everything about getting online, from domains, hosting and email to website design and development. I also understand SEO and digital marketing (as I have to do this for my own business), and I’ve been able to pass on helpful suggestions to my customers in these areas, despite not offering these as paid services at this point.

I like to work with businesses who aren’t traditionally web-based, and these are the people that most appreciate the diversity of what I can offer. They don’t want to engage five different people just to have an online presence, so by working with me they get the benefit of my ability to draw all the strands of being online together.

Just recently I have actually written down not only a description of my target customer, but also of the things that make me unique and best able to help them. Doing this gives me a great deal of clarity about who I am trying to reach and what I can offer them, and I highly recommend it for your business, no matter what you do or how ‘vanilla’ your might think your product or service is.

Nobody can sell to everybody, not even Apple or Nike. We are all different, and being aware of this gives you a stronger sense of identity and an advantage when it comes to your competitors. You should celebrate the strength of your individuality in business and never try to be all things to all people. Some customers are just never going to be for you, and that is okay.

Target customer doesn’t mean only customer

Sometimes people get hung up on being so specific because they think it excludes other potential buyers. For example, a business might not want to say that they plan to sell to women under 25, because they feel it is excluding women aged 25-40 or older who also might buy their product.

Understand that having a target customer doesn’t mean you will not sell to anyone who doesn’t fit that profile. If I say I target business owners over 35 (which essentially I do), it doesn’t mean that I’m going to a) turn away a 25 year old who needs a website for their new book launch, or b) that no one under 35 will ever contact me.

A target customer is simply a fictional creation to help focus your business activities and in particular any branding, advertising and marketing that you do. If the fit is right, you may help many people that don’t match everything (or anything) in the description of your “ideal” customer, but having that description in the first place puts you above your competition because it helps you to understand how to drive your business, and your sales, forward.

No matter what you do, from carpet cleaning to event planning, you should be able to list the qualities of your ideal buyer. This may vary considerably even within the same industry.

Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1

Bob is a piano teacher

Bob’s target customer: Leon is 8 and has been playing piano for one year. Leon’s parents live within a 10 mile radius of Bob and can afford a good piano and regular lessons. Leon is a quiet child and his parents want a tutor who will make him feel at ease as well as teach him well. They are committed to a long term relationship taking Leon from beginner to grade 8.

Brian is a piano teacher

Brian’s target customer: Jez is 50 and retired early. He has taught himself a little piano over the years but needs structured lessons and some bad habits correcting. He is a committed learner but travels regularly so needs some flexibility with lesson times. He wants to learn to play more modern music as well as learning the theory and traditional pieces.

Bob is going to blog, market, brand and advertise in a completely different way to Brian.

Note the important point – they aren’t excluding customers by doing this, they are just focusing on the area that is most likely to be a fit for them. Brian will probably not build up connections with local schools and magazines for parents. Bob will not look for ways to help adult learners.

If they pick up a different customer on the way (e.g. Sheila is 25, she wants to start learning piano and approaches Bob for lessons), that’s great, but the main point is that both Bob and Brian are targeting different markets because their skills and USPs (more on that below) lie in different areas.

Example 2

Jerry sells handmade cakes

Jerry’s target customer: Eileen is 24 and a regular gym-goer and runner. She takes her own lunch to work but has no time for baking between her job and a busy social life. She buys organic food and avoids white sugar, preferring alternatives such as maple syrup and coconut sugar. She doesn’t like traditional treats as she believes they are unhealthy, but is happy to spend money on healthier snacks and treats so she can enjoy them without guilt.

Lesley sells handmade cakes

Lesley’s target customer: Jess is 40 and has two children. She works and has no time to bake her childrens’ birthday cakes but she doesn’t like the choices in the supermarket and worries about additives and preservatives. She wants a cake that will impress at her child’s party, make her child smile and make her feel like she is a wonderful mum.

Jerry is going to blog, market, brand and advertise in a completely different way to Lesley.

Again, they won’t turn down a customer that they can help just because he or she doesn’t fit the profile, but they will focus on selling to the customers that they can help the most.

Unique selling point

The other thing that you should be totally clear on is what your unique selling point (USP) is.

This is the main thing that you can do, that no one else can do in quite the same way. Whether it’s your ability to explain things, the way you organise down to the last paperclip, or the beautiful selection of colours you create your product in, you should play to your strengths and make them clear to your potential market.

Let’s go back to our examples:

Example 1

Bob is a piano teacher

Bob’s USP: Bob is fantastic at working with children who are shy or worried about strangers. He puts them at ease, makes learning fun and most importantly he makes his students feel good about learning with him. Parents love how he seems to be able to teach their quiet child without any awkwardness or upset.

Brian is a piano teacher

Brian’s USP: Brain has the patience of a saint and can help anyone learn piano, even if they are 95 and have never played before. Adults love his enthusiasm for learning at any age and practice hard to show him their appreciation.

Both teachers will have a common skillset, but what really differentiates them from all the other piano teachers out there is their target customer and their USP. By following their own heart in doing the business they want to do with the people they want to work with, they will be recommended and loved by their customers.

Example 2

Jerry sells handmade cakes

Jerry’s USP: Jerry is passionate about organic, healthy ingredients and making treats that support rather than attack the body. She is knowledgeable about GI issues and intolerances and believes that you don’t have to give up cake to be really healthy.

Lesley sells handmade cakes

Lesley’s USP: Lesley has children of her own and knows all the latest crazes. She produces highly original cakes using characters from all the best children’s TV shows and movies.

Both cake-makers will have a common skillset, but again what differentiates them is their target customer and USP.

Your turn!

Who is your target audience? And do you know what your USP and other strong selling points are?

I found that when I wrote down my target customer (not just a target audience – get more specific than that), it really helped me focus on exactly what I could offer and exactly how I could help people.

And don’t think that these things have to be set in stone. You can update and change them as time goes on, refining them to constantly reflect the amazing service or product that you are providing.

Knowing your target customer and USP is so important when it comes to marketing and advertising. It is the difference between a business that sounds like every other business out there, and a business that really knows what it can do for its customers – a business that will have people coming back for more because they trust you to deliver exactly what they need.

Leave a comment