We've been doing a lot of work with clients lately on fine-tuning their marketing efforts. A crucial step in this process is getting crystal-clear on just who they want as customers. Now I know this sounds like a somewhat strange activity. But you'd be amazed at the number of businesses who believe they can and should service everyone.

Selling to anyone and everyone sounds great in theory, but in reality, it can cost you money, waste your time and resources, and drive your "real" customers away. How? By developing marketing messages that are supposed to appeal to everyone, you typically end up appealing to very few - because no one can really "connect" with your message or understand how your business can help them. On the other hand, if you develop your marketing messages and activities to target specific types of customers, you are more likely to connect with them in a way that they'll appreciate, understand, and respond to.

So how do you determine who you want to target? Determine who you want as your customers. To do this, review your current customers. As you analyze them, place them in one of four tiers:

A. Tier 1 Customers - These are your ideal and highly-profitable customers. They excite and energize you because they bring new projects to you that keep you growing and developing your services and products to meet their and other customers' current and future needs.
B. Tier 2 Customers - These are your good income providers. They're content with your core products and services. These customers make you feel as though you're in the right business because you can service them relatively easily and make a fair profit in doing so.
C. Tier 3 Customers - These customers create those break-even jobs and consume more than their fair share of your time and materials. These clients frustrate you more often than you realize.
D. Tier 4 Customers - These customers are money losers. In fact, they just tick you off, because you know - even though you may not admit it to yourself - they're not the right type of customer for you. They're not a fit for you and you're not a fit for them. Therefore, it's painful for everyone.

Once you've analyzed your customers, you're better able to determine where and how to spend your marketing efforts and dollars, and how to tighten up your customer base to one that better fits your company's future growth plans.

A. Tier 1 Customers - Focus the majority of your marketing efforts here. These customers allow you grow your business in the direction you want to go. Focused marketing towards these customers allows you to position yourself as their "go-to" company to provide what they need and want - now and in the future.
B. Tier 2 Customers - Target these types of customers as the opportunities present themselves. You have the capabilities to serve their basic needs. Marketing that speaks to these customers lets them know your company has been servicing folks just like them for years.
C. Tier 3 Customers - Do not accept any more of these if possible. At the bare minimum, don't market to them! Ensure your marketing efforts are addressing your Tier 1 & 2 type customer needs. Develop a list of alternative providers who may be better suited to support your Tier 3 customers and refer them to a new provider.
D. Tier 4 Customers - Move away from this type of customer as positively and quickly as you can to cut your loses and free up resources to focus on servicing your Tier 1 and 2 customers.

By conducting this type of basic customer analysis, you'll see very clearly why your business is in the financial and production position it's in. Either you're working with and for your targeted customers or you're trying to service too many or the wrong types of customers. A simple analysis is all it takes. But you've got to be willing to ask: Who do I want as my customers?

Copyright 2005 - Liz Weber of Weber Business Services, LLC.
Liz speaks, consults, and trains on Leadership Development, Strategic Planning, and Organizational Change. Additional articles can be found at http://www.wbsllc.com/leadership.shtml
Liz can be reached at liz@wbsllc.com or (717)597-8890

Permission to reprint this article is granted as long as you use the complete attribution above - including live website link and e-mail address - and you send me an email at liz@wbsllc.com to let me know where the article will be published.

Author's Bio: 

In the words of one client, "Liz Weber will help you see opportunities you never knew existed."

A sought-after consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop presenter, Liz is known for her candor, insights, and her ability to make the complex "easy." She creates clarity for her audiences during her results-oriented presentations and training sessions.

Participants walk away from her sessions knowing how to implement the ideas she's shared not just once, but over and over to ensure continuous improvement and management growth and development.

This former Dragon Lady has been there, done it, and learned from it. Whether speaking to corporate executives or government agency personnel, Liz's comments and insights ring true.

As the President of Weber Business Services, LLC, a management consulting, training, and speaking firm headquartered near Harrisburg, PA, Liz and her team of consultants provide strategic and succession planning, management policy & systems development, employee training, as well as marketing and media outreach services.

Liz has supervised business activities in 139 countries and has consulted with organizations in over 20 countries. She has designed and facilitated conferences from Bangkok to Bonn and Tokyo to Tunis. Liz has taught for the Johns Hopkins University's Graduate School of Continuing Studies and currently teaches with the Georgetown University's Senior Executive Leadership Program.

Liz is the author of 'Leading From the Manager's Corner', and 'Don't Let 'Em Treat You Like a Girl - A Woman's Guide to Leadership Success (Tips from the Guys)'. Her 'Manager's Corner' column appears monthly in several trade publications and association newsletters.