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Who is My Customer?

November 5, 2021

Many in the Green Industry struggle to execute compelling marketing. Most business owners and Sales Managers would answer “Who is our customer?” with “Everyone!” That’s simply not true. You must learn how to identify your ideal customer.

This blog is the first installment in a six-part series that will walk you through creating and executing a solid marketing plan to help your business get to the next level. No seminars that you have to sign up for, no sales pitch on a service. Just solid advice.

I will start this with a few notes—first, a word of caution. If you’ve never strategically built out a marketing plan, this may generate a lot of new phone calls and form submissions on your website. There will be a lot of leads coming in. Make sure you’ve got your Sales processes in place to know how to handle that lead flow first. There’s nothing worse than enticing someone to call and then not having a solid plan. 

Second, this is not an all-encompassing guide. Every business operates slightly differently, and every market is just a bit different. This guide is designed to be a very high-level overview of some critical points to cover, not a completely comprehensive dive into everything you need to know about marketing. 

Okay, let’s dive in!

Customer Profile – Who is your existing customer?

This exercise should be the starting point for all marketing. The logic is simple: you’ve already got a client base (a book of business) that works with you. There are probably commonalities between your clients. If you can identify these things about your existing client base, you can replicate that success. This information is called a customer profile.

Where to begin?

So, start by trying to find out EVERYTHING you can about your clients. Age, race, education level, marital status, household income, home value, male or female, net worth, average lot size, do they have kids? – I mean everything. The more you know about your existing clients, the more you can find new clients that look like the customers with whom you’re already working.

For example, I determined several things when I did this exercise for a large landscape company in Pennsylvania. Our average client was over the age of 55, male, college-educated, had an average household income over $70k per year, married, had children, and had been in their home for over 15 years.

What to do with this information?

Knowing this information allows you to create messaging that resonates with your audience (new customers). This meant my target audience was likely in a professional role (due to education). They didn’t move a lot (length of time in residence). They also had other priorities besides lawn care (family commitments). We crafted good messaging around that to attract an ideal customer.

Now, if you find something different, you’ll want to tailor your message around YOUR audience. You’d probably want other messaging if your company is in Norfolk, Virginia, or Columbus, Georgia. There are sizable military bases there (Navy and Army, respectively). So, your message would be tailored to a more transient audience, possibly with military undertones. Taglines like “You serve us, now let us serve you” or “You’re defending our country. Let us defend your lawn!” would probably resonate more than they do in other communities. 

How do I get this data?

You may have a variety of options to find the information you need.

Internet research

You may be able to find information about your market using data from the Census Bureau or local government websites. If you’re moving into a new market and you don’t have a large customer base yet, this is a great place to start. When guiding a company I worked for into a new market, I was able to find an average age, marital status, home value, education level, and most common job title. You may even be able to find voter registrations if you’re motivated; getting a sense of Democrat v. Republican in a new market could be productive in terms of messaging. Just spending some time with Google research helps you identify that ideal customer.  

Vendors

I know there are cases where a vendor you’re working with may have access to the information you are looking for. I know of an example where a major chemical manufacturer provided that information to a lawn care company. Average age, household income, even the customer interests (it turns out their customers played a lot of tennis) were supplied by the manufacturer from their research into the market. 

Software or a Market Research Firm

You may need to use other tools. Something like Survey Monkey would help with this, or hire a firm to survey your customers and collect this data. Yes, it’s an additional expense. It will pay for itself many times over, I assure you. And according to Tasil, a company that specializes in data collection, “Asking direct questions to your customers is probably one of the most popular, and also an effective method of gathering data.”

There are also firms like Cubit. This is a data aggregation firm that takes all the tedious Census data (that I referenced above) and compiles it into a spreadsheet for you. You can download a ready-to-go Excel file broken down by each state in the US. These files can be purchased with the data organized at a county level, or for slightly more money, a city-by-city level in your state. Check it out here.

No School like the Old School

A more old-school approach would be to have your office staff pick up the phone and simply call your clients while things are slower in late Fall and Winter. I’d make sure they only ask 3-4 questions at one time if you’re going to choose this method. I might recommend age, marital status, household income, and education level as a starting point. 

Protect Customer Privacy

Whatever path you choose, make sure you reassure clients that you will NOT sell their data in any way. A survey firm or software like Survey Monkey (not necessarily recommending them specifically) should allow you to collect and hopefully analyze the macro data – you get age, education levels, etc., as an aggregate. That information is not tied to a specific person’s name and address. 

Other Benefits

Investing the time and money to learn this information about your existing clients will pay dividends for a long time and help you make excellent business decisions outside of marketing, too. For example, if you make this a priority and learn that most of your customers are under the age of 35, you’ll probably want to quit leaving paper invoices and angle that as being “eco-friendly.” Or, at the very least, begin to offer them a way to pay online. You’ll get paid faster and create a better experience for your customers. 

Are these the clients you WANT to work with?

Of course, what this data will show you are the customers with whom you are currently working. There may be a gap between that and the customers with whom you want to work. 

Again, in the above example, we discovered that our average customer was over 55 years old. We made a conscious effort to create messaging that spoke to various age groups rather than limiting ourselves to the 55+ demographic. We wanted to begin to attract a younger customer, so we made adjustments. Our ideal customer could also be younger than this age, so we tweaked the message.

You may find that your average client is under the age of 35, strapped for cash, has four kids, and is in debt up to their eyeballs. If that’s the case, it could be a source of frustration when you realize you’re looking at really slim profit margins on your work. That is clearly not your ideal customer.

If you discovered something that you didn’t expect, or if you’d like to make a change in that average customer profile, you can make changes for this coming season!

Buyer Personas for your Ideal Customer – What are they, and why are they important?

A “buyer persona” is basically an imaginary customer you create that represents your “ideal” customer. Then, you make marketing decisions around trying to gain that “person’s” business. 

Here’s an example: if I know that my business wants to attract more first-time homebuyers as a strategic initiative, that means you’re likely skewing to a younger demographic, between 25 – 35 years old. They probably will try to DIY a lot of stuff around the house to save money in the first few years. They’re likely on Instagram, as that’s a social media platform many younger people still use. And they’re likely career-focused, trying to establish themselves before having children.

Example Buyer Persona

So, your buyer persona might look like this: 

Name: “Career Katie”

Age: 28

Marital Status: Married less than a year

Occupation: Nurse

Homeowner: Yes

Children: No

Household income: $80,000

Values: As a healthcare worker, she values things as being neat and orderly. 

Social Media channels: Facebook to talk to her parents; Instagram for her personal preference.

In this example, you might want to craft messaging around “Calling a professional saves you frustration” since you know that they’ve tried to DIY a lot of things. Some of your selling points could be around the value you place on leaving the property tidy when your crews leave, since you know she values that. And you might consider Facebook and Instagram ads since you know that you want to work with a younger demographic. 

Put in the work!

I don’t want to oversimplify this, but it’s not too complicated, either. If you put some serious thought and energy into this exercise and make most of your marketing decisions around attracting one or two of these “buyer personas,” you’ll make a significant impact in attracting the type of client you want to work with. 

Why are they important? Well, buyer personas keep you on track with your marketing decisions. They help keep you disciplined with your marketing spending, too. Keeping “Katie” in mind while planning your marketing spending and activities will help you move the needle in the right direction. 

For example, when you have a vendor that approaches you from the local newspaper and says, “Hey, we’re running this great deal on advertising,” you’ll be able to say “No” pretty quickly. You know that Katie isn’t reading the newspaper, so your advertising dollars would be wasted on that type of marketing. You can use free tools like this one from Hubspot to create these personas.

Conclusion

Now that you know to whom you’d like to market let’s start talking about reaching them. Check back for part two of our Marketing your Green Industry Business Series “Best Practices for Print Advertising.”

Keep Reading with Part 2 – Brand Awareness v. Lead Generation & Media Buying.