How to Think Like Your Ideal Customer

by | Digital Strategy

The more you can think like your customer, the higher the likelihood that your business will be successful. That’s because people both consciously and subconsciously gravitate to brands and businesses that are just like them, in terms of values, experiences and outlook on the world. But, how exactly, are you supposed to get inside the head of your ideal customer?

Interact with your customers on social media

The good news is that the digital world is filled with clues about your ideal customer – not just basic demographic data like gender or income, but also very rich psychographic data that gives you insights into preferences, traits and behaviors. Perhaps the best source of this data is social media. Do you have any idea exactly how much the big social media companies know about you? It’s the big reason why Facebook is now the No. 1 referral engine for many small businesses, surpassing even Google.

So one starting point to thinking like your ideal customer is to interact with them on social media. If you don’t already have a presence on the big social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – you need to create one. And if you already have a Facebook page where you list promotions or provide updates about events at your business, you should be using it as a very effective tool for understanding what’s on the mind of your best customers. What are they “liking” or “following” or commenting on? What type of content really engages them?

Act like a digital anthropologist

In many ways, you have to act like a digital anthropologist, observing people in their natural hangouts. This focus on thinking like a social media anthropologist is very important.

In the pre-digital era, companies like Procter & Gamble would send out anthropologists into the homes of its customers, to try to see how they were actually using a product. What they found usually surprised them – no matter how they thought their ideal customers were using their products, the reality always surprised them.

If you’re wondering why you can now buy laundry detergent pods in supermarkets, the reason is that P&G found that its ideal customers were very concerned about wasting liquid or powder detergent, and wanted a precise way to measure out the amount for each load of laundry. Voila! P&G’s Tide Pods proved to be remarkably successful and sparked a whole new product category. Those are the types of insights that you can get simply by watching and observing people where they naturally hang out – on social media. What you see in a simple Instagram photo might surprise you, and it’s completely free.

Solve people’s problems

And there’s one more way that you can get into the head of your ideal customer, and that’s by thinking about the problems that your customers are actually trying to solve. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has coined the term “jobs to be done” to describe the idea that customers hire products to solve problems.

From this perspective, even something as simple as a McDonald’s milkshake has a job to be done – commuters love them because they are almost designed with a single goal in mind: to stay thick, viscous and tasty for the full length of an average commute. Their “job” is to keep people’s mind off the boring drudgery of going to work in the morning.

The big takeaway lesson is that thinking like your ideal customer starts by understanding what motivates them as people, and ends by understanding what motivates them as customers. The more insights you gain, the more likely you will be to create the types of products and services that resonate with them.

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