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Technically, who's your perfect customer?

I purchased a book this week and I must admit that the content really fascinates me. The book is entitled "Now or Never: How Companies Must Change Today to Win the Battle for Internet Consumers" by Mary Modahl (VP of research for Forrester Research at http://www.Forrester.com/).

As a marketeer, I was impressed. The author explains that, although the web has grown by enormous proportions since its inception, it is still in its infancy, along with the PC. Until the web hits critical mass, marketing online has to be regarded and implemented in an entirely different manner than its offline counterpart -- and that web businesses must poise themselves for the massive changes about to take place.

She argues that we are in the first year of a "ten year transition in the way consumers shop and save," and that winning on the web not only requires identifying consumers effectively (i.e., consumers that are also most likely to shop online in the first place) but exploiting the new and often different business models made possible by online commerce.

For example, in my consulting work I often ask clients, "Who is your perfect customer?" Sometimes, this alone can become an enlightening experience. I ask my clients to supply as much detail as possible, such as demographics (e.g., age, gender, employment, etc), geographics (e.g., country, state, city, etc) and psychographics (e.g., interests, culture, trends, lifestyle, etc). Either this information is readily available, or I'm hired specifically to discover and refine it.

Mary Modahl, however, highlights another area -- an area we often take for granted or one that can be obscure at best. Called "technographics," the author explains that this is the segment of the population that is defined by its inclination or aversion toward technology in general (and thus to the web). It measures consumers' attitudes toward technology.

Based on its research of technographics, Forrester has found that only 52 percent of the population is optimistic about technology -- and is happily shopping online or will soon be doing so. The remainder is pessimistic about the Internet and technology in general -- for example, most of these people do not even own a computer. That segment is still a whopping 48%!

Modahl goes a little further by segmenting technographics into two category subsets: The first is income (such as the "high income pessimist" or "low income optimist"), and the second is Internet behavior. She divides the latter into three parts she calls "fast-forwards," "nurturers" and "mouse-potatoes." Fast- forwards are the innovators -- generally, they are risk-takers and use (or must use) technology so to advance their careers. Typically, they have no families of which to take care. Books, travel, software and services are things they buy often.

Nurturers are different. They have children and buy online for more utilitarian needs (such as clothing, baby clothing, cars, groceries, toys, etc). Agreeably, nurturers can be somewhat older than most fast-forwards. But some fast-forwards can also be in their 30s, 40s or more. Mouse-potatoes though surf (and also buy) online purely for entertainment. The latest MP3, movie trailer, sport scores and so on are of interest to them.

Keep in mind that both optimists and pessimists can be found in any of the three categories. In the case of fast-forwards, a recent divorcee who is now more career-focused may be forced to learn and adapt to new technologies at work. A nurturer may be inclined to buy a computer for use at home since his kids' schoolwork now requires it. And the mouse-potato, once used to the confines of an armchair parked in front of the TV set, may find it faster and simpler to order pizza online or play the latest video game about which everyone's talking.

The question about the pessimist segment is: Will it ever go online (and buy) as much as the optimists do? According to the author, the answer is a resounding "yes." As the Internet ages and the younger, more technology-acquainted population matures it will force an increasing portion of technology pessimists to enter cyberspace.

As more children (and grandchildren) of baby boomers (what I call "baby boomsters") become familiar with computers (especially in schools), as some fast-forwards settle down to start families, and as nurturers are slowly re- introduced to the career mindset once the family has grown, technographics will soon alter the landscape of the web.

Now, you may ask, "What does this all have to do with me and my small or medium sized business?" In truth, the importance of identifying and targeting your perfect customer according to your technographics parallels the importance of segmenting your customer into demo and psychographics.

Here's an example: Your online business sells high-end, designer fashion clothes. Your market will consist primarily of high income technology pessimists. Or let's say you sell casual clothing for college students. In this case, your market will consist primarily of low income technology optimists. In either case, where do you advertise? What sites do you promote? What sites does your perfect customer visit or to which ezines are they subscribed?

As you can see, knowing your market's technographics can help provide insight into how and where to promote, and clues as to the potential growth of your business model.

Therefore, try to define such things as: Does your perfect customer at least own a PC? Does he have children? If so, how old? What type of job does he maintain? Blue collar? White collar? Pink collar? Does she surf the web primarily for enjoyment or is it for work? Or does he join online communities in order to learn about the latest "hot toy" for Christmas this year? Does your perfect customer buy (or has previously bought) online? If so, what product(s)? From which site(s)? How often? For what reason(s)?

Once you know -- I mean, really know -- your perfect customer, then targeting her will be a cinch. In fact, the more you do know the more places will present themselves to you -- places where you can promote your business; appear in front of good, qualified eyeballs; and generate targeted traffic. For better ideas on targeting your perfect customer, see the "Targeting Model" at http://SuccessDoctor.com/articles/article79.htm.

But most importantly, as the marketplace shifts, which it is doing right now, the questions to ask are: "Where will your business model be?" "Where will your competitors be?" And more significantly, "Where will your perfect customers be?"

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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