Busting the “Ideal Customer” Myth in Search Marketing

ideal customer myth

Your most loyal customers are like a warm blanket. They provide security and comfort no matter how bitterly the winds of change and uncertainty are raging outside in the retail world. It feels good to lean on these reliable shoppers who drive so much of your brand’s performance. Unfortunately, this is mostly an illusion. Closer inspection reveals that your blanket has more than a few holes in it.

As terrifying as it may sound, there’s no guarantee your core audience will stay by your side indefinitely. It will be far more difficult to hang your hat on a single core audience in the future. So how can retailers adapt when chasing your “ideal customer” is no longer an effective strategy?

There Is No Single Ideal Customer

Consumers have more choices – and less brand loyalty – than ever before. It’s easy to educate yourself about unfamiliar brands when you can just take out your smartphone, whether you’re browsing online or standing in the store aisle. Shoppers can and will change their brand preferences if it suits them for any reason, from price to features and beyond.

The ideal customer doesn’t exist but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a strategy to attract users to your products or services.

It’s also important to note that as people and their circumstances change, so often do their taste in brands. There are countless major life events that may trigger such a shift, including a move in residence, attending college, a new job, marriage, having children, retirement, and more. Any of these could influence purchase behavior, which means retailers need to think about what changes their own customers are experiencing.

Putting all your eggs (or customers) in one basket is risky. Is your business prepared if some of your previously loyal patrons jump ship?

Non-Core Audience Segments

Marketers must expand their horizons rather than continue to beat the same old drum. Set your sights beyond your current conception of your “ideal” customer. You can start by closely monitoring the behavior of other segments outside your core audience. Some of your observations may surprise you and lead to actionable insights.

For instance, perhaps an audience segment makes up a relatively small percentage of your overall revenue, but it has a larger AOV and/or converts at a higher rate than your core segment. Educating yourself about what other customers are doing and analyzing the entire picture will illuminate new opportunities for growth.

Taking a tiered approach to audience segmentation could produce valuable insights.

Cultivating strategies for alternate audience segments also provides a safety net if something turns sour with your core segment. Keeping all your bases covered will help you better respond to unexpected developments with your audience.

The Era of Average Is Over

In the past, you may have thought considerably about who your “average” customer is. That’s not the most productive exercise in today’s environment. The ideal customer is no longer a fixed point, but a moving target. Instead, you should be thinking about where that target will be next.

Embrace the spirit of experimentation. We recommend allocating 10% of your search budget for testing various audience segments. See what you find out about different incomes, age groups, geographies, and other demographics. Focus more on ideal traits and intent-based indicators rather than the audience as a whole.

Take the example of a model train company looking to better understand their audience. What causes their customers to buy in the first place? As you might expect, many of them are over the age of 60 and took up the hobby after retirement. While older consumers may be the company’s bread-and-butter, that doesn’t mean they should ignore younger demographics completely. They can identify high-potential groups, like those who are nearing retirement, and introduce their brand so it’s more front-of-mind when these consumers become ready to buy.

As you test across audience segments, cater to them with personalized content that speaks to their specific position in the customer journey. Don’t be afraid to cast a wide net: You never know what you might learn.

Think Beyond Your Target Customer

We get it. Stepping outside your comfort zone is scary. Why should you pursue other customers who may not even be interested in what you sell when your current crop of followers seem to be supporting you just fine? Even if you have few complaints about your performance at the moment, tapping into a fresh audience could boost your numbers even further and put your brand in a much stronger position down the road. Resting on your laurels rarely pays off, and digital marketing is no exception.

Want more insights on the future of search marketing? Check out our previous blogs in this series, where we discuss contextual search, automated marketing, and machine-readable entity IDs. Be on the lookout for our next entry about the need for responsible marketing in today’s digital world.

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