Understanding your customer base is the secret to making sure the service you provide is second-to-none as well as being the key to successful selling. Every business will have different sets of customers, and the only way to tailor your services to satisfy them is to know who they are and what they like. Your existing customers are important sources of information; the more you know about them, the easier it is to give them what they want. Plus you can use the information to also help you entice new customers. Trying to do either of these things without knowing exactly who your customer is, is like driving with your eyes shut.
In our article ‘Getting to know your clients’, we discussed techniques that can be used to gain a clear understanding of their needs and desires. Here we discuss how that information can be used to create a customer profile and how this can help maximise profits for the practice, satisfaction for the client and better care for the animal.
A customer profile is a simple concept that can have far-reaching and complex benefits. It is merely a description of a customer or a set of customers that includes psychographic characteristics (personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, lifestyle etc); demographic characteristics (age, gender etc) and behavioural characteristics (buying patterns, brand loyalty, price sensitivity). Merely segregating your customers based on demographics is not always that useful as a 45 year old mother of three with two dogs might appear to use your services in the same way as a 62 year old man with two dogs.
The key to creation
There are many ways to go about profiling your customers – all of which utilise your existing database of information. So, as discussed in ‘Getting to know your clients’, getting as much information as possible is crucial and making the most of everything from feedback forms, to online surveys is likely to prove beneficial.
Stage one – identify key customer types
Think about who your customers are and what’s important to your main sets of customers when it comes to their pet’s veterinary care. For most practices, the main group is likely to be caring pet owners who want the best for their animal. However, within this group there are likely to be a number of sub-sets and knowing which type of customer you are dealing with can be extremely useful to know before beginning your interactions and can help tailor your communications. For example, it’s suggested that there are four basic types of pet owner when it comes to how they view veterinary products and services:
- The ‘well-informed’ pet owner is knowledgeable and dedicated to their pet’s health and wellbeing. Cost is usually not a barrier; their pet’s is extremely important to them and they will invest time, money and effort into finding the best solution. They expect detailed answers and rational justification for your recommendations.
- ‘Down-to –earth’ clients may be less knowledgeable but their pet’s health is just as important to them. They need more guidance and advice but will continue to purchase from the practice for peace of mind as long as they remain convinced of the benefits of doing so.
- Then there are the ‘bargain hunters’ who are willing to pay for necessary veterinary services but more likely to shop around for the cheapest non POM-V products.
- ‘One-stop-shoppers’, on the other hand, are typically more inclined to purchase all their pet products – veterinary or otherwise – from one place.
It’s often useful to also think about your competitors’ customers and compare whether you have a niche or slightly different position in the market place which you can emphasise.
Stage two – Identify the ‘whys’
Look at why these target customers act as they do – the majority of pet owners all love their pets equally so there are likely to be other factors involved. For example, is a propensity for cheaper products bourne from a misconception about value-for money? Or perhaps convenience means different things to different people – to the busy working mum it might be the ability to book an appointment online, whereas to the more senior pet owner it could be being able to purchase all their pet products in one place. Perhaps a visit to the vet is also a highlight of someone’s day if they live alone, or could be an opportunity for a mum to educate her children. Asking these kinds of questions will allow you to hone in on customer habits.
Stage three- identify how customers find and interact with you
These days there are so many methods to promote your practice both on and offline that people are likely to find you in a multitude of ways. For the vast majority this still involves either word of mouth or ‘word of mouse’. Evaluating this discovery journey, as well as their paths to purchase, can help identify which of your marketing channels are most useful for which customers. Analysing web habits as well as the types of devices customers are using is also important; both of which change rapidly. For example, identify how often the target customer uses social media to find products and services – do they tend to use a mobile device or a PC? How are they communicating with people about your services – do they tend to involve other people in their decision making? All of these factors are important.
Stage four – implementation and evaluation
Ultimately, understanding how your customers think, feel and why they behave in a certain way can help you target them more meaningfully and creating customers profiles can help identify key groups and enable communications to be easily tailored. In the past, a customer’s value might have been measured purely by their financial input into your business but with the evolution of social media and other online communications, this is likely to be much more closely related to their promotion of your business too. This means it’s more important than ever to have a complete 360 degree view of your customer and to spend time understanding and engaging with them on a more personal level. This is where customer profiling comes invaluable.
It’s also important to note that your customer profiles will be constantly changing as your business is in persistent state of evolution – your customers’ habits, interests and preferences are always developing. Therefore, your business must reevaluate its customer profiles regularly – this may mean gathering new data as well as reassessing your existing information. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to spot opportunities to increase and extend our relationship with them. It can also help you identify new customers and target them appropriately.