Business Matters: Know Your Customer

Contributor post by Rena Tom 


How much do you really know about your customer? You know from the shipping address where your online customers live, and perhaps you have email addresses captured from a craft fair, but what else do you know that can help you make business decisions?

Knowing information about your customer can help shape a persona, which will prove useful as you design your line, plan a marketing campaign, and decide which stores to sell to. Think of a persona as a muse for your entire business. To create her, gather as much data about your current customers as you can, give her a name, and then let your imagination run a bit wild.

Details for a persona read a bit like a Facebook profile these days - for example, “Jane” might be 27 years old, single, college-educated and living in the Midwest with a job in publishing. Ask yourself: what does Jane like to do when she’s not at work? Does she go to the gym? Read magazines? What blogs are her favorites? Did she learn how to knit by taking a class with some girlfriends? Does she own a pet? Make your best guess to create a well-rounded profile for her.

You should also think about Jane’s big-picture goals, as that may give you good data as well. Does she dream of moving to New York soon? (She’ll be watching carefully spending on durable goods or small, space-saving items for her tiny apartment.) Will she plan a big trip to a foreign country? (She might visit travel websites for inspiration.)

Finally, consider Jane’s sphere of influence. If she’s a loyal customer, she might talk about you to her running partner or her knitting group or fellow bridesmaids at all the weddings she’s in that summer. Her coworkers will notice when she’s wearing something cute. The group at the dog park will probably do the same. Oh, and her high school reunion is coming up.

Just to reinforce things, create a pinboard for Jane - one picture of what she looks like, and supporting images of things she loves or finds inspiring - clothing, books, exotic locales, her dog, her friends.

This may seem like a silly exercise but when you are making crucial decisions about your product or your marketing efforts, considering how to reach and sell to Jane will help reduce the worry that you are making a misstep with your brand.

One note here: your ideal customer may not be your existing customer. It’s up to you to keep marketing to the customers you have, or try to shift and gain a new customer base (at the risk of losing the old one). If you have two different product lines, you might have two personas to work with - Jane who likes edgier stuff and her mom Janet who is a little more conservative.

Good luck and have fun! I’ve been diving deep into the world of personas as I prepare a new workshop called Retail Readiness. If you have any questions about how personas can help your business, leave me a comment below.

Jan Halvarson


Unknown said...

What a great idea. I'm trying to get my business going, this will help me to target my first customers correctly!


Petites Merveilles said...

What a great idea! This is definitely something I have to work on and I hadn't thought of creating a persona. I would love to hear more about this subject and the upcoming workshop!

Karen said...

What a great post, I haven't thought of approaching my business and customers this way and I love it. I know what I'll be focussing on this week! I wish you a lot of success with the workshop.

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Rachel said...


Thank you for this. I love the visual aspects of this approach, both literal and imagined. Carrying around a picture in my mind of the persona/personality that I'm selling to is much easier than remembering a vague list of facts or impressions.

My question is a little bit like going back to the cart after we've discussed the horse... but I'm wondering how one goes about getting to know one's customers. One of my ventures is selling fine art photography prints on Etsy. Aside from the fact that I've not sold many in a while, when I do sale one it's an almost completely anonymous exchange. And as curious as I am, I'm afraid sending them a questionnaire might be off-putting. Any ideas?

Thank you much!!!
Rachel Haynes
Blue Algae Creative

Danie at Pasadya said...

Great post! This is especially important for those of us starting out. :)

ModernBling by Angela said...

Ok, can I just say that this is the BEST thing I've read all year!!! You're right! I need to think about this. And a lot. My target market isn't jewellery supply folks or jewellery designer makers. That's who I've been following on Twitter and making contacts with.

I have decided that my target customer is Cleo. She likes to splurge, have a weekly massage, pedicure and manicure. She drinks gin gimlets and champagne.

ModernBling by Angela said...

PS. You can meet Cleo at

Thanks for having a look.

rena said...

Rachel: You should start by seeing who faves your shop! Also, when you get an order, it's okay to ask where they found you (or what they were searching for when they found you) or who it's for, themselves or a gift. Work it into a 'thank you' convo, I think most people are flattered to give their opinions if you phrase it correctly!

Angela: Whoo, that was fast! I can tell Cleo likes to have a good time :)


Anonymous said...

I've created personas in the past and it's been super helpful. My next step is to use Google docs to create a survey to ask our customers what they like to read, where they shop, etc. I think I know my customers pretty well, but they could surprise me!

call me debbie said...

Great tips!

(New blog needing some love:

Shelky Bean said...

Wow, thank you so much for posting this! I will definitely give it a go. I always get a bit freaked, thinking about how i should cater for my customers, and generally make things that make me happy, or that i love. and trust that one day they will find their way to someone other then me. So thank you thank you, this will be a real help for me !

Maya Lee said...

Valuable information. Thanks for sharing. I learned a lot.


Rachel said...

Thank you so much Rena... very helpful.

Rachel Haynes
Blue Algae Creative