Who are your imperfect customers?

Written by

Linda Prafke

Linda is a passionate educator, a highly sought-after business coach and a Certified Management Consultant.

Your company cannot be all things to all customers.

This post will be making two points:

  1. It is just as important to figure out who your company’s product(s)/service(s) are not suited for as it is to know who your perfect customer is;
  2. You should try to focus on the relationship between where you choose to market your product/service and the people who will visit that location.

Having a solid understanding of who your perfect customers are is just as important as figuring out who your imperfect customers are. “Perfect” customers are those who would benefit the most from what your company has to offer; “imperfect” customers refers to those who would not find as much value in your company as others and might be better suited to looking elsewhere. 

You might be saying, “But surely I can just market my product/service anywhere and the right people will find it?”

Not necessarily. There is a fine line between being available to those perfect customers and setting yourself up to meet imperfect customers. Marketing your product or service to the wrong types of people can cause a number of issues that can be avoided by knowing who will benefit the most from your company and who it won’t.

Let’s say you sell a tangible product – for the purpose of this post we’ll choose bagels. They’re baked fresh every day and are a quick, tasty breakfast option for people on the go. Your product:

  • is baked
  • is round
  • has a hole in the middle

You decide to get your product into the local doughnut shop because that shop also sells products that:

  • is baked
  • is round
  • has a hole in the middle

Unfortunately, the customers that visit the doughnut shop walk right past your bagels. Why? Because they are looking for the less-healthy baked, round goods with the hole in the middle, and know that the doughnut shop is the place to get them. 


Wrong placement = wrong customers

Through that bagel/doughnut analogy you can see how putting your product in the wrong place or marketing to the wrong people can actually prevent sales and growth. Let’s look closer at a company that sells tangible products. If these products are incorrectly placed, the following results are possible:

  • the people who actually want your product/service might not be able to locate it
  • it can create mixed messages if placed in unconventional places or near unrelated products, leaving customers confused about what you actually offer
  • sales decrease because the wrong types of people see the product and are not interested
  • the customer who purchases the product has a low chance of making another purchase in the future
  • there is an increased risk of customer dissatisfaction

Imagine if you mistakingly bought a bagel when you were craving a doughnut – how would you feel? Grossly dissatisfied, right? Bagels on a doughnut day – um, yuck!

Just because you sell bagels doesn’t mean that you should try to get into doughnut shops.

Instead of marketing to anyone and everyone, you need to understand who your product/service is truly intended for. 

Much like the ideal customer persona (if you haven’t read our post on defining your perfect customer, check it out here), an imperfect customer persona covers things like:

  • who your product/service is not intended for
  • what your company can’t do
  • which needs your company can’t fill
  • what problems won’t be solved by your product/service

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