The way consumers buy things has changed forever, and it is all thanks to the internet. Not just that people can sit in the comfort of their home and buy from small, independent businesses, but also the way potential customers now use Google and social media to find answers to their questions or look for solutions to their problems. This trend towards an information economy offers businesses a significant opportunity to position themselves as helpful and trusted in their area of expertise, but it also represents a challenge.

There are so many digital channels that businesses can and do use to get their messages out there, but the internet is becoming a very noisy place. In 2017 there were over 60 million Instagram posts, 656 million tweets sent, and 4 million hours of content uploaded to YouTube EVERY SINGLE DAY. I repeat, those figures are not for the whole year, they are just the average number sent or uploaded every day.

So how can you make sure that your messages are being heard, but most crucially of all, being heard by the people who are most likely to buy from you?

The answer – get inside your ideal customer’s head! If you are an established business, then use your sales data to take a look at the trends that show up when you look at your customers and build a semi-fictional profile of your ideal customer. This would include their age, sex, job title, motivations, goals and behaviours. Try to think about the problems they might be trying to solve that your product or service is the solution to. If you are a brand-new business then sketch out a realistic profile of who your ideal customer is, researching the information about them that you don’t have.

For example, are you an equine nutritionist? Get in your ideal customer’s mindset and think about what questions they might have that your business provides the answers to. If that ideal customer is an up and coming eventer they might ask ‘which extra nutrients do my horses need in the spring when they are coming back into work’ or an equine charity might be keen to know ‘how can I keep feed costs down in winter but ensure my horses are well-fed?’

This information, combined with the profile you have put together for your ideal customer, will help you shape every single message you put out there as a part of your marketing and PR strategy. It will help you plan your blogging with SEO and keywords in mind, so the people who arrive on your website are the people most likely to be interested in your products. It will give you the best possible steer as to which social media channels, magazines and blogs you need to push those messages to, so that they are seen by that all-important ideal customer.

Let’s imagine that your business designs and crafts beautiful sweaters and jumpers for countryside women, and your ideal customer’s profile (these are called buyer personas by professional marketers) tells you that they are 35 years old, use Instagram and Facebook, get most of their news from the internet but still enjoy reading print magazines. They love the quintessential English countryside style and actively seek out smaller, British firms to buy clothing from rather than big international brands. Make sure you invest more time and effort in Facebook and Instagram than Twitter and YouTube. Invest in a PR campaign to target the print magazines they enjoy reading and craft your social media messages and blogs to promote the fact your products are designed and made in the UK for the country lady.

If you put the time and effort into getting inside the head of your businesses’ ideal customer, you will reap the results of a far more effective marketing campaign, but you might just get some other, more unexpected, benefits. Thinking about what your customer wants can help supercharge your customer service offering, dictate where you choose to have a physical presence if that’s on your business plan, and when you next sit down to work on new products or services, you will be able to think more clearly about gaps in the market. Trust me, it works!