or, Why You Should “Niche”

Have you ever heard some small business “guru” tell you that you should narrow your product or service offerings down to just one “niche”?

If you’ve read through Maximum Customer Experience’s archives, you know we’ve talked about the subject once or twice. (It’s near and dear to our hearts here at MCE.) Nicheing—choosing a niche, or a specialization, for those of us who get tired of guru-talk—can make it a lot easier to explain what you sell, to figure out who wants to buy what you offer, and to stay focused as you grow your business.

But let’s say you do something practically everyone does—something that’s grown so easy to do, it almost seems as though we don’t need professionals any more.

Writing, for example. At the risk of shooting my own blog in the foot, we’re all capable of putting together a headline and a few paragraphs these days, if we choose to.    🙂

Perhaps something so newly accessible, that customers become more selective (and price-conscious) almost weekly. Like handcrafted goods. (Has Etsy made things better or worse for cottage-industry artisans?)

Or photography, where the technology is now so good that everyone’s an Ansel Adams at least once in a while.

If you’re facing this commoditization in your industry, you need to focus in on your niche with Pinpoint accuracy, now more than ever.

Go Impossibly Small, Grow Improbably Faster—3 Big Reasons Why

Niche Equipment

When you’ve chosen a niche within your field as your specialty, you’ll begin to put together the gear you need to be the very best within that niche. Whether your “gear” is tools, gadgets, or even specialized staff, choosing a niche allows you to concentrate on making those acquisitions without having to be sure you also have a little of everything else.

The result? You can be ready for those jobs you’re best suited to more quickly than the competition, and because your gear is already in place, you may be able to provide a better cost to your customer, as well. Nicheing gives you efficiencies within your specialization that your generalist competitors just can’t match.

Niche Expertise

In the beginning, you’ve just got to find the specialization that interests you and grabs your Ideal Customer’s interest and go for it. You’ve got the knowledge, but now you’re going to hone in on only this one type of offering. If you’ve been a generalist to this point that can seem a bit scary—like “giving up” potential, rather than like gaining prowess.

One truly cool part of nicheing is that the more you do only one thing, the more you are the expert that you began by claiming you were. You hone your knowledge and you develop confidence, because your efforts are super-concentrated. Your audience grows along with your expertise.

When you are The guy who…, you finally develop the recognition for your expertise that you never could when you were one of a million who…

Niche Joy

Simple but true—the more you know it, the more you love it and obsess over it. And it shows. Everybody wants to work with the guy who knows their stuff better than anyone else.

Easy + Accessible + Great Technology DOES NOT EQUAL Doom for these guys

And it doesn’t have to for you, either. Ever heard of:

William Wegman, THE Weimaraner photographer

Paul Nicklen, THE Arctic/ polar photographer

Anne Geddes, THE baby photographer

Annie Leibovitz, THE celebrity portrait photographer

With a camera like practically everybody’s got and a very, very determined focus, these folks made themselves into the only name many people think of in their respective specializations.

Along the way, they picked up some gear that each of them could not do without. Clothing, gadgets, staff, and even a network of help they can call on—the “equipment” that enables them to pick up and go at a moment’s notice. Equipment that makes their work the best that their expert eyes could hope for. Equipment that is so specialized, that most of it couldn’t be of any use to the others on this list—even though they all all experts in the same business.

Along the way, they became known as experts and started getting called on by Big Boys—book publishers, speakers’ bureaus, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, and many more.

Along the way, they each became known for the obvious delight they take in what they do. Clients and fans gravitate toward them—all because they decided on a niche and stuck with it.

If these people in one of the most copy-able, most commoditized of industries can use a Pinpoint focus on their niches to succeed, what’s holding you back?

Let’s hear about your niche expertise in the comments—what are you THE one of?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Is there anyone who doesn’t have one?

I’ve got one, and so do you. An overloaded life. I’d like to deliver a Tuesday morning thought that will not overload your reading list for today:

If you can market your product or service in a way that doesn’t add to your customer’s overload, that’s Pretty Good Customer Experience. (Get noticed quietly. And quickly. Better yet, be of use while you’re getting noticed.)

If you can aid your customer during or after the sale, so that making the purchase doesn’t contribute to their overloaded life, that’s Mighty Fine Customer Experience. (Feel your customer’s pain. Then make their purchase painless.)

If your product or service actually helps relieve the symptoms of an overloaded life—for most customers, that’s Maximum Customer Experience.

How do you make life less overloaded for your customers?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Wish I’d Thought of This One


Curves ad - Free wildly effective week!

Sponsor’s banner ad that popped up on my screen today


Oh, yeah! Okay, I don’t need one (a free wildly effective week at Curves, the chain of gyms for women), but I have to admit I want one.

This is a deceptively simple and totally brilliant addition to the same ol’, same ol’.

Free week at a gym in January? As common as the common cold.

A free wildly effective week?

Lordy, every busy person in the universe wants to be wildly effective, even if it is for just a week! I had to stop and take a closer look!

Why “deceptively simple and totally brilliant”?

“All” they did was add two words to the advert every one of their competitors is no doubt running right now.

To make those two words punchy, fun, and packed with urgency (not to mention almost completely devoid of any icky association with exercising—in a banner ad for a gym!), in a language with millions of words to choose from?

It may have taken them months.

Hats off to you, Curves. It’s all in those (sweet) details.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Pinpoint focus on What Who matters most, of course!


Caption on paycheck: A satisfied customer made this paycheck possible

A satisfied customer made this paycheck possible.

What a subtle, brilliant way to remind your employees that their focus doesn’t need to be on you—it needs to be on the folks who really pay their salaries.

Imagine yourself in their shoes and deliver delight to those customers, and everybody wins. ‘Nuff said.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. To the friend who allowed me to share this with you—Thanks.

There’s a moment when dollars are about to fly out of a pocket toward somebody…

Let’s pretend.

There’s a woman out there, waiting for you. (Or a man. Bear with me for a minute.) You offer… a Beautiful Thing. Today, she will buy a Beautiful Thing.

Will it be yours?

How can you get in front of the person who wants to be touched in the way you touch people, at the moment when her dollars are about to fly out of her pocket toward somebody? And where is she looking for you?

Today, your “target market” is women, ages 35–45, living in the U.S., married with a nanny and two young children, making over $75,000 year, interested in beautifying their homes with the Beautiful Thing you sell. They read at least one home décor mag a month, showing that they have a well-trained eye, and they go out to eat more than twice a week, because of that busy dual-income household.

We know a lot about these ladies. We know what makes them tick!

All done?

Not quite. You need to sell this Beautiful Thing.

Where is this “target market” letting her dollars fly?

  • art gallery
  • craft fair
  • giftshop
  • flea market
  • Walmart
  • kids clothing store
  • menswear shop
  • hairdresser
  • bookstore
  • restaurant
  • among others…

and don’t forget…

  • vacation spots
  • charity events
  • online (where elements of any of the above will color her Experience)

Think hard about this. Sure, there might be a well-rounded woman or two who shops in all of those places. Yet when you take the time to think about each place—even within your “target market,” the typical woman at each is entirely different! She’s got different hobbies, different people she’s thinking of (self, family, friends…), a different time frame and objective (indulgent window-shopping, killing a little time after lunch, rushing home to smother those kids with love…), and her wallet opens differently, too (from list-only to “whatever catches my eye”).

Sure, anyone could be at each place. But you can’t wait around for “could be,” so your Beautiful Thing needs to be available where you can cater to the right woman’s needs. Which one is your Ideal Customer?

If you sell a painting that she’ll buy only one of, to bring a piece of her favorite atmosphere home with her, price it high, frame it beautifully so it’s ready to go with no hassle, and partner with the restaurant she loves most to sell your wares.

If you sell portraits of cute babies and ponies… find an indie kids’ clothing store where she can ooh and ahh when picking up clothes for the little dears or a baby shower gift for a coworker.

If you sell sock monkeys in sailor outfits… craft fair. Make lots, and make ‘em inexpensively, the margin’s going to be low.

Why I put “target market” in quotation marks

Because I think it’s a lousy, outdated term that doesn’t take you nearly far enough toward Pinpointing the one person who needs what you sell, and it doesn’t make you focus nearly hard enough on offering something that hits your “target” at the moment when she’s open to buying from you.

Two ways to look at this:

Who needs it? If you know what you sell and you know who needs it, find the place where your Ideal Customer is and be there, meeting her needs. We’ve talked about the Ideal Customer and how to meet her needs many times before.

What are you selling? If your product or service line has been a bit vague, and so far you’ve defined your Ideal Customer as “anyone who needs what we offer,” work it backwards—because aiming at anyone is the same as aiming at no one. You need to find your anyone. Whom do you most want to work with? What does she need? How can you shape what you offer to meet her needs? Where can you connect with those needs at their most obvious?

Stop offering anything to anyone, and stop thinking a target market is specific enough. You need to know who that one person is—your Ideal Customer—right down to whether she’d rather spend on herself or her kids (or her hubby!); right down to whether she’d look for you on a Tuesday afternoon or a Saturday morning—right down to every last detail.

Price, packaging, and whether there’s even a vague chance of catching her eye are all vastly influenced by how precisely you angle the offering, and where you’ll show her this Beautiful Thing.

Her dollars are about to fly out of her pocket toward somebody. Make sure it’s you who’s standing there, ready to catch the flying dollars.

Looking for a man? He’s out there, waiting for you…

You offer… a Tech-Gadget Thing. Today he will buy a Tech-Gadget Thing.

Will it be yours?

Your “target market” is men, ages 25–35, single. They own their first home, a townhouse in a major metropolitan area of the U.S. (pardon me, international readers, just trying to stay regionally-specific today), and they make around $50,000 a year.

All done?


Where is this target market letting his dollars fly?

  • computer/ tech superstore
  • hardware store
  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • grocery store
  • Target
  • gym
  • barbershop
  • among others…

Again, the typical man at each is entirely different, even though each may be frequented by men in the same age bracket, with the same income, in the same country, and with the same living arrangements. And yes, of course you could sell your Tech-Gadget Thing at any of these places.

I’ve known many folks who didn’t want to narrow their target market even this far. But the truth is, narrowing it down this far isn’t far enough at all.

How different is the 35-year-old waiter who buys every gadget as it comes out to show off to his buddies, from the workaholic 25-year-old with a fresh MBA who just wants a gadget to add some productivity to his day so he can keep climbing the ladder of success?

How different is the urgency for a guy whose old gadget gave out this morning from the one who wants to find something for his Dad’s birthday?

Each one shops in a different place, has a different time schedule, will be attracted to different features, different ads and reviews, different words, colors, even typefaces on the packaging.

Who needs it, and where is he? Uncover your Ideal Customer. The one person who has the money, the interest, and the need for what you have. Be there at the moment when his dollars are about to fly out of his pocket toward somebody.

What are you selling? Shape what you offer and how you present it to speak directly to the heart of that one, Ideal Customer.

Every day there’s a moment when dollars are about to fly out of a pocket toward somebody. Are you ready?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. I’d love to help make sure it’s you who’s standing there, ready to catch the flying dollars—so be sure to check out this special offer just for you, dear reader.

and I Have Got to Have You Now

It’s you.

I knew all along you were out there. Somewhere.

Before today, I thought about what you might be like. I wondered.

Tell the truth, I even Googled you. (Well, I Yahooed you, but you’d don’t seem to mind that I’m quirky like that!)

I found out all about you—and everyone who thinks they’re like you. I was kind of overwhelmed. There are a lot out there who think they’re like you. But on the day when it really counts, when the pain is strongest…

I have needs and there’s no one but you who can help me.

It’s not that you’re the only one in the world. I read up. I haven’t forgotten those others, and well, maybe in some ways I even prefer one of the other guys. Still, I want you in all the ways that count.

You are the only one in the world for me because:

  • You’re in the right location: you’re here, with me
  • or you popped up first-second-third on the Internet when I typed in a question about my needs
  • You take it easy, and you never sound desperate for me
  • You let me explain myself; I can tell it’s not going to be all about you with you
  • You’re stylish
  • You’re just my size
  • You’re so fresh
  • or you’re so comfortable and traditional
  • You’re ready now (not everyone is!)
  • You’re so exclusive there’s an aura about associating with you
  • or you’re cheap and almost inevitable
  • You’re in it for the long haul. You won’t let me down.

Most of all, you understand my needs. You look me right in the eye, and you talk about my deepest, darkest cravings as if you’ve made a study of me. You’re so smart I bet you have made a study of me.

Never believe that you’re not unique just because of those other guys.

You can be one of a million, or (you know what I always say)…

Find the ways you can speak only to my needs, those ways that no one else is even trying to. Be one *in* a million.

I’m your Ideal (Customer). There’s only one of me.

I’m wishing and hoping in ways I didn’t know I could, since I learned about you. There’s a hole in my heart. And you’re the only one I need.

Are you still playing the field? Or are you ready to be The Only Solution for the one Ideal Customer that only you can satisfy?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. You might as well know it now. Sometimes I look at things a bit more negatively. Don’t worry, though, because you and I—we’re going to have a happy ending.

or, What You Don’t Know About Your Biggest Competition

Picture the three companies that get all the jobs you wish you got. Get yourself green with envy, picturing your Ideal Customer waltzing into someone else’s store, falling in love with their service, their cushy interiors, their cool product line.

You know none of it’s as good as yours and it steams you up.

That’s your customer, giving your money to someone else. They don’t see! They don’t know! You could cry with the pain of watching your customer make such a mistake!

As the pundits were fond of saying of Al Gore when folks claimed Ralph Nader had stolen “his” votes:

They weren’t yours to begin with.

Why they weren’t yours is a subject for another day. Today you want to know where your Ideal Customer is, if that wasn’t her walking out of the shop down the street with three huge bags full of goodies.

Your Ideal Customer is sitting on her keester at home, watching the telly. Or talking on the phone. Or helping her kid through the agonies of first-year Latin. Because your biggest competition isn’t down the street.

Meet your biggest competition:

The Dreaded Do Nothing.

Yes, in spite of your awesomer customer service, cushier interiors, and way, way cooler product line, your Ideal Customer has chosen to buy a pizza instead. Or a sofa. Or a Mercedes XZ 3million. Or a good night’s sleep. In your head, you’re competing with the other people who sell [what you sell] on your street. But that’s not how it works.

Let’s say you’re a pet-octopus store. When you first get into business you assume that you’re in competition with those other three purveyors of pet octopii and octopus food, tanks, and cute little octopus outfits for the holidays.

Then someone informs you of the Internet, and you realize you’re also competing against amazon’s massive octopus-sales department. But with your cushy interiors and the gotta-have-it-now factor, you’re not worried about that. You’re aware of the broader market, but confident of your winning difference.

When you’ve been around a while, you start thinking progressively about the competition. Hey, some people are in the octopus-consideration stages. They may be easily swayed by a cute Labrador Retriever. But with your enthusiastic, specialized service, you can knock the idea of Rover out as you describe the joys of cuddling with an inky pal. The definition of your competition has broadened, but you’re strategizing better than ever.

What if it’s entertainment you’re competing with? Okay, you’ll think of ways to talk about octopii as better than a night at the movies. And so on, and so on.

Those are all the other thing someone does with their money.

A lot of times—and I hesitate to add, “in these times”—people are doing nothing with their money. It’s always been your biggest competitor but as we continue to reel from post-recession-depression, The Dreaded Do Nothing is out there more than ever.

So what can you do?

Three things.

First—tighten your definition of what you do so you no longer have to worry about the usual competition. I want you to redefine yourself, starting today, not as “a” [whatever you do]. From now on you are “the.”

You’re not “a” pet-octopus store anymore. This is incredibly hard work, but you are going to find out what you are “the” of. When you are “the” only octopus obedience school for five or six towns around, you’re on to something. No one is going to drive 25 miles for Advanced Octopus Obedience Training. Think about it.

Second—you are going to define your Ideal Customer so tightly that you know what color underwear she’d choose on a Tuesday in March. You are going to speak to one person. Only one. And you are going to imagine her watching reruns of The Office. You are going to be more exciting than the original series before it went all mushy and Americanized. And you are going to move her keester with an offer that speaks to her needs—to the pain she thinks no one can ever understand. You are going to tackle Do Nothing head on by talking about it, and you are going to win.

I’m thinking you get Ricky Gervais in to do the unit on octopus anger management. But I’m flexible on that. Keep focusing.

Third—when you know you are The Only You, when you are making an offer that is blazing hot, only to the one customer who needs what you have most and can afford it, you are going to give up the jealousy and get patient. Go all zen—like when you first learned to hunt octopus in the wilds of Borneo. Send your call to action over time, repeat yourself more than you want to, and keep that singular focus on her needs.

Seven touches? Nine touches? 20 touches to yes?

Patience is the hardest step. Believe me, I know. And it’s also essential. If you change the message midway through, you’re starting over. So tighten your definition, define your customer and pinpoint her needs, and repeat until successful:

Octopus Obedience Training solves your nagging, secret problems way better than watching Ricky Gervais.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. Just a quick reminder: Why *You* Should Work for FREE is way, way better than watching Ricky Gervais.

And what’s a business plan good for?

When you started in business, how did you go about it? Did you take out every book from the library on entrepreneurship, on starting your own business and on business planning (because you thought you couldn’t afford to buy them), read every online article even remotely related to your field, interview every potential buyer who’d stand still long enough for you to pin them down, and then sit down and write a massive business plan of the kind all the books told you you’d need, with chapters and an index and gorgeous charts and projections up the wazoo?

I did, but I think I’m alone.

(One hesitates to add that way back when I went into business for myself for the second time, I probably could have read “every relevant online article” in a half an hour. If you’re starting your own business right now, it’ll take you just a touch longer than that. I am not even going to discuss the fact that the Internet did not exist when I first went into business for myself, thankyouverymuch.)


I’m working with a client right now who helps small business owners with their plans. Not the fabulous documents you could take to a bank in triplicate if only any bank would listen (and you may trust me on this, with very few exceptions they won’t), but their real, nitty-gritty, “how to move this business forward” kind of plans.

We’ve talked about her direction, because even a business planner needs a plan for getting the right words out to the right people at the right moment, and the most important element, which is her focus—specifically, who the heck plans well at the start?

If the answer really is, “only Kelly Erickson is such a plan-loving geek at the start,” then you guessed it, my job is to help her create Pinpoint focus on an Ideal Customer who is not a startup. Because I’m long done starting up. After a year or two, many business owners find themselves at a crossroads where they are ready to do the heavy lifting of creating a plan for the business they began by the seat of their pants. There may be a much more ready market in those folks, and if it’s what’s right for her, we’re going to aim her Solution directly at the needs of that Ideal Customer.

As is so often the case here at the Maximum Customer Experience Blog, that is not the point of this post.


I want you to know that I think everyone should geek-out on the books, blogs, and various other helps there are and create more stunning three-ring-bound dust-collectors like mine, right from the start. The process of planning, the maths for projections, the minute decisions and the big-picture dreaming that are required to put a formal business plan together are a trial-by-fire that could put good businesses on solid footing faster and give folks who are about to start a money pit a much-needed moment to pause.

No, I’m not joking. Though it may not be read by anyone but the mentors the books told you to round up and your Dad, who’ll shrug and say “sounds good,” you should do it. What a formal business plan will do for you, and for your business, is shake the sillies out and make you defend your ideas in print. If you can’t do it on a piece of paper, chances are you’re going to have a hard time doing it in front of a real live b-b-b-buyer. Important reality check. Cheaper than going belly-up, and quicker, too.

Next best is that nitty-gritty plan. Actually, in a perfect world I’d love to see folks do both. Two books that I often recommend are Getting Business to Come to You, and Get Clients Now! (amazon affiliate links) —both of which are superb places to start your focus and your nitty-gritty planning.

If you thought you’d figured me out, I must apologize. That is also not the point of this post.


Who plans well at the start? Not too many folks. I’d like to see it happen a lot more often. I’m hired by many clients who’ve been in business for a few years and they’re really in a jam. Things are not going the way they planned…

Oops. But they didn’t plan.

They took aim at a need and hoped there was a client to go with that need.

That, dear reader, is not putting the cart before the horse—it’s putting the horse’s ass before the cart. Just the ass.

You think you can’t afford a few books? Oh, the dollars you’ll throw away! The years and the hair-pulling and the sobbing that you’re in for! They could be avoided so easily with the research, the refining, and the clear writing you need for a good plan.

Okay, maybe not “easily.” But “profitably,” for sure.

What’s a business plan for?

Ah, the point of this post.

  • You will never again read your business plan. Except for nostalgic purposes.
  • No bank will give a tinker’s dam about the thing. And this may surprise you—banks are not ever nostalgic.
  • It doesn’t matter that you read and followed the advice to cut your naïve financials by 2/3. You still will not meet any of the revenue goals. You will hit none of your staff projections.
  • One day you will cringe at how you introduced yourself and your team as the next conquerors of the world. Yes, cringe.
  • Everything else in the plan will make you laugh on that very same day.

What’s a business plan for? To force you to focus every ounce of your being on getting everything insanely right so you can walk into the most critical of domains, The Bank (da-da-da-duuuummm), confident, cocky, and ready to defend your plan to the unbelievers.

In all likelihood, you won’t ever get to. Banks stink like that. But you’ll thank me every day for making you do it.

Because after that, confidently explaining to the Ideal Customer how awesomely you’ll solve his or her problem is A WALK IN THE PARK.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from choosing to write—or not to write—a plan for your business? Would you recommend a plan to other startups, or am I full of bananas?

C’mon. You’re dying to answer that one.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

It’s time to put the bread on your table

Profiling for Maximum sales

Three customers step into your store. All of them seem ideal. RH was so interested you thought he was a sure thing. After wasting a lot of time and energy serving him, you realized you are never going to get his business, but you sure have made it easier for him to shop at amazon. Oh, well. Now the Red Herring is a lot easier to spot.

One guy’s already become your favorite face at the shop. He loves to look around. He says Hi but doesn’t demand a lot of time. Once in a while he makes a small purchase. He seems to have friends everywhere, and they never fail to mention his referral with a smile. They come in pre-sold on the word of BFF, your biggest Propheteer.

The last customer walks in, head down. He looks around quickly, sees the sign for the department he’s interested in, and beelines over there with seemingly no interest in the store at all. If the staff tries to help, they get a gruff “no thanks.”

Meet your Ideal Customer.

This week, Experience Design 201: a special series on profiling your customers to increase your sales.

Part Three: Mr. E, the Ideal Customer

What’s eating Mr. E? He walks into your store as if he owns the place. Strides to the aisle he wants without a word or a smile. Not that he doesn’t have a smile, just that he doesn’t have time for that right now.

He’s easy to recognize. You’ll even hear other customers mumble, “looks like he’s on a mission.”

Leading characteristics:

Laser focus

Has no time

May have a written list; definitely has a mental agenda

Little interest in price

Ready to buy but impatient

Seen more often in business-to-business transactions (B2B)

Unlike everyone else in the store or on your website today, Mr. E is shopping for a current need.

What brought him here today?

Simple. (You sped right past it a second ago.) He’s here because he’s ready to buy. Mr. E is your Easy sale.

What can we do for this Ideal Customer?

Catching his eye:

Your business’ name is the most important ad you’ll ever write. If you’re at the beginning of your plans as you read this, make your name rock. It’s an unbelievable leg-up on your competition, especially for Mr. E(asy sale).

Ultra clarity. Mr. E is impatient. It’s an easy sale, but not a sure sale. Mr. E wants to make his purchase, not guess whether soap is in “body” or “cleansing.” No jargon, no overlapping or confusing navigation (in store or online!), and no cutesies. Cutsey is for wanderers, and wanderers are someday-purchasers at best.

Task-oriented efficiency. This applies to everything from getting around your place to how your staff is trained. Like BFF, functional groupings can work wonders. What do people come to your store to solve? Get the nails with the hammers, get the soap with the scrubby-thingies (??), sell the business cards when they’re ordering stationery. And your staff—make sure they are looking at the business from that customer’s task-oriented point of view. Answers. To problems. That your products solve. Which they can explain quickly to the prospect.

Great search on-site. This customer will not see your navigation. That’s right, he won’t even see it. Time and again, I see Mr. E go straight to the search box and type in what he needs. If the term doesn’t come up with any results, he may rephrase. Once. Then he’s gone—impatient, remember? So make sure you are thinking like the Ideal Customer, writing from his point of view, and packing your site with words that speak to his needs.

Home page is critical. He has to be sure you have what he needs right away. If you do not explain what you sell or at least describe your Ideal Customer perfectly on your home page, go right now and fix that. Even one click is too many for your Ideal Customer. (“But c’mon… if he clicks, where will the one click be?” you ask. To the page that appears to be the next in the sales process. MAKE IT CLEAR. If he gets it wrong, you lose.)


Yes, loyal. With a twist. Mr. E is rarely the guy who will spread word-of-mouth for you. You’re this guy’s “secret source” and he’s happy to keep it that way, thanks.

Designing Maximum Customer Experience for Mr. E involves:

Pinpointing his needs and speaking to them


Valuing his time above everything else

Think like a fast-food worker. How fast can you serve Mr. E the certain knowledge that he should buy from you?

Now do what they do. Aim to cut that time in half.


He wants to give you his money. ‘Nuff said.


1. Because he’s usually not a chatter, he can be misunderstood. You’ll have no trouble spotting him, but you may not believe he’s the Ideal Customer at first. You’ve been letting him get away every single day since you opened your doors.

2. Being crystal clear from the customer’s point of view is A LOT harder than it looks.

Best bet:

This guy is one you may not enjoy, but the one you need most. Mr. E will buy, from you, or he will turn on his heels. It’s what he’s here for. Go overboard in your efforts to make the transaction easy for Mr. E.

Make his goals yours and you have a customer for life.

Great! Now I want to make more sales, Kelly!

This part knocks us all for a loop now and then: We want to induce sales; we want to “sell” customers; we want to get our prospects to buy.

It can’t be done.

You can encourage.

You can entice.

You can remind, rephrase, maybe even repackage.

You can prod at a need or a pain that is there, but doesn’t seem urgent enough.

You can’t “make” a sale.

When the customer has a need— when the customer knows that you have the Ideal Solution to that need— not only can’t you “sell” him or her, you won’t need to. Like Mr. E, the customer who has a need that he knows only you have the Ideal Solution to, has already sold himself.

So you can’t make more sales, but you can help more buyers feel like Mr. E. I promised you that Experience Design 201 would teach you to turbo-charge your sales. Let’s do it!

How to turbo-charge your sales with buyer profiles

Drop the Red Herrings. Unless you want practice, or enjoy giant time-sucks.

Enjoy and nurture your relationships with Propheteers, even though their own purchases may be small.

Be bold, be direct, and focus the entire Customer Experience on Mr. E’s needs. Demonstrate the you are the Ideal Solution from every possible angle. Make it impossible to make a wrong turn, from your front door (or homepage), to the sales counter. Other buyers, with other profiles, will be just as pleased with this Pinpoint precision, even though they’ll use your store or your site in different ways.

In ads and other marketing materials: Forget “branding.” Never, ever, write an ad of any kind where you don’t ask the prospect to say Yes to something. Buy this item. Sign up for email. Call today. You aren’t doing this to make people warm and fuzzy, you’re doing this to grow your business. Insist that every dollar you spend does just that.

In store: Signage. More than you want is less than they need. Color to orient the customer, if the store’s large. Lighting, especially lighting focused right on your key products. You do NOT have to light your store like a hospital to make sales.

On the web: Bigger (type), bolder (navigation to key sales pages—let other nav take a quiet back seat), clearer (clever, jargony language is instant sales death), less (fewer choices = more yesses), more (links within text to guide the sales process), none (ads to other sites—when your customer is gone he is GONE).

At every decision-point, shout clearly: “This is the next step!”

Never be afraid that you’re overdoing it. I guarantee you’re not.

Congratulations, dear reader. We’ve gone through some very advanced lessons this week, and you’ve made it to the finals of Experience Design 201.

I bet you know how we check your exam around here—in dollars!

Go forth. Maximize your sales.


Graduate and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. If you missed the links above: please click to read Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Wherein Kelly gives away the big trade secret you can’t afford to go one more day without!

Profiling for Maximum sales

Three customers step into your store. The educated, involved red herring, RH, was the guy you noticed first. I don’t blame you. He was talkative and even fun. There’s also a guy walking around with his head down, no fun at all. Doesn’t want any help.

One guy’s strolling around, looking at a bit of everything, familiarizing himself. Right away he says “just looking” when your friendly staff steps in to guide him. Yet he spends much longer than your average customer in the store (or on the site).

Is he your Ideal Customer?

This week, Experience Design 201: a special series on profiling your customers to increase your sales.

Part Two: BFF, the Little Surfer Boy

BFF’s not the obvious choice when you’re deciding who needs help in the store. He’s got a vague interest, but he takes his time. He’s not seeking attention. Doesn’t seem to require immediate help. BFF’s content to read every sign, look at all the merchandise, and get deeply into your aura—all on his own. He doesn’t want to push you into helping because BFF knows what you don’t know.

He’s probably not going to buy today.

No need to monopolize your time. Now that he’s getting interested, he’ll read all your product descriptions online; he explores every new item that comes in to the store; he’s up-to-date on the parts of your your brochures that you thought only your mother would read; he’s becoming an active commenter on your blog or a buddy on Twitter. BFF has no real need, though he may have a growing desire to work with you. Very often, BFF knows he has no money.

One day, you captured him with your remarkable story, when he was reading or strolling; the next thing, he’s exploring and fascinated; then one day you realize he’s your Little Surfer Boy, delighted to surf the website or roam the aisles, not causing any headaches; he rarely, if ever, contributes to the bottom line.

Surely, this can’t be the Ideal Customer.

Is that a problem?

A resounding No.

RH, who we talked about in Part 1 of this series, was a classic time-waster—and off to waste someone else’s time as soon as he’d wasted yours. In contrast, BFF rarely demands your time or efforts. He knows he’s “only” a fan and his mama raised him not to lead you on.

He’s only a what?

Dear reader, BFF is a fan. More—he is in fact, your Best Friend Forever. And BFF is about as valuable as it gets. Yet he gives you very little business, either because your field is more of an interest than a need, or because he simply can’t afford you. Either way, he thinks you rock!

What can we do about our Best Friends Forever?

Let ‘em surf to their heart’s content. Nurture them. Appreciate them out loud. These folks may, one day, have needs or circumstances that change, but that’s not what you’re counting on. Without any change in his buying profile at all, BFF is gold if you treat him right, because BFF—if you enjoy him as much as he (obviously!) enjoys you—will become:

The Propheteer.

What’s a Propheteer? As we discussed way, way back in Experience Design 101, a propheteer is a cross between a prophet (someone who preaches) and a volunteer. A Propheteer is out preaching about you, without any compensation at all, right now while you’re reading this article. How cool is that? And I know I said “no jargon” in part one of this series, but I’m breaking my own rule for BFF. He deserves the special recognition of a little jargon. Propheteers are the raving fans we want you to have more of.

Propheteers may be your number one source of word-of-mouth referrals. Whether they’ve bought something small from you or never purchased from you at all, they become so well-versed in what you offer that they’re an extension of your sales force. There’s a little guilt mixed in with it: they feel funny that they’re not big purchasers, so they look to spread the word to connect big purchasers with you. There’s a little hero-complex: they want friends to be impressed with the quality of their advice, and they want you to feel as great about them as they do about you. Sending business your way is bound to achieve both.

If this sounds like Kelly’s gone a bit cynical, I haven’t at all. Here’s the big secret that I promised not to tell when I graduated from Experience Designer University:

Not everyone can be your customer.

I know, I know! I think you’re awesome, too. It’s hard to believe, but not everyone needs what you’ve got. Some, not right now. Some, not ever. So what to do when you discover that some of the billions of people on this planet will love your company without forking over cash?

Love ‘em right back. Be awed that they’re your Propheteers. Plenty of folks would kill for that fan base!

Ease the guilt at every turn by telling BFF how much you value him. Make sure he knows that he is, in fact, one of the heroes your firm relies on for growth, and that you’re proud to know him. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to ask this guy for a thing.

Say it. And MEAN WHAT YOU SAY. That’s it.

Changing “I think you’re so killer rockin’ great” to “I’m ready to buy”:

He walked in without a clue about you and over time he’s come to care about you and your company sincerely. If his circumstances change, fear not, he’ll let you know. Right now he doesn’t need you, or can’t afford you, and you can’t change that, but you are top of his mind.

Why would you want to tamper with someone who’s scouring his friends and colleagues looking for someone to introduce you to? Embrace him!

Catching his eye:

Remember that the Little Surfer Boy has time to read. Relevant text links to your products and services—at a moment when he’s thinking, “hey, I know someone like who could use this”—help BFF to be the hero to his colleagues (and a hero to you!).

And while we’re talking about text: write a blog. There’s no better way to energize BFF than to let your story emerge over time through blogging. After all, blog readers and commenters make the most wonderful, smartest, friendliest, most welcoming group of singing and dancing referral machines…

Anybody think I’m going too far with this?

Nah, because it’s all true. Blog readers are slick, savvy, loyal, word-of-mouth gurus…

and handsome, too. You, for instance, are looking gorgeous today. I noticed.

Feeling energized? So energize your BFF, and write a blog already!


To continue…

This guy will never fail to read your About page. Not everyone wants to know about you and your company, but BFF thinks knowing the history and the details that brought you to where you are is cool.

Clear, compelling navigation will get further with surfers than the best site search in the world. He doesn’t have a precise objective on your site, so navigation tabs or buttons that guide him along your sales path (even if he never makes it all the way to the sale) are the way to go. BFF might be one of the few site visitors who actually follows the path you expected all your visitors to take!

In-store, make your layout tell a story. Showing items in use, giving suggestions that encourage more exploration, creating functional groupings, and holding in-store events all encourage lingering and telling the story of you later. BFF enjoys spreading word-of-mouth. Make it easy!


To the core. BFF is someone you’d have to work to shake—and friends, that’s a rare commodity.

Designing Maximum Customer Experience for BFF involves:

Personal touch


Long-term delight

To get the long-term rewards, you’ve got to put in the effort.

If it’s an effort to be sincere, appreciative, and to enjoy BFF’s company, that is.

No fancy techniques here. BFF is not a chain yanker and would never expect you to take time away from paid clients. But don’t neglect him, either: know any ball players, singers, or actors famous for not signing autographs? Yeah. Word gets around. A BFF spurned can be a thorn in your side.


I can’t say this strongly enough: this could be your biggest source of revenue, whether he ever hands you his own dollars or not.

If that’s not enough of a “Pro” for you, BFF may, in fact, become… a very good friend. Ah, personal warm fuzzies right here in the middle of our 201 class!


Give me a minute. I’ll think of something.

Best bet:

Learn to recognize BFF. Nurture your relationship, deliver delight, and give him a story to tell to others. He’s on your side and pulling for you all the way. This is what you hoped for when you started your business, all starry-eyed, in your garage late nights after work.

Propheteers like BFF will help you create maximum sales in minimum time.

When you’re the BFF (we’ll all fall into each buying profile at different times and for different items), how far will you go to spread the word about the company you’re a giddy Propheteer for?

What’s your favorite way to let a BFF know how much you appreciate him?

Go grab your cap and gown, dear reader. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll wrap up Experience Design 201 in MCE-style. Please take a moment today to subscribe to the Maximum Customer Experience Blog (at top left, it’s free) so you can have updates delivered to your RSS or email inbox as they happen!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson