Exercise your Leadership muscle


Strategic Work and Defining Your Target Customer

By Sturdy McKee, PT*

Leadership development is something that we not only do for our teams, but something that is critical for ourselves, as business owners. Budgeting time to do Strategic Work on your business is a critical component of this.

I remember, years ago, being especially frustrated with the idea of working on my business. I didn’t really know what “on my business” meant, and I was having difficulty learning more to assist me in figuring it out. I did know Howard Schultz wasn’t behind the counter at every Starbucks, and I had seen a few other business owners not working in their businesses. It appeared to me that those same business owners had a great deal more free time than I did. I did not understand how they did this, or how to get there, or even what they were actually doing. The question stalking me was: How was it that they were able to own and run, in some cases multiple, businesses while I was struggling to keep even one going?

I just knew that I wanted to get there someday, even while I was slogging away in my business, doing what I now know is Tactical or Technical Work.

A good example of Strategic Work—work you can start doing on your business, work that will benefit your business for years to come—is to define your Target Customer.

Defining your Target Customer is incredibly important. Doing so enables you to give your business, and your entire team, clarity around who it is you’re trying to serve. It empowers you to make clear and better decisions around the services and programs you will offer, strategic moves you will make, and what marketing channels and messaging you will pursue and craft.

Once you’ve defined your Target Customer, it’s important that you aim all future efforts at the center of your target.

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Stephen Lynch, COO (chief operations officer) of Results.com, tells a story about when he and his wife went to the LAX Firing Range in Los Angeles. They had just arrived from New Zealand, where civilians seldom see, and cannot access, handguns. His wife was curious. She wanted to see, hold, and fire a handgun. The instructor taught her that to have any hope of hitting the target at all, she would need to aim for the very center of the target. She then might not hit the bullseye, but she was far more likely to hit something.1

The same is true of our marketing and communications efforts. When we define our ideal customer and focus our efforts and energy on that person, we are more likely to appeal to that customer. We will be more precise in our messaging, in our offerings, and in our decisions moving forward.

To define your Target Customer, it’s important that you answer a few questions. This list of 12 questions will give you a good start toward defining the customer who perceives you as the expert to meet their needs.

I urge you to use this list as an exercise with your leadership team, or yourself, to begin to define your Target Customer. The first step is to answer these 12 questions.

1. Who drives your economic engine? This person creates the most profit for your company.

2. Who is your most influential customer? This is likely someone who will tell others, or review or blog about your service.

3. Who do you think of when you’re designing programs or writing content? This is the person you already have in mind when writing a blog or posting on social media.

4. How old is your target customer? Use a 10-year age bracket.

5. What does your target customer do for a living?

6. What does your target customer do when they are not working? List behaviors, activities, and how they typically spend their time outside work.

7. What brands do they buy? Think of their car, shoes, workout gear, food, etc.

8. How do they become aware of you? Think about where they hear about you and how they decide to use your services.

Answer the following questions from the perspective, the viewpoint, of your target customer.

9. What do they like about your practice? Consider things about your practice that stand out, any compliments or positive reviews you have received.

10. What do they dislike about your practice? Think about comments, frustrations, negative reviews, and complaints you have heard.

11. What is your target customer trying to achieve? Note their goals, aspirations, and desires.

12. What key benefits do you offer your target customer? List the things they get from you that they receive nowhere else.

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Review your answers to the 12 questions and write a summary of who your target customer is and what they want.

Now that you’ve taken the time and effort to create a basic definition of your Target Customer, what should come next? Do your Strategic Work on your business.

1. Share

Share your new description of your Target Customer with the rest of your team and explain why you are doing this. Communicating this to everyone on your team will help them to understand and make better decisions. You could present this as a draft and ask for input from your team. This will generate discussion that may provide valuable additions to the definition of the Target Customer.

2. Review

Review your messaging and how you are reaching your Target Customer. Is what you are writing, recording, distributing, and sharing what they want to hear? Is your content something they find valuable? And then ask: Is it getting to them through the right channels? If you aren’t reaching them yet, decide on where and what they will find valuable, and begin.

3. Evaluate

Evaluate your results. Are you connecting with your Target Customer? Are they calling you and turning into patients, into paying customers? If so, how do you do more of what you are doing? If not, how do you change your messaging and the channels through which you will reach them?

4. Test and Iterate

Track your incoming leads and conversion rate. Find out where your Target Customers are coming from and which messages and channels are working. Cut those that are not. Double down on those that are. Refine and revise those that are showing some results but could be better.

You can always refine your Target Customer profile and get more specific. Even though that may be counterintuitive, it is what has been proven again and again to work.

Joie de Vivre Hotels have done this for each of their boutique hotels. Their founder, Chip Conley, says it’s what saved the business.2

CrossFit is another example of a business targeting and appealing to a specific type of customer and designing everything they do around that customer. Even though it may seem a niche audience, the appeal has caused others to mimic and follow CrossFit’s strategy, turning into what may be called a movement.

Trying to be all things to all people usually results in delighting no one. Focus in on delighting the specific Target Customer that you excel in serving and who sees you as the expert to meet their needs.


1. Lynch, S. “Doing the Analysis.” Business Execution for RESULTS: A Practical Guide for Leaders of Small to Mid-Sized Firms. Cork: BookBaby, 2013;57. Print.

2. www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4060459.html.

Sturdy McKee, PT, business coach, and entrepreneur who recommends scheduling at least two hours each week for Strategic Work. He can be reached via www.SturdyMcKee.com where all his contact info is public.